Rising Stars Youth Foundation has been using basketball to bridge the gap between athletics and academics for more than two decades. What started as a modest program for a handful of at-risk youth has blossomed into an outreach program that serves more than 350 boys and girls from 3rd through 12th grade, says founder Paul Savramis.
Q: How does Rising Stars work?
Paul Savramis: Rising Stars is a nonprofit outreach program that uses basketball as a vehicle to bring kids off the streets and put them on the court. We rely on donations and community support to provide both basketball and educational opportunities to the students we serve.
Q: How did your travel team outreach program begin?
Paul Savramis: Six years ago, the late Tyrone Greene, a man I was honored to consider a friend, opened up the doors to the YMCA to 12 underserved sixth-graders. He offered tutoring and a free YMCA membership. In exchange for maintaining their grades and school attendance, these 12 boys were offered an opportunity to play on a travel basketball team. Out of these 12, seven qualified, and we are proud to say that all seven are graduating high school in 2019.
Q: Would you call this outreach program a success?
Paul Savramis: Absolutely. At Rising Stars Youth Foundation, we believe that there is no wasted child, only children who do not have opportunities. These first seven students were given a scholarship, which was their chance to show they were more than the product of their environment. These boys are now leaders in their respective schools, and all signs point to college in their future. Fortunately, we did not stop at this initial program, and today there are dozens of groups of at-risk students that we are proud to say are part of the Rising Stars family.
According to Paul Savramis, Rising Stars Youth Foundation exists to serve one purpose: Give children opportunities. He says that basketball is a bridge between social and economic barriers but is not the primary focus of this program. Academics, he insists, is the core, and he is proud to say that each student-athlete on Rising Stars Youth Foundation teams is both a player and a scholar.