Making a Difference: Q&A with Yasmine Arrington
By SGZ Staff
“The tassel is worth the hassle!” – Yasmine Arrington
Just three words could be used to describe Yasmine Arrington – optimistic, fun-loving and outgoing. But Arrington is more than just these three words. A poet, motivational speaker and plus-size model, Arrington is also the founder and executive director of ScholarCHIPS, a nonprofit that awards scholarships to graduating high school seniors whose parents are incarcerated, encourages college maturation and provides mentors to its scholars to help guide them academically and personally.
Arrington started the nonprofit as a junior in high school, and while she never thought she would be a founder and executive director of a nonprofit, she knew she wanted to do something meaningful. “I have enjoyed every part of the journey,” she said. “And I do not regret it one bit. “
Question: What is the purpose of ScholarCHIPS and what inspired you to create it?
Answer: ScholarCHIPS’ purpose is to financially assist, mentor, and inspire youth of incarcerated parents, to refuse to be marginalized and pursue higher education to the fullest extent. I was inspired to create ScholarCHIPS as I participated in LearnServe International (a nonprofit in D.C.), a program that focused on training us how to become social change makers and identify issues we wanted to help solve in our communities. Also, having been the child of a previously incarcerated father myself, I know firsthand the financial and emotional struggles that come with it.
Q: Does being part of, and participating in, communities play a big role with what you are doing as a career?
A: I am all about community work. The older I get, the more I love it. Most people are afraid of unknown territory, but one must realize that people are people wherever you go. All of us want love and someone to listen to us every now and then. My work requires me to talk with people, serve people, learn about their personal experiences, so my understanding of the issue of incarceration is enriched.
Q: Tell me about a memorable moment with ScholarCHIPS, i.e. its growth. Reflecting on that moment, how did you feel about it?
A: One of my most memorable moments is when I conducted interviews with the then-scholarship applicants. Hearing their stories, the things they have overcome, and the great enthusiasm they had to succeed brought me to tears. I was so happy to realize that there are people out there who need this type of service. Ever since that moment, I have been determined even more to continue, grow and improve the work of my organization.
Q: Do you consider yourself successful, and has ScholarCHIPS been a highlight in your success?
A: Successful can mean so many different things. .. and if I were to die tomorrow, I can truly say that I have done something meaningful and have impacted the lives of others. ScholarCHIPS has without a doubt been a part of that success, as it has given me another reason to live, and an outlet to give back.
Q: Where do you see yourself and ScholarCHIPS in five years?
A: In five years, I see us having one or two cohorts of scholars graduating from college and I see us almost — if not already — at the million-dollar mark in terms of fundraising. I see another ScholarCHIPS branch in at least one other state, aside from the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area.
Q: If there was one piece of advice to give, what would you say to the average black girl?
A: Stay strong girl! Don’t let anyone speak for you or down to you. Do not let your past, or your family’s past prevent you from reaching a promising future. PERSEVERE.
Click here to get to know Yasmine Arrington