June 15, 2015
WASHINGTON - Georgetown University women's basketball player Tyshell King (Baltimore, Md./St. Frances Academy) is no stranger to adversity. Growing up in the Cherry Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Md., she was encouraged by her father, Freddie King, to take up basketball at a young age when he saw potential.
Fast forward to her junior and senior years of high school. King had committed to play basketball at Wake Forest University, but changed her plans in the fall when she realized that she wanted her father at every game cheering her on. She decided on Georgetown, less than an hour from Cherry Hill meaning Freddie could make every home game.
With her senior season ahead of her and a member of the honor roll at St. Frances Academy, her dreams were all but realized until a senseless act of violence took her father from her life and put her in front of an uphill battle to get to college and graduate.
King persevered despite the pain and has found help to complete her dreams from many places. One of those was with the Starfish Foundation which came calling after founder Soledad O'Brien saw a short documentary of King's life.
The goal of the Starfish Foundation is to get scholars to, and through, college. The organization provides financial assistance, mentoring and wraparound support to help the scholars achieve their full potential.
O'Brien began the organization in 2006 and offered this insight in her welcome letter on the foundation's website.
"I wanted to make a difference. Maybe this was the way. I had met many young women whose life plans had been stagnated by terrible disasters, compounded by generational poverty -- some were just down on their luck. I could help one of them, do my part, and maybe launch a successful young woman into a brighter future. Then they could go off into the world and help others."
King has become one of those young women to benefit from the generosity of O'Brien, her husband Brad Raymond and the national sponsors that support this organization.
"Being a part of the foundation has helped me grow in a woman alone," said King. "The foundation has introduced me to many different worlds and it has opened up my eyes on what life could be for me and why I should continue to work so hard."
While the Starfish Foundation does provide financial support, it also gives the young women a network and family where many may be lacking. O'Brien sets each scholar up with one or two mentors and then periodically checks in on each scholar. She's there if they are moving them into their freshman dorm room or just visiting campus as she did last week to get a tour from King and see her on the court.
Along with that, O'Brien, King has had the help of mentor LaKeisha Jernagin, owner of the Take Tyme Full Service Salon in Parkville, Md.
Prior to the beginning of this summer, King spent three weeks in New York City with O'Brien as she interned with fashion designer Catherine Maladrino, an internship set up through the Starfish Foundation. King helped design and sell the line to international retailers such as Macy's and Sears.
Now back on campus, King is preparing for her junior season. An injury to open the 2014-15 season sidelined her for the year and she just now back and ready to play. She is also taking classes and working to complete the promise she made to the Starfish Foundation to complete her college degree.
"I love being a part of the foundation, I feel like I am never alone because I know Soledad will always be here for me," said King. "One of my goals when I make it is to help mentor young girls for Soledad and donate money to the foundation. My main goal, however, is to give back when it is all said and done."