LearnServe Fellow 2010, LearnServe Zambia 2010
When people ask who I am it’s like, “I am Yasmine Arrington, ScholarCHIPS.” ScholarCHIPS is part of me.
My father was in and out of prison my entire life, and that had a financial effect on my family, as well as an emotional effect on me. This demographic of children, and teenagers, with parents in prison – they’re unfortunately the forgotten, the invisible, as if they’re not important, or this is their destiny.
I started ScholarCHIPS to grant college scholarships to high school graduating seniors with parents in prison. I come from a standpoint where I understand where they’re coming from – I feel it, I understand it. Without a college education your possibilities are extremely limited. Having a parent in prison is a really taboo issue – but it’s important to understand that having a parent who’s gone causes a financial gap, financial stress in the household, and college is very expensive. If we can provide financial assistance to youth who want to go to college, I think that is pretty important.
More than 200,000 children in this country are estimated to have an imprisoned mother and more than 1.6 million have an imprisoned father. Our nation’s incarcerated population is growing by 6.5% each year on average – so the number of children with parents in prison will likely continue to increase. Already more than half of state prisoners are parents of children under 18.
Over the past three years we have raised more than $20,000 towards scholarships, and have filed to become an independent non-profit organization. We have already awarded seven $2,500 scholarships and seven $250 book awards to graduating high school students from DC area schools.
I can honestly say that LearnServe changed my life in a powerful way. LearnServe taught us about social entrepreneurship, why it’s important for young people to be passionate about issues in their communities, and to be proactive about finding solutions to these issues. Through the LearnServe Fellows Program I was able to form ScholarCHIPS. I feel that ScholarCHIPS has allowed me to grow as an individual. It has helped me become more me. I have started blogging to stay aware of what’s going on around me, and I’m planning to apply for a research grant on incarceration.
Gandhi had a saying that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I fully believe that. I am so fortunate to be able to help other people. There really is nothing in this world that can compare to the feeling of doing good.
Yasmine Arrington graduated from the LearnServe Fellows Program and LearnServe Zambia in 2010. Yasmine is a graduate of Benjamin Banneker Academic Senior High School and is now a student at Elon University. She is founder of ScholarCHIPS.
LearnServe 10×10 interviews and profiles compiled by Melanie Barlow (Fellows 2010) and Julia Peck (Fellows 2011). Additional quotes from Yasmine Arrington borrowed from the film produced by Chris Tyree for Yasmine’s 2012 Linowes Leadership Award.
Celebrate our 10th Anniversary with us on November 6th.