Story by Roselle Tenorio. Photos courtesy of Stars United Global Outreach.
“I adore teachers who try to teach you even when you struggle,” says Star Williams, framing the decision to give her career to educating and empowering students in the same neighborhood she called home. As a student in Oak Cliff, Star’s saving grace was a high school English teacher, Phyllis Randall, who recognized Star was struggling through undiagnosed ADD and dyslexia. Star struggled through high school and even dropped out, but came back due to the persistence of Ms. Randall, graduating on time with her senior class. Star explains, “Ms. Randall noticed [my learning differences] but she understood and worked with me and motivated me so I could achieve my goals.”
Another woman role model for Star was, of course, her mother, a teenage mom who raised her three children by working two or three jobs at a time, usually at a daycare taking care of others’ children. She still found time to feed the homeless and give her time through other acts of kindness. Star explains, “I am sure my mother wanted more things out of life but she gave her children and the community everything.” That demonstration of selflessness always inspired and motivated Star. Her mother took the time to teach her how to break generational curses so that Star would not have to struggle like she did. Star honors her mother and Ms. Randall by founding and leading Stars United Global Outreach, a nonprofit that works with youth in Southern Dallas by delivering high impact training designed to empower, educate, and mobilize students to break down barriers. “Both women made me who I am today,” says Star.
After enlisting in the military at the age of 17, Star earned her associates and bachelor’s degrees, and traveled the world as a Navy IT professional. “I look back on my first career as a success,” says Star, “and I love the choice that I made, but I did not learn about other career options until I joined the military.” She made the best choice with the information she had at the time, which was that the military would secure her future.
When Star retired from the Navy and returned home, she saw that the same gaps she had experienced as a student still existed in her community. “Nothing had really changed. I did not see nonprofits working in my community, or the programs I thought we needed being offered. I wanted to start at home in the areas that I wanted to see a change.” So Star filed for a 501(c)(3) status and began pursuing her masters in public leadership at the University of North Texas at Dallas to better serve the 75241 Oak Cliff community.
Stars United Global Outreach exists because Star experienced how easy it is for a student to get lost. “Students don’t just drop out. They are pushed out without resources,” says Star. She is grateful for the one teacher who cared, who made a difference in her life. Helping the individual student succeed is what motivated her to found Stars United. “When you look at a student and they give you a simple ‘thank you’ or simple ‘because of this program you motivated me to graduate high school’ that is absolutely phenomenal,” she says. “Seeing my students achieve their goals keeps pushing me to serve.” For the students she serves, Star wants each one to have all the information, skills, and space to dream that she did not have access to as a student.
While Star can be seen as someone who made it, her personal success is not the yardstick by which she measures herself. Instead she looks to the possibility of positive impact. Stars United Global Outreach provides educational based resources that young people need but are not receiving: financial planning, SMART goal setting, time management, tutoring, resume writing, tax prep, and other “life after school” skill building programs. “The goal is for really getting our kids to plan for their futures,” says Star. “I want them to be able to envision their lives so much bigger.” As the founder of Stars United, Star says she is “honored to have created a positive atmosphere that will lead our youth in the best direction, to make sound educational plans, and career goals by providing life skills, leadership skills, strong mentors, and positive role models.”
One small but impactful way Star’s organization and her biggest partner, University of North Texas at Dallas Urban Search Institute, achieve this goal is by taking students from nearby high schools, South Oak Cliff and Roosevelt, to the college campus so that they can envision themselves attending college. Star is also happy to partner with the YMCA and Big Thought, and their Dallas City of Learning Program (DCOL). Through DCOL, Star’s students are able to access wifi hotspots and other resources needed during the current pandemic so they can still access the tools for continued learning. Star recalls, “some students could only do their homework from their phone,” when the pandemic first started and school was still in full swing for her high school students. Stars United Global Outreach is still providing their summer resources virtually this year for students ages 10-18. One of their signature programs is Blueprint for Success Leadership Camp. The camp is a two-week summer workshop designed to help kids ages 12-18 build confidence, self esteem, and self awareness. The next class is slated for July 20-31. Registration is now open.
There are so many ways to get involved with Stars United Global Outreach. Students ages 10-18 who are currently enrolled in school can sign up for virtual programs. Due to COVID-19, Stars United Global Outreach does not have as great a need for volunteers for after school activities and registration tables at this time. However, volunteers are still needed to make phone calls to students and other stakeholders, as well as to fundraise. They are always looking for volunteer teachers who are specifically trained and experienced in engaging students online. Every Saturday of the year Star hosts an orientation and training workshop for volunteers. You can learn more by starsunitedglobaloutreach.org.