Talking about the Rising Stars vision comes very easily for Rising Stars founder and President Paul Savramis. When asked why it’s so easy to talk about the past 26 years, the answer is always the same. Says Paul Savramis, “Because very little has changed in our mission, or how Rising Stars goes about making a difference.”
When pressed to go further about how yesterday’s plans continued to be tomorrow’s thinking, Savramis goes back to Rising Stars' three core elements and that is to provide opportunities for youth to PLAY LEARN & GROW. “It doesn’t get any simpler than that,” continues Savramis.
“If you went on our website 26 years ago you would see that on every page. You would also see that’s still reflected in everything we do. We still use basketball as our vehicle to enroll children into positive character-building programs throughout the year, and we still use the power of teams to reinforce the values of our players who need to make correct decisions throughout the formative years of high school. That’s our core of PLAY.”
“We then enroll our teams in after-school tutoring that also monitors grades and attendance, and then helps support children in need through private educational opportunities. That’s our core of LEARN,” explains Paul Savramis.
“Finally, we ask all our teams to participate in community service events while building social bridges for them between community, academics and athletics so they can graduate high school college-ready and issue-free. That’s our biggest core value and that’s to help our players GROW.”
Paul Savramis adds that throughout this process and over the years that Rising Stars has always embraced the concept of working closely with partner schools and organizations to help make that difference. The foundation has a longstanding partnership with the YMCA and has teamed with other like-minded leaders and other nonprofit organizations. One such organization Savramis is proud to include is the outstanding South Shore Long Island Group Community And Edification, INC. (C&E) a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization formed by Rising Stars coach and parent Devine Smith in January 2021.
Drawing on his 22 years of experience at the youth, high school, and college level, Devine currently coaches an elite girls’ travel team with Rising Stars. More importantly, Coach Smith brings the model of Learning and Growing off the court to both his teams and to his community. Says Paul Savramis, “Coach Smith is exactly the type of leader we look for as a teacher and as coach for our team programs. As a boy growing up in Harlem and Suffolk County, Devine faced challenges that he might not have overcome had it not been for the guidance of the people in his community watching out for him. It was the influence of these people that inspired Devine to give back and help young people on their own journeys.”
Says Devine, “I know first-hand how much of a difference role models can make in uplifting kids, and how the people in a community can uplift each other. That's the goal of Community and Edification, and that’s what we strive for every day.”
“Our organization has touched the lives of hundreds of people, young and old, through community action such as our annual Back 2 School Backpack and School Supply Giveaway, Thanksgiving food drive and a Christmas toy drive,” says Paul Savramis. “Community and Edification is dedicated to helping the youth from the towns of Babylon, Islip, and beyond in hopes of helping them attain their full potential and build strength in our underserved neighborhoods.”
“We are guided by the same ideas we have seen guide the Rising Stars Foundation. In all my conversations with Mr. Savramis he will circle back to ‘It takes a village, Devine; it takes a village.’ I couldn’t agree more! It is the people in a community that are best equipped to lift each other up,” says Devine, who added his efforts to those of the Rising Stars Foundation this past Thanksgiving as the Bay Shore-based nonprofit held their 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive event at the Town of Babylon Food Pantry.
With the help of a generous crew of volunteers, Community and Edification provided 60 Thanksgiving meals to families in need in the Amityville and Islip areas and donated another 20 meals to the Town of Babylon Food Pantry. Concluded Paul Savramis, “Seeing our scholar athletes joining with coach Devine’s efforts was overwhelming in defining what we aspire to do. His efforts not only provided a lifeline to needy families during the holidays, but also provided an inspirational and life-changing experience to all that participated in making that possible. We can never have enough of both.”