Peter Samuelson, co-founder of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, will discuss America’s troubled foster care system with journalist/advocate Soledad O’Brien.

Peter Samuelson and Soledad O'Brien

Peter Samuelson, co-founder of the Starlight Children’s Foundation and President of First Star, will discuss America’s troubled foster care system and innovative approaches to giving foster youth a better shot at success with journalist/advocate Soledad O’Brien, former NBC and CNN morning show anchor and CEO of Starfish Media Group, in a special program at New York University on Thursday, April 21.

The presentation is part of the Social Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Speaker Series sponsored by the NYU Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship. It will take place from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in the NYU Tishman Auditorium, located in Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, New York. N.Y.

The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. RSVP is required. To register, please visit

Samuelson, producer of two dozen motion pictures, including Revenge of the Nerds and Arlington Road, began his commitment to improving the lives of underserved children by co-founding the Starlight Children’s Foundation in 1983. Fifteen years later he co-founded First Star, whose flagship program, first conceived by Dr. Kathleen Reardon, is the First Star Foster Youth Academies, a college prep program for high school age foster youth that makes a long-term investment in them and changes the course of their lives, from abuse and neglect to academic achievement and self-sufficiency.

Academy youth spend four immersive summers living on campus at one of eight elite universities, and return to campus one to two days per month during each academic year. Each Academy strives to remove barriers to academic success, provide youth with the life skills needed to successfully transition to adulthood, and provide caregivers the tools needed to support the youth.

Studies show that less than half of foster youth graduate high school and less than three percent earn a college degree. More than 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year. Within two years, more than half are homeless, incarcerated, or on welfare. “There are more than 400,000 children in America’s troubled foster care system,” Samuelson said. “They are basically unrepresented, with few ways to shape their own destinies. Why? Because they are children. They will never march, write Op-Eds, or employ lobbyists, and they can’t vote. They have no money and no voice. How do you assert your civil rights in America when your plight is almost always kept secret, when you are effectively invisible?”

Samuelson will be interviewed by the award-winning journalist, documentarian, news anchor and producer, Soledad O’Brien. She, too, is no stranger to the life challenges of neglected children, having founded the Soledad O’Brien & Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation, to provide women from low-income families the resources they need to attend and finish college.

The program is being co-sponsored by a generous grant from Cavendish Global, which helps family offices and their foundations implement individual pro-social impact investments, grant making and sustainable philanthropy programs.

“The Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU is focused on bringing significant social entrepreneurial resources to bear on society’s most difficult social problems,” said Gabriel Brodbar, executive director. “Now in its tenth year, our 21st Century Speaker Series is intended to highlight and learn from social entrepreneurs who have launched extraordinary programs addressing the most pressing challenges of the 21st Century. When it comes to addressing the plight of foster children across the globe, I can think of few social entrepreneurs more innovative, indefatigable and successful than Peter Samuelson.”

About the NYU Reynolds Program

At the intersection of new ideas and long-standing social challenges lies the New York University Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship, a provostial cross-university initiative that identifies global changemakers and transforms them into social entrepreneurial game changers. Encompassing all of New York University’s (NYU) undergraduate and graduate schools, this first-of-its-kind fellowship program founded in 2006 engages global challenges through a new vision of practice-based education, one that equips cutting-edge leaders to think boldly, act swiftly and build smartly. Reflecting our deep belief that a university is in a unique position to prepare great numbers of people for large-scale success in the social change space, the program also offers comprehensive opportunities and resources to the entire NYU and greater NYC social entrepreneurial communities including the Social Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Speaker Series, The D-Prize Consortium and the Changemaker Challenge Social Venture Competition, and a continually expanding and evolving classroom and virtual-based curriculum in social entrepreneurial practice for undergraduate and graduate students at NYU and around the world. Visit today

About First Star
First Star partners with universities and child welfare agencies to establish Foster Youth Academies, college prep programs that provide foster youth with the education, life skills, and adult support needed to graduate high school, prepared for higher education. For more information:

About Cavendish Global
Cavendish Global provides family offices and their foundations with a discrete, peer-to-peer knowledge expansion and relationship building environment, combined with the innovative resources required to help develop and implement their individual pro-social impact investment, grant making and philanthropy programs within health and the life sciences, education, and soon will embark on new missions in global sustainability and inclusive entrepreneurship. For more information:

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