About Us


Starfish has been a fixture in the neighborhood for 17 years. Our program is something the youth can count on to provide a safe, loving environment after school. Starfish’s impact on the children in our neighborhood is twofold: we focus on protecting our students during the crucial hours after school when a safe haven from the dangers and bad influences of the neighborhood is needed. At the same time, we work to mentor and teach our students moral principles and give them tools to equip them to lead productive, successful lives, with the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty and violence so prevalent in the neighborhood.


Starfish Learning Center opened in February 1997 in the home of Jerry and April Bailey with two computers and one student who needed help with reading. Word of our after-school center spread quickly and by May, just three months later, enrollment had reached 60! Located in the “North of Howard” neighborhood of east Rogers Park in Chicago, Starfish caters to children exposed to gangs, drug activity, and crime on a daily basis. In addition to educational support services, we began to offer positive activities and programs some evenings and weekends to keep the kids off the streets.

Today, Starfish serves about students through homework assistance, a computer lab, a children’s library, games and contests, daily Bible study and prayer, educational outings, summer camp and trips, special events, performing arts workshops, and more.

Our goal is breaking the cycle of poverty and violence so prevalent in the neighborhood.



Starfish believes that showing children the way to a personal relationship with Jesus is the most valuable thing we can give them. We create opportunities for encountering the Creator God through worship and the Word, during Bible studies at the center and multiple trips throughout the year to various churches and ministries. Education is a priority at Starfish, but sharing Jesus with our kids is at least as important.


The priority at Starfish is raising grades for every student. This is made possible through homework help largely provided by volunteers from local colleges, and supplemental curriculum tailored to each student’s academic needs. Staff communicate with teachers and parents regarding problem areas, and track each student’s progress through report cards. As most of our students do not have access to a home computer and/or a printer to do homework, we also have a computer lab for the kids to work on papers and projects as well as do research and complete assignments.


Starfish focuses on shaping our students’ attitudes towards life and other people through daily Bible studies. Staff and volunteers teach the kids how to treat each other, how to react during adverse situations, and how to order their life for the best chance of success. Confronting the negative patterns of life demonstrated by family and peers, we strive to teach our students a better way, using the scripture and examples of Christians throughout history and figures from today’s popular culture.


We believe that success for each of our students starts from within. Each one of them has a unique background and story, and they all have different needs. We are committed to training our staff to meet them all where they are, and to teach our kids how to understand and deal with the complex
emotions and relationships that they encounter every day.

Our Team

Susan Croox

Executive Director

Susan has served at Starfish since 2009. She has a passion for showing youth God’s love, and manages the administrative end of things at the center.

Joshua Hartwell

Executive Assistant

Josh has served Starfish since 2016 in various capacities.  He has a passion for urban ministry while helping with various administration tasks.

Nathalie Edwards

Program Director

Nathalie oversees the daily activities at the center.  She has served at different organizations working alongside underserved families. Her goal is to see our kids lead successful and spiritually healthy lives. 

Dorell Wall

Program Coordinator

Dorell has been part of the Starfish family since he was six years old. He knows all the kids and the neighborhood and loves to make a difference in their lives.

Reina Mendez

Program Tutor

Reina has worked as a teacher’s assistant and loves spending time with kids. She is very creative and helps with our arts and crafts program and our spiritual formation program.

Starfish Board of Directors

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