The Star Kids Scholarship Program was founded in 2000 by Dr. Timothy Flanigan, MD, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and HIV and Infectious Diseases Physician at the Miriam and Rhode Island Hospitals. While working at the Rhode Island State Prison caring for substance-addicted women, Dr. Flanigan witnessed the seemingly insurmountable struggles the families of these women encountered. Barriers including addiction, unemployment, depressions, family disintegration, and homelessness plagued their lives. However, their primary concern was always their children and how these children could overcome such dire adversities. The need for a program in which children could escape this terrible cycle was self-evident. Dr. Flanigan realized that the way to break the cycle of substance abuse in families was rooted in supplying quality education and support for children.
Star Kids Scholarship Program was launched in the spring of 2000 to address at-risk children in the communities of Newport County, RI and Fall River, MA. Suzanne Petronello was hired as the program’s first Executive Director. Six students were enrolled that year with the goal of accepting ten new students each year. In the fall of 2001, the first New Bedford student was enrolled. As the program grew, it was evident that there was a significant need for a separate chapter in the greater New Bedford area. New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program officially became its own 501(c)(3) in July 2009, led by Executive Director Judy Zwirblis. In 2011, Ellen Lough was appointed the Executive Director of New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program. New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program has grown to serve over 125 students.