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Young Entrepreneur Series – S.T.A.R. and Autism Speaks Club

December 1, 2011

Students Together for Autism Research (S.TA.R.) was founded in Marlton, New Jersey in 2005 by Matthew Cortland and Tina Liu, both juniors at Cherokee High School in Marlton, NJ. This organization began as a small group raising money and walking at the Autism Walk, and now has burgeoned into Students Together for Autism Research!

After attending the Southern New Jersey Walk for Autism Research in the spring of his freshman year, Matthew was inspired to raise autism awareness and money for NAAR, now Autism Speaks. He registered as a team captain and enlisted the help of his best friend, Tina Liu. Together they founded the school club Students Together for Autism Research (S.T.A.R.) to increase student and community autism awareness. Matthew and Tina have no direct connection with autism.

S.T.A.R. has spearheaded a number of effective fundraising and awareness events and has participated in the Southern New Jersey Walk since its inception. Some of their creative fundraising endeavors included bagging groceries for tips at a local supermarket and selling footprints to “Stomp Out Autism.” With over one hundred members, Cherokee S.T.A.R. has been able to initiate a weekly “S.T.A.R. Soccer” program that works with children affected by autism, ages 3-8, while also raising almost $20,000 in three years. Through Matthew and Tina’s efforts in contacting Autism Speaks and mapping out a plan to establish S.T.A.R. as Autism Speaks’ official high school student club, S.T.A.R. has expanded, creating additional chapters in other New Jersey districts and in other states.

As co-founders of this organization, Matthew and Tina are determined to spread S.T.A.R. across the nation to raise student awareness about Autism. S.T.A.R. encourages student involvement to aid in raising Autism awareness through community service and fundraising and by creating S.T.A.R. clubs in schools across the country.

In 2005, two student founded clubs (Students Together for Autism Research: S.T.A.R. and the Autism Speaks Club) were formed with similar missions to raise awareness about autism and conduct fundraising for autism research.

The Autism Speaks Club was founded in Bedford, New York at the Fox Lane Middle School by Matthew Harris, who has a younger brother with autism. Matthew initially developed the club as a Social Studies community building project to raise awareness and funds, as well as to provide a supportive environment for students with autism and their siblings.

At the advice of his teacher, Matt reached out to his school psychologist, a member of NASP (National Association of School Psychologists), who helped him start the club. By hosting guest speakers, various awareness activities, and fundraising events, the Autism Speaks Club experienced great success in their community. During April (Autism Awareness Month), the club sold Autism Speaks t-shirts, and hats. They also participated in their local walk. The success of the project encouraged Matt to continue and expand his club within the community.

How will you have a positive impact on your community? Answer that question and enter it in the Grow Your Own Business Challenge. Visit www.smckids.com/learnandearn to submit your idea today!

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