Speakers Series

Peter Samuelson

Peter Samuelson

President, First Star Academies

Peter Samuelson

PETER SAMUELSON has been described as a "serial pro-social entrepreneur." In 1983, Peter and his cousin, Emma Samms, were inspired by a little boy battling an inoperable brain tumor, and founded the Starlight Children's Foundation-an international charity dedicated to granting wishes for seriously ill children www.starlight.org. Starlight has grown to offer eight core psycho-social programs, each restoring some of the laughter, happiness and self-esteem that serious illness takes away from kids and those who love them. Peter served as volunteer Chairman of Starlight for 25 years.

As parents and healthcare providers confirmed the positive psychological and often medical impact of Starlight programming, in 1990 Peter brought together leaders including Steven Spielberg and General Norman Schwarzkopf to create Starbright World www.starbrightworld.org. an online social network to educate, encourage and empower children to cope with the medical, emotional and social challenges of their illness. In 2005, Starlight and Starbright World merged as the Starlight Children's Foundation, serving seriously ill children in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Israel and across the United States. Starlight now has a combined operating budget of $60 million and serves over 6 million children annually. Since inception, Starlight has raised and deployed internationally over $1 billion and served 60 million seriously ill children. Peter also served as President of Starbright from inception until driving to completion its merger with Starlight in 2005.

In 1999, Peter co-founded with Sherry Quirk, First Star www.firststar.org, a national 501(c)(3) charity headquartered in Washington, D.C. that works to improve the public health, safety, and family life of America's abused and neglected children. First Star Policy provides "top-down" systemic leadership to provide quality and compassionate care for children within the child welfare system, basic civil and legal rights for every child and safe, stable and permanent homes for all children. Peter served as volunteer President from 1999 to 2015.

First Star's program to create permanent four year high school programs for Foster Youth on university campuses nation-wide, First Star Academies, began at UCLA in 2011, and has thus far replicated to the University of Rhode Island, George Washington University in the District of Columbia, the University of Connecticut, Rowan University in New Jersey, the University of Central Florida and Loyola University in Chicago. Expansion to Rutgers University in New Jersey, the City University of New York and to other universities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom is underway. Peter serves as volunteer President of First Star Academies.

In 2008, Peter founded EDAR, "Everyone Deserves A Roof" www.EDAR.org to develop and widely distribute through established service agencies a mobile single-user homeless shelter on wheels. EDARs cost $500 each and so far 300 homeless clients use them nightly. EDAR also engineers real estate solutions to enable foster youth to achieve permanency and post-secondary education. Peter serves as volunteer President of EDAR.

Peter is a graduate of Cambridge University with a Masters in English Literature and the fourth of five family generations employed in the film industry. After serving as production manager on films such as The Return of the Pink Panther, he emigrated from England to Los Angeles and produced Revenge of the Nerds, Tom & Viv, Wilde, Arlington Road and 20 other films. Peter served on the founding Board of Participant Media Inc., Jeff Skoll's pro-social media company. Peter Samuelson is volunteer President of ASPIRE, the Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Education, whose undergraduate courses were piloted at UCLA in 2014.

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