Cover Star Interview: Yasmine Arrington Shares Her Purpose & Her Holiday Wish List

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The thought of the holiday season brings up feelings of family, fellowship, and philanthropy.  Through her organization ScholarCHIPS, our December cover model embodies each of these principles with a focus on the latter.  When we featured Yasmine last year, we kept it very business-like, but this time around the Founder /Executive Director and graduate student traded in her suit, for fur, eyelashes, and beautiful big hair. 

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Keep reading as we get reacquainted with Yasmine and allow her to share even more of her brilliance this time around.

How did you first become involved in the non-profit field?

Honestly, becoming a part of the non-profit field was an unexpected, unplanned part of my journey. My junior year of high school I was a fellow in the LearnServe International Program. LearnServe International (LSI) is a non-profit based in DC that annually trains a cohort of high school students on how to be social change agents and social entrepreneurs. In the program, students are challenged to identify one to two issues that they want to see change or improve and then create a venture project that would help solve the problem. My issue was and still is, mass incarceration. Part of my personal story is that my father has been in and out of prison most of my life from childhood to now. Presently, over 2 million youth in the United States have an incarcerated parent. My venture idea was to start a mentoring scholarship program for youth with incarcerated parents, called ScholarCHIPS (my maternal grandmother came up with the name). It turns out that the idea stuck and people began donating to the cause because it was a cause that people believed in and thought was important. Once ScholarCHIPS received a seed grant, and I began receiving donations, I knew I had to legitimize my project, so LearnServe served as our fiscal agent for a couple of years, and then the founding board of ScholarCHIPS agreed to apply for 501c3 status. Since 2014 we have been incorporated in the District of Columbia and in 2015 we officially received 501c’s/nonprofit status. Every year since I have been doing this work and learning how non-profits function, how to direct and maintain a non-profit, etc. While it can be hard work, it is very rewarding work –to see what started out just as an idea, positively impacting so many people!

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How have you been able to be of assistance?

Yes, in our society quiet as kept, children and families are the collateral damage when a family member is locked away in prison. Over the past few years there have been many discussions, panels, roundtables and rallies surrounding mass incarceration and solutions to what has now become a national crisis; however, too often the youth voice is missing in these settings and conversations. Through my organization, ScholarCHIPS, I and our scholars have become spokespersons for the cause and are increasingly being invited to speak to various audiences about the effects of incarceration on us, our ideas for solutions and to share our stories of resilience and success, which are too often omitted from the national narrative. Since 2012, ScholarCHIPS has awarded over $100,000 in college scholarships to 29 scholars and our application for the 2016-17 school year is now open. The organization renews scholarships for up to four years for each of our scholars as long as they are still enrolled in school and maintain good academic standing. We have also expanded our mentoring to local high school students.

We are actively breaking the shame, stigma, and taboo around incarceration locally and nationally. We are letting our youth know that they can be successful and do not have to be ashamed of their story –we are letting our youth know that they are worthy of a college degree, worthy of respect and accolades and that we are here to support them.

When you started ScholarCHIPS, did you ever doubt yourself? And what kept you focused?

When I started ScholarCHIPS I was 16 years old, so I was very much doubtful asking myself questions like, Yasmine, can you really do this? Are you ready for this kind of responsibility? You do not even know anything about how to start and run a non-profit. There were also doubts coming from adults who assumed that while the idea sounded good in theory, that I would forget about or abandon the project once I went off to college. What kept me going was in part, the determination to prove those doubtful voices wrong. I wanted people to know that I was serious about my project, that I was dedicated and that just because I was a teenager going off to college I was just as capable as anyone else and I would do the work that I said I was going to do. Lastly, once I realized how large of an impact mass incarceration has on so many youths in this country like me, I was determined to help and make a difference. Also and most importantly I pray through the rough times and I have several people in my life who are invested in the cause and want to see it succeed! I have a great team, so I know the truth to the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work!”

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Image captured by: Sidney and Company Photography.

What victories have you had since the last time we featured you on DailyVenusDiva.com?

