Yasmine Arrington is the founder of ScholarCHIPS, a non-profit dedicated to raising college scholarships and providing mentoring for children of incarcerated parents. Since starting the organization in 2010, Yasmine has awarded over $30,000 in college scholarships and has touched the lives of 17 scholars. In 2012, Yasmine appeared was featured on BET’s Black Girls Rock and given a Making A Difference award.
The work that Yasmine Arrington is doing through ScholarCHIPS is very necessary. With the help of her friends and family members, she’s been able to fill a void in her community and offer a much-needed service. After being intrigued by the work that she’s doing, we wanted to learn more about Yasmine Arrington and ScholarCHIPS.
DailyVenusDiva.com: What led you to start the non-profit organization ScholarCHIPS and what need does it serve?
Yasmine Arrington: My junior year of high school my maternal grandmother and I were looking for scholarships online for me to apply for to cover my college tuition. My grandmother mentioned to me that she did not see any scholarships for youth with incarcerated parents and I made a mental note of her unique observation. I was also a fellow in a program called LearnServe International my junior year, which is a non-profit based in DC that teaches high school sophomores and juniors about social entrepreneurship and social change. As a participant in the program, fellows are asked to identify issues in their communities they want to see change and think of ways to help solve them. After conducting research on incarceration in the United States, I learned that today the U.S. has over 2 million youth with incarcerated parents; thus I realized that there were lots of students like myself (I had an incarcerated father growing up) who need assistance in covering college costs. Once I discovered this I knew I had to do something about it. ScholarCHIPS provides scholarships, mentoring and a support network to youth with incarcerated parents who are pursuing their college degree or some form of higher education or training.
DailyVenusDiva.com: Is there a story behind the organization’s name? If so, what is that story?
Yasmine Arrington: Yes. When I decided that I wanted to start a scholarship organization for children with incarcerated parents, I enthusiastically brought the idea to my grandmother and she voluntarily brainstormed some potential names for the organization. My grandmother, to my surprise, came up with the name “Scholar-CHIPS” which is the idea that these youth are CHIPS-children with incarcerated parents but are also scholars…they are intelligent students who are going far in life (dispelling general assumptions that they too will end up in prison like their parent)! I began to use the name for my project and it stuck. The name truly resonates with the organization’s mission and the scholars’ positive outlooks on life.
DailyVenusDiva.com: Since starting the organization, what has been your proudest moment?
Yasmine Arrington: My proudest moment was being featured on Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) Black Girls Rock show in 2012. It was such a surreal moment to be in the midst of so many of my favorite black celebrities and for the organization to be highlighted on national television. It was a light bulb moment for me to realize that people value the work that I do and also believe that it’s important. To this day, people still recognize me and the organization from that feature three years ago, so it is still very powerful.
Here is a clip of Yasmine being honored at BET’s Black Girls Rock celebration in 2012.
DailyVenusDiva.com: How does having an incarcerated parent affect a child’s ability to attend college?
Yasmine Arrington: Having a parent who is in jail or prison puts a child at a disadvantage because there is one less adult present to provide love, guidance, encouragement to attend college and financial assistance. Most students determine in high school whether or not they want to go to college, however for many students in this demographic who want to go to college they just do not have the funds to do so or some have to start a full time job out of high school to help provide for their family. This is where organizations like ScholarCHIPS step in.
DailyVenusDiva.com: Where do you see the organization in five years?
Yasmine Arrington: In five years, I envision ScholarCHIPS becoming a nationally available scholarship that provides larger scholarship amounts (the largest scholarship currently is worth $2,500 per school year). I see ScholarCHIPS being one of the national spokespersons for various topics related to incarceration such as re-entry, family restoration, issues facing children of incarcerated parents and returning citizens, policies in relation to the mass incarceration industrial complex, etc., while partnering with organizations like Prison Fellowship, Hope House DC, Amachi and the US Dream Academy. I also see ScholarCHIPS hosting large annual life skills/professional development conferences for youth with incarcerated parents to better equip them for college and post-college.
DailyVenusDiva.com: How can our readers make a donation to ScholarCHIPS?
Yasmine Arrington: To make a donation to ScholarCHIPS, you can make a secure online donation through PayPal on our website at www.scholarchipsfund.com or you can write a check to ScholarCHIPS, Inc. and mail to our PO Box at 56404, Washington, DC 20040. Your donations are tax deductible and you will receive documentation from the organization. Thank you for your support!