ScholarCHIPS Founding Story
As a junior in high school, Yasmine Arrington became a 2010 Fellow in the LearnServe International Program in Washington, DC. LearnServe challenged her to help solve a need within the community. At the time, Yasmine and her grandmother were searching for scholarships to help cover her future college tuition, but could not find one for teens like her with incarcerated parents. Realizing that millions of other youth like her have an incarcerated parent and would benefit from a college scholarship tailored to their experience, Yasmine decided to create one herself.
With the support of trusted adults who Yasmine asked then to be the founding board members, Yasmine established ScholarCHIPS, Inc. (For Children of Incarcerated Parents) in October 2010. She now serves as the organization’s Executive Director. Today, ScholarCHIPS is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization, after benefiting from LearnServe International’s fiscal sponsorship from 2010-2014.
ScholarCHIPS is the only organization in the DC region that works to achieve the following mission: provide college scholarships, mentorship, and a support network for children of incarcerated parents, inspiring them to complete their college education. Our advocacy program also impacts public policy and decreases the stigma faced by this population.
ScholarCHIPS’ goal is to empower youth with incarcerated parents to graduate college, establish upwardly mobile careers, and contribute to their communities. To date, ScholarCHIPS has served 76 scholars and has awarded over $300,000 in scholarships, book awards, and graduation gifts.
With your support ScholarCHIPS will continue to achieve our mission in support of the following vision: a world where children of incarcerated parents are no longer marginalized and stigmatized by society, have equal access to higher education, and, ultimately, experience a future absent of poverty and incarceration.
ScholarCHIPS provides renewable scholarships and book awards to college bound youth from the Washington, DC Metropolitan area with an incarcerated parent or primary caregiver. We reach graduating high school seniors from the following regions: Washington, DC; Montgomery County; Prince George's County; Fairfax County; Arlington County; City of Alexandria; and the City of Falls Church. ScholarCHIPS targets students who have the drive to attend and graduate from college, but are at risk of falling short of this goal because of limited financial resources or support networks that result from parental incarceration. In fact, many recipients are the first in their family to attend or complete college. When reviewing applications, we also value scholars who demonstrate a commitment to their community.
We have served 76 scholars since our inception, including 39 active scholars in FY2021. While we welcome students from all ethnic backgrounds to apply, the vast majority of scholars are African American. We also support Latino, African and Native American scholars. The average FAFSA Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) per scholar is $5,181.16. This year, 60% of scholar applicants have an EFC of $0.
Our scholars attend a wide variety of colleges and universities. For example, scholars have earned Bachelor’s Degrees from: Old Dominion University, Virginia State University, Pennsylvania State University, Bowie State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Towson University, Spelman College, Bucknell University, Sewanee College of the South, and many others. Several of our scholars go on to pursue their Juris Doctorate or advanced degrees. We support scholars as they pursue advanced degrees and jobs in their desired career fields.
Programs: ScholarCHIPS Model
The ScholarCHIPS model is designed to break cycles of intergenerational incarceration and poverty. We empower youth with incarcerated parents to graduate college, establish successful careers, contribute to their communities, and combat the negative stigma youth in this position face:
ScholarCHIPS provides renewable $2,500 scholarships and $500 book awards to children of incarcerated parents from the DC region. Awards are renewable for up to four years, provided the scholar remains enrolled in college and maintains at least a 2.5 GPA per semester.
ScholarCHIPS targets graduating high school seniors from the Greater Washington, DC region. We reach graduating high school seniors who have the drive to attend and graduate from college, but are at risk of falling short because of limited financial resources or support networks that result from parental incarceration. In fact, many recipients are the first in their family to attend or complete college. We also target scholars who demonstrate a commitment to their community. We have served 61 scholars since our inception, including 22 graduates who have completed our program. Some scholars have gone on to pursue advanced degrees. Thirty-nine (39) active scholars received awards in 2019-2020. In FY2021 ScholarCHIPS will serve 45 scholars.
To date, we have awarded over $300,000 to 71 scholars. We aim to disburse $82,000 in scholarships and book awards for the 2021 fiscal year. Thus, ScholarCHIPS will have awarded more than $320,000 in scholarships by July 2020!
Mentorship and College Completion Program:
ScholarCHIPS offers one-on-one mentoring, college life skills/professional development workshops, exposure to arts and culture, and community service opportunities to ensure scholars graduate from college.
The Board Chair implements one component of our mentoring services. She checks in regularly with each scholar to ensure they have financial aid and an income source to cover college expenses; are on track academically (complete required credits to graduate within 4-6 years, maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher per semester, and utilize on-campus resources to help with challenging courses); and have emotional/family support. Scholars may not have a strong support system because of their parent’s incarceration, which can negatively impact academic success. Thus, we track how often scholars contact their incarcerated parent. We also provide care packages twice per year during exam season, with useful items and handwritten notes of encouragement. Scholars consider our Board Chair their “second mom,” as she intervenes to support their success.