Since the last time I was featured on DailyVenusDiva.com in September 2015, I have had quite a few victories. In March of 2016 I was crowned Miss District of Columbia Plus America by the Miss Plus America organization. My reign will continue through the next national competition in the summer of 2017. Since 2015, I have been at student at the Howard University School of Divinity working towards my Master of Divinity degree. I have been awarded a fellowship by the PeaceFirst Prize, which is an organization that provides support for youth peacemakers who are doing great work in their communities. I have also been awarded a grant from the J.M. Kaplan Foundation, called the J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize, which is a family foundation that champions inventive giving that supports transformative social, environmental and cultural causes. 

Since September 2015, I was awarded an “Angel Among Us” Award from the National Council of Negro Women (December 2015), the Curvy Woman Who Rocks HERmanitarian Award from CurvesRock Fashion Weekend (July 2016), and a Woman of Passion, Woman of Purpose: Positive People Award by The Baltimore Times (September 2016). I am one of the show hosts for a new millennial show on the District Knowledge Network entitled, “I Wish You Knew.” We talk on social and cultural topics such as music, fitness, politics, social media and more. We are recording Season 2 now! Also, I have been interning since the summer of 2016 at WHUR 96.3, The Howard University radio station and one of the highest rated DC contemporary radio stations.  

With Christmas, less than a month away, what is on your holiday wish list?

Well, one thing that has never changed, I LOVE fashionable clothing, so no one can ever go wrong with gifting me with a lovely pair of high heel shoes or some stylish clothing. As for my wish list, I would like a bedazzled dress I can wear for a holiday party or formal outing by R&M Richards and a couple of professional women’s dress suits from Isabella for my speaking and preaching engagements. New pieces to add to my wardrobe from brands like Ashley Stewart and Eloquii are always the move!

I would also love one or two new pairs of tennis shoes (I don’t buy them often, but it is past time for me to get a new pair, so I might as well get some stylish ones). I love the gold metallic looking kicks from Nike and the Velvet Night Maroon Air Jordans. A pair of wide calf, two-tone, knee high riding boots from Tommy Hilfiger. I have truly been craving to get a pair of studded Jeffrey Campbell booties, but they are quite expensive though –I will have to save up on my own to buy a pair of those.

It’s always fun to have a purse or leather backpack from Betsy Johnson and a new nice smelling woman’s perfume. While there are a lot of material things on my Christmas wishlist, the most important thing is the opportunity to spend the holiday season with family and friends. I can purchase any of these items any day, but I can never get back time lost with those I love.

 

I’m sure you are excited about the New Year. What do you plan to accomplish (personally and professionally in 2017)?

Yes, I am excited about the New Year!!! One of my primary goals to accomplish professionally in 2017 is to obtain representation from a modeling agency. This is not an easy feat, but I know that it is possible. I’m claiming that 2017 will be my year for a contract! I have been honing my craft for six years, so now it’s time to put the rubber to the road and began working for industry clients. I also plan to begin writing a book for publication. I am not yet sure what direction I will take with my first book, but I have gained so much knowledge and wisdom from my experiences over the years that, I believe it is time to put it down on paper and share with the world. I still want to meet and be interviewed by President Barack Obama, Oprah, Wendy Williams, The Breakfast Club and Sway Calloway and meet Queen Latifah, Tyler Perry, and Bruno Mars. I’m not sure if I will meet them in 2017, but I’ll continue to work towards it. In 2016 I met the author and advocate Bryan Stevenson, and actors Lamman Rucker and Christian Keyes and all three of them were on my goals list last year. I was also interviewed by the U.S. Secretary of Education John King. So again, I know that anything is possible. I am hoping to become an Echoing Green Fellow and Soros Justice Fellow in 2017.

Personally, my goals are to seek ways to continue to develop spiritually, mentally, emotionally and academically. I hope that in the near future I will have the opportunity to enter into a healthy, meaningful relationship with a significant other where we both enhance each other lives. However, I realize that I am 23 years old, so I have plenty of time for this. Even if it does not happen in the next year or so it is something that I look forward to (or at least it sounds good to me). The dating/courting scene in DC for a single millennial, successful, African-American woman seems rather dry. We shall see what the future holds, but until then I will be focusing on establishing my future career and my legacy.

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Aside from these goals, I plan to continue my philanthropic and community work through my non-profit, to network with business professionals, to network with radio and television personnel and professionals in the fashion industry. I still have plans to one day become a radio and television personality and show host.

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