In October, the Rising Stars Youth Foundation held its first outreach tournament to much fanfare and even more cheer. According to founder Paul Savramis, the competition brought together the trifecta that makes the Rising Stars Youth Foundation formula a success: Basketball, Family and Education.
Q: When did Rising Stars Youth Foundation launch its initial outreach program?
Paul Savramis: These grassroots initiative programs, as we call them, have been in place throughout the city for the past six years and actually placed on Long Island last year. These are programs offered as outreach teams through local YMCAs and community centers to at-risk and underserved children. This includes all team activities free of charge, tutoring, and family memberships to the YMCA. Many of the students are given access to these new programs at a young age. They come from low-income families where addictions and gang-related issues are common.
Q: Why is it so important to introduce children to team sports and the importance of education at an early age?
Paul Savramis: I think that children, more than anything, want and need to feel like they belong. They long to be part of a team and to contribute to their community in a positive way. They do not want to feel like they are alone. Using basketball as our vehicle, we are able to let children see, from an early age, how all that is possible and how they can solve personal problems, as a team by applying the same basic concepts found on the basketball court to issues at home or at school.
Rising Stars Youth Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes education through sports. The foundation encourages underserved youth to excel within specialized programs that cater to youth most at risk of failure in school. The foundation does so by providing academic support through numerous channels, including private educational scholarship programs and making athletic participation for various outreach programs possible.
Paul Savramis, the non-profit’s founder, says his dream to give children an equal opportunity for success has now become reality and a vision shared by many.
Rising Stars, Inc., as the organization was first known, has gone through many changes and evolved in many ways since its humble beginnings as an after-school program at Bayside High School in 1996.
On November 4, 2017 Paul Savramis and the boys and girls of Rising Stars were honored to participate in the re-launch of the famous Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. The sports complex, built in 1972, was closed for renovations in 2015 and re-opened in April 2017. After getting the building ready for a full season, Nassau held her grand unveiling with thousands of adoring basketball fans, dozens of aspiring professional players, and at least one very special guest.
According to Paul Savramis, none other than Dr. J, Julius Irving, was on hand to watch the Long Island Nets on opening day against the Ants, a longtime rival team hailing from Indiana. Irving, now age 67, was recruited by the Nets in the coliseum’s original opening year. The 6’ 6” basketball legend grew up on Long Island, graduating from Roosevelt High School a few years prior to his first season with the Nets.
Recently, the Rising Stars girls basketball team participated in “Get in the Zone,” an innovative program offered by the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!). This latest addition to Rising Stars community seminars and life enhancement program, according to founder Paul Savramis, teaches personal calming strategies, such as stretching and focused breathing.
Savramis is very pleased to see these programs continue to grow in popularity as the focus of Rising Stars continues to be self help and promoting life skills to its student athletes.
During the program, the students were taught the “straw breath” breathing technique, which has been used by a number of famous athletes. Lebron James has been known to use straw breath to improve his concentration on the court. This focused breathing exercise involves creating a small straw-sized hole in the lips from which to exhale breaths taken in through the nose. Paul Savramis reports that breathing out for 10 to 15 seconds three to five times helps put the mind at ease and allows it to focus on whatever task is at hand.
In 2016, Rising Stars celebrates 20 years and more than 200 college and professional level players. Here, founder Paul Savramis discusses Rising Stars’ growth, impact, and strategy.
Q: What originally gave you the idea for Rising Stars?
Paul Savramis: We initially offered summer basketball camps for kids wanting to improve their skills. What we accomplished with those camps, however, was to dig deeper than the X’s and O’s found on basketball courts. Our staff began to get to know each player, their dreams, goals, and what was holding them back, not just in the game but in life. These were kids who needed a hand up not on the court but for what they found off it. It sparked a passion for me and my coach’s to strive for a greater impact.
Paul Savramis is the founder of Rising Stars, one of the Northeast’s most respected after-school sports and academic support programs. One of the best byproducts of the program is allowing its members a first hand look at other community based programs and charities. Student athletes from Rising Stars recently offered their time and talents to residents of the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park. In the following Q&A, Savramis explains how the teens did more than just provide a home cooked meal.
Q: What is Meals from the Heart?
Paul Savramis: Meals from the Heart is a volunteer program facilitated through the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The program rallies volunteer groups to provide home-cooked meals to families staying in a Ronald McDonald House. RMH in new Hyde Park offers accommodations to families with children at Cohen’s Children’s Hospital.
Q: How many families did your Rising Stars student athletes feed?
Paul Savramis: On August 18, 2016, boys from the Rising Stars scholars program cooked dinner for several families at RMH. However, as the kids learned during their hours in the home, they were providing more than just food. Many of these families spend 15 to 20 hours a day at the hospital tending to their terminally ill children. Having someone else come in and take care of the cooking and cleaning, even for one night, was a more than welcome form of respite.
Idle hands, says Paul Savramis, can be full of risks. Especially in children, where boredom often leads to mischief. Here, Savramis discusses a few ways the Rising Stars organization helps student athletes fill their time with positive community projects and exactly what that means to the athletes and recipients.
Q: What kinds of charity organizations do Rising Stars’ student athletes volunteer with?
Paul Savramis: Our boys and girls have numerous opportunities each year to make a difference in their local communities. One of our biggest volunteer opportunities is the Long Island Lutheran High School Food Drive. This awesome community event collects food for hundreds of children…enough food to last each child an entire year!
Q: How many food packets were filled this year?
Paul Savramis: In April, we packed over 300,000 boxes of nutritionally balanced food. These were delivered both locally and to hungry children across the globe. Our team packed enough food for over 500 kids.