Yasmine Arrington was 16 years old when she created ScholarCHIPS, a program to help children of the incarcerated with college financial aid, CNN reported. Arrington knew about these difficulties because growing up her father was repeatedly incarcerated.
Now she is 30 and ScholarCHIPS has provided over $450,000 in scholarships and other assistance, supporting the educational journey of over 80 scholars as they pursue their college degrees, the network reported May 12, 2023.
Because of her work, Arrington has been designated as a “CNN Hero.”
Besides her father being in prison, her mother died when she was 13. Arrington and her two brothers were raised by their maternal grandmother.
“All too often you become marginalized or dismissed as a delinquent,” she said “Having an incarcerated father also took a toll emotionally, mentally.”
Despite facing challenges, Arrington actively participated in extracurricular activities and joined LearnServe, a program for teenagers in Washington, DC. In the program, she was prompted to identify issues that angered her. Arrington selected mass incarceration and its impact on children and families, aiming to address this concern.
“My father has literally been in and out of jail and prison my entire life,” Arrington said. “I began to do research, and I learned that there’s so many other people that are kind of my age experiencing what I’m experiencing.”
Motivated by the lack of scholarships specifically for teens with incarcerated parents in her region, Arrington embarked on a mission in 2010 to establish ScholarCHIPS, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships, mentorship, and a support network for young people in similar situations.
“Most of our scholars, when they apply to ScholarCHIPS, they say, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone’ that they have an incarcerated parent. So, ScholarCHIPS becomes a safe space where young people feel comfortable even divulging and sharing that information,” Arrington said.
Every year, new scholars are welcomed into the program, expanding its reach and impact.
“I definitely stay in contact with scholars well after they’ve graduated. It really is a family of sorts,” Arrington said. “Just a little bit of support can go a very, very long way and make a difference not only in one person’s life, but in an entire family and an entire generation.”