The Star Kids Scholarship Program was founded in 2000 by Dr. Timothy Flanigan, M.D., 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-abusing women, Dr. Flanigan witnessed the seemingly insurmountable struggles the families encountered, including addiction, unemployment, depression, family disintegration, and homelessness – but their primary concern was their children. The need for a program in which children could escape this terrible cycle was self-evident, and Dr. Flanigan realized that the way to break the cycle of substance abuse in families was rooted in supplying quality education and support for their children.

The Star Kids Scholarship Program was launched in the spring of 2000 to address these at-risk children in the communities of Newport County, RI and Fall River and New Bedford, MA. Suzanne Petronello, M.Ed., was the program’s first Executive Director. Six students were enrolled that year, with the goal of accepting ten new students each year. As the program grew, New Bedford Star Kids officially became its own chapter in 2009, and is now led by Ellen Lough, M.Ed. The need for the Star Kids Program continues to grow, and the Newport/Fall River Chapter, now led by Executive Director, Karen Flanagan.


Star Kids welcomes collaboration with all social service agencies and schools. Currently Star Kids collaborates with many organizations including the following:

Newport County: Head Start, CODAC III, Florence Gray Center, New Visions of Newport County, Child and Family Services of Newport County, DCYF (Department of Children Youth and Families), Tiverton Psychological Services, Psychological Centers, Newport County MentalHealth, Women’s Resource Center, Martin Luther King Center, Newport Partnership for Families and Salve Regina University.

Fall River: SSTAR (Stanley Street Treatment and Resources), Child and Family Services of New Bedford and Fall River, DSS (Department of Social Services), Catholic Social Services, Steppingstones, Family Services.