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Elon sophomore named a BET 'M.A.D. Girl'

Yasmine Arrington was honored in New York City this weekend for her nonprofit to help children of jailed parents.

Elon University sophomore Yasmine Arrington (photo by Sidney & Company Photography)

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Fame is coming fast for Yasmine Arrington.

The Elon University sophomore is the founder of a scholarship program that was one of three projects to win national honors this weekend from Black Entertainment Television and the nonprofit BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. as part of the network’s 2012 “Making a Difference (M.A.D.) Girl” competition.

Arrington and her peers were celebrated during BET's "BLACK GIRLS ROCK!" annual awards ceremony, which was filmed in New York City on Saturday. The full program will broadcast Sunday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. on the cable television network.

The new “M.A.D. Girls” were among 10 finalists who competed last month in an online voting competition for their respective educational and philanthropic efforts. Arrington’s program, scholarCHIPS, is a Washington, D.C.-based charity that offers college scholarships to children whose parents are in jail. The accolade comes with a $2,500 grant in support of Arrington’s initiative, which has already provided college scholarships to three students, including one whose father is on death row in Virginia.

“The moment I found out I had won, I was overwhelmed with joy. This trip meant that my grandmother, who has sacrificed so much to raise my two brothers and I, would be able to travel out of D.C., which she not been able to do for years,” Arrington said. “It means the ‘scholarCHIPS' name is going national! It’s a breakthrough that happened much much sooner that I thought, because the ultimate goal is to get scholarships for youth to continue their education, which is the golden key to a better, brighter future. I'm just so grateful to be in the midst of this amazing cause!”

As founder of scholarCHIPS, where “CHIPS” stands for “Children of Incarcerated Parents,” Arrington is also a Jack Kent Cooke College Scholar, an Elon College Fellow, the fundraising and community service chair for the Gospel Choir at the university, and the public relations chair for the Black Cultural Society.

Arrington credited her classmates, professors and university administrators for being a critical component to the online voting achievement.

“Being an Elon student has been the best thing that has happened to me! Elon is such an extremely supportive community, a community that not only says, ‘We embrace diversity and cross-cultural understanding,’ but that backs it up with actions,” Arrington said. “President Leo Lambert had faith in me and my idea the first time he heard about it and was in fact enthusiastic. My professors have been behind me, pushing me every step of the way! Any Elon faculty I've come in contact with have been extremely helpful and enthusiastic!”

She also showered gratitude on the countless students who have rallied to her side to grow scholarCHIPS over the past year and to publicize its inclusion in the “M.A.D. Girls” competition. Arrington noted that she never submitted scholarCHIPS for inclusion in the competition; BET contacted her.

“I honestly believe that I would not have been this successful if I went anywhere else other than Elon,” she said. “Thank you to all of you! You are making a difference in people's lives you may never meet, who will one day grow up and be the leaders of this country, who without you may not have had the chance. Thank you for believing in me and understanding that as privileged, educated individuals we have a responsibility to give back.”

The history and strategic communications double major from the nation’s capital is herself the daughter of a former prison inmate. For the better part of two decades, Arrington’s father was behind bars in Georgia, and she says she’s fortunate to have been able to reconnect with him now that his sentence is complete.

The organization for which the BET program is named, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc., is a nonprofit whose mission is “youth empowerment and mentoring organization established to promote the arts for young women of color, as well as to encourage dialogue and analysis of the ways women of color are portrayed in the media.”

The other young women named 2012 "M.A.D. Girls" organized a youth leadership program in New York City and a nonprofit to collect and deliver packages to American troops, Arrington said.

In addition to the M.A.D. Girl competition, Arrington is working with fellow Elon students Michael Spencer and Julie Ronecker to host a benefit concert at Elon to raise money for students in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Arrington said they received a grant from the university's Student Government Association to support their project and have also created a recent partnership with the Elon Academy.

Eric Townsend,
Staff
10/15/2012 9:06 AM