What we love about Ellen Lough is her passion for the kids of New Bedford. If you see her at Groundwork!, you will notice that she is always busy, always working hard, and always happy about her work. It’s great to have the non-profit sector represented in our coworking community, and we believe whole-heartedly in Ellen’s mission. Read on to learn about Ellen’s amazing work:
What’s your profession?
I am the Executive Director of the New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program. The mission of the program is to provide educational opportunities in the form of tuition aid to effective non-public schools, as well as uniforms, after-school and summer programs; and tutoring and mentoring services for at-risk children from low-income families who have a parent with a history of incarceration and/or substance abuse. Star Kids Scholarship Program began by serving children in Newport County, Rhode Island and Fall River, Massachusetts in 2000 and the following year began serving children in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Recognizing the great need in Bristol County, the Star Kids Scholarship Program Board of Directors approved an expansion of the New Bedford program, which officially became its own chapter, New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program, on July 1, 2009. There are 67 children enrolled in the New Bedford Chapter, a significant increase from the first 2 students from New Bedford who were first enrolled in 2001.
What’s the biggest challenge you face at your job?
Finding sponsors for our students. We need sponsors, sponsors and more sponsors. We want to grow our program to 100 children. Each year, there are significantly more qualified applicants for our program than there are sponsors. One of our greatest challenges is the high rate of drug addiction in this area. Most of the New Bedford Star Kids families are affected by drug addiction. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) generates state-level averages of illicit drug use and dependence, including use of cocaine. Massachusetts continues to rank among the ten states with the highest rates among individuals age 12 -17 and 18-25. (SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH, 2012 and 2013.) The city of New Bedford persists in having one of the highest narcotic drug addiction statistics in the state, with heroin and cocaine followed only by prescription drug abuse. Unfortunately, these statistics speak to the continued need for New Bedford Star Kid’s unique services for children with parents experiencing substance abuse issues and subsequent incarceration. Each sponsor contributes a full scholarship of $3500 or a half scholarship of $1750 which is directly applied to a Star Kid’s tuition. Our sponsorships are generously donated to Star Kids by foundations, businesses or individuals.
How do you benefit from using a coworking space?
Both the Executive Director and the Administrative Assistant of the New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program operate out of home offices. A co-working space in New Bedford has afforded me the opportunity to network with other professionals in the New Bedford community, thus enabling me to further spread the mission of our program. In addition, Groundwork! provides invaluable and attractive space to have staff meetings and larger meetings both in the team room and conference room.
What is the most surprising or unusual aspect of your life?
Sorry to disappoint…nothing extraordinarily surprising or unusual about my life. I will say that individuals whom I meet through my job or especially in my personal life are surprised to find out when we are talking about my job at New Bedford Star Kids that my family roots are actually right here in New Bedford. Born and raised in Rhode Island, and of course, as a typical Rhode Islander, currently living in the town over from where I grew up, most people assume my family is from Rhode Island. My paternal grandmother immigrated from Canada to New Bedford, where my father spent many years of his childhood.
What inspires you?
My Star Kids inspire me. The resiliency and adaptability that our Star Kids display in the face of adversity on a daily basis is both humbling and inspiring. Their lives are replete with poverty, crime, violence and drug/alcohol addiction. Yet, they go to school every day giving 100% to their academics and extracurricular activities. I never cease to be amazed by this.
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