Additionally, ScholarCHIPS matches our scholars with mentors, who are volunteers from the community. Each mentor is provided with trauma-informed orientation trainings. Mentors commit to mentoring a scholar for an entire year, incorporating check-ins that total at least four hours a month.
ScholarCHIPS also provides workshops and enrichment opportunities:
•Annual ScholarCHIPS Awards Ceremony: includes workshops on strategies to be successful in college for incoming scholars and first year college students, as well as a motivational speaker who imparts relatable experiences to our scholars and their families.
•Annual College Life Skills Conference: workshops when students return home for Thanksgiving break (and open to prospective high school scholars), including study skills, time management, securing internships and scholarships, resume building, financial planning, sexual health, self-defense, cyber safety, and more.
•Annual Scholars Retreat: a retreat scholars participate in during their winter holiday break, where we gather together for two days and one night at a church hostel. During the retreat, scholars, staff, and volunteers participate in fun and games, a discussion session, and a community service project.
•Cultural outings during winter vacation, including a play at the Arena Stage or Ford Theater.
Scholars complete a survey at the end of each school year to provide a formal update on financial resources, academic progress, and emotional/family support. The Board Chair reviews each survey and intervenes as needed.
As of November 2018, ScholarCHIPS is working with a Mentoring & Alumni Engagement Consultant to enhance our mentoring capacity.
Advocacy and Outreach Program:
ScholarCHIPS transforms inaccurate societal assumptions about youth with incarcerated parents. Our Executive Director and scholars participate in community and national advocacy work on policies related to children of incarcerated parents and returning citizens. Long-term, ScholarCHIPS aims to: impact policy change related to mass incarceration; contribute to a national emphasis on the importance of college completion for children with incarcerated parents; and develop nationally-recognized best practices to help these students succeed.
ScholarCHIPS has received national recognition and various accolades due to our successful, comprehensive approach. In addition to being selected as a current Fair Chance partner in 2019, ScholarCHIPS was recognized as “one of the best” local nonprofits in 2019-20 by The Catalogue for Philanthropy—selected for excellence, cost-effectiveness, and impact.
Moreover, ScholarCHIPS has received several awards, including (but not limited to): the 2015 J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize ($150,000), 2015 PeaceFirst Prize Award ($25,000), and the 2017 America’s Promise Alliance People of Promise Award ($20,000). We have also been featured in The Washington Post (2010, 2012, and 2015), Teen Vogue (2012),Essence (2013), Forbes (2013), WUSA9 (2015), The Huffington Post (2015), ABC7 WJLA (2016), The Steve Harvey Morning Show (2016), Crossroads by Roach Brown on WPFW (2018), and interviewed by Barbara Harrison on NBC News 4 (2018).
ScholarCHIPS Executive Director and Founder, Yasmine Arrington, was also selected through a competitive national application process to be a 2019 Just Leadership USA “Leading with Conviction” Fellow. Just Leadership USA’s mission is to decrease the incarcerated population by half by 2030. As a fellow, Yasmine received interactive, in-person executive coaching and peer coaching to help her hone her organizational and management skills, master her storytelling, and sharpen her ability to function as a visionary leader for justice reform in our nation.
At least 90% of our scholars over the lifetime of the organization have graduated from their undergraduate programs or are on track to graduate within 4-6 years. We have already celebrated twenty-two college graduates from the first five cohorts (college class of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020). All remaining active scholars are on track to graduate within 4-6 years, with the vast majority on track to graduate in 4-5 years.
The ScholarCHIPS model ensures our target population not only enroll in college, but persist, graduate, and thrive professionally. We also work to dissolve taboos associated with having an incarcerated parent. ScholarCHIPS is well-respected for our unique approach. In fact, The College Success Foundation recognized our success “changing the lives of young people, who with a little hope and opportunity will not only change their trajectory, but the trajectory of their families and the communities they serve.”
About the Founder
Yasmine “YazzieSpeaks” Arrington was born and raised in Washington, DC. She is a 2015 graduate from Elon University with a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications and History. Yasmine earned her Master of Divinity degree from Howard University School of Divinity in May 2018. Yasmine is the author of Daily Reflections for Social Entrepreneurs Journal.
In 2010, while a junior in high school, Yasmine founded the non-profit ScholarCHIPS (www.scholarchipsfund.org), an organization that provides college scholarships, mentoring and a peer support network to children of incarcerated parents, inspiring them to complete their college education. To date, ScholarCHIPS has awarded over $300,000 in college scholarships to 76 scholars, with 30 college graduates to date.
Yasmine has been featured in TeenVogue, Essence, Black Enterprise, Forbes Magazine, The Washington Post, and the Baltimore Times, and on ABC7 News WJLA and NBC4 for her community work with ScholarCHIPS. Yasmine is a recipient of several awards including the Washington Business Journal Top 40 Under 40, the Linowes Leadership Award from the Greater Washington Community Foundation, the Peace First Prize, the DC Social Innovation Prize, Angel Among Us Award by the Negro Council of Women, the Samuel Huntington Public Service Award, the Samuel Halperin Public Service Award, Radio One WKYS Top 30 Under 30, and others.
To learn more visit www.yasminearrington.com.