Spotlight on Scholars 2020-11-24T21:00:00+00:00

November 23, 2020 Nightline:

COVID-19 just another challenge for teens in foster system seeking stability

See how the current health crisis has affected the lives of some of our First Star scholars. Despite the challenges they have faced this year, they are persevering through it all and continuing to thrive. We are so proud to share their stories!

Shaquille O’Neal Presents FOSTER BOY

Directed by Youssef Delara and executive produced by NBA legend Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal.

Movie synopsis: Micheal Trainer is a lawyer at the center of a trial in which a for-profit foster care agency puts a known sex offender into the same foster home as his young client Jamal, with catastrophic results. Michael, a successful litigator with a long career protecting corporate interests, wants nothing to do with Jamal’s case, until a Judge forces him to accept it. Initially he sees Jamal as a kid off the streets looking to grab a piece of corporate profits. But, when Jamal refuses to settle the case for any amount of money, Michael begins his representation in earnest. As their work together reveals the horrifying depth of the corrupt and abusive for-profit foster care agency.

Here’s a recap of Shaquille O’Neal and the First Star scholars at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Spotlight on First Star Scholars

The First Star Scholars found themselves in the spotlight on February 17, 2020 at the Pan African Film Festival on the red carpet for the Los Angeles premiere of Shaquille O’Neal Presents FOSTER BOY.  Peter Samuelson, founder and president of First Star — served as a producer on the film, with an ensemble cast, starring Matthew Modine, Shane Paul McGhie, Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr., Julie Benz and Evan Handler. Peter helped to bring this cinematic legal drama to the big screen that activates reform against corruption. So far, the award-winning feature film has won more than 10 juror prizes on the film festival circuit. Sometimes art imitates life. Well, let’s call FOSTER BOY a case of “art advocacy.” The words of writer Jay Paul Deratany, not only shine a light on the corrupt forces that work against successful outcomes for foster youth; but, he has also taken matters into his own hands, bringing about social change in his corner of the world by sponsoring a First Star academy in his hometown of Chicago.

Roll the Credits! 

First Star scholars served as “consultants” on the award-winning film, Shaquille O’Neal Presents FOSTER BOY, currently making its rounds on the film festival circuit. The scholars contributed to the film in the following ways:

  • The writing team met with First Star scholars on the campus of Loyola University of Chicago and UCLA for suggestions on script revisions for honest portrayals of the foster care system.
  • Lead actor Shane Paul McGhie met with the First Star scholars, who guided him in finding the right voice for his character, Jamal Randolph, an abused foster kid from the streets of Chicago.
  • First Star scholars in Los Angeles and Chicago spent a day on the set of FOSTER BOY, getting a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking and exposure to careers in the film industry.
  • And finally, First Star scholars are acknowledged in the credits of FOSTER BOY!

First Star Makes National News With a Segment on ABC’s “Nightline”

The work of First Star academies is paying off!! Scholars and staff from the First Star UCLA Bruin Guardian Scholars Academy joined NBA great Shaquille O’Neal in an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” prior to the FOSTER BOY screening at the Pan African Film Festival in February 2020, during Black History Month.  The segment profiled Shaq and also shined a spotlight on the resilience of First Star scholars, and the success rate of the academies.. The First Star academies strive to undo the abysmal outcomes plaguing foster youth:

Our First Star Academy scholars are high school-aged teens,  participating in a four-year immersive college readiness program, which includes summer school on a college campus, supported by former foster youth and highly-qualified educators and professionals.  This combination of encouragement and enrichment assist First Star scholars in beating the odds and not falling through the cracks, which keeps our scholars on track for high school graduation and post secondary enrollment.  In a nutshell, First Star academies provide a loving, nurturing environment that allows scholars to discover themselves and dream BIG to be anything they want to be.

Did You Know?

  • Less than 50% of foster youth graduate high school, and only 10% ever enroll in college. Less than 3% earn a college degree.  
  • More than half of foster youth end up homeless, incarcerated, or on public assistance within two years of aging out of the foster care system.

We Can Do Better Than That!

First Star Academy scholars are high school-aged teens, participating in a four-year immersive college readiness program, which includes summer school on a college campus, supported by former foster youth and highly-qualified educators and professionals.

    •   98% of First Star scholars who complete the academy program graduate high school!
    •   88% of First Star scholars go on to higher education!

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