PETERSBURG, Va. -- Shining Star Academy in Petersburg is a shining example of what can be accomplished if you follow your dreams, care about people, and give back to your community.
Owner Star Wills left her job in corporate America to open the academy in 2021.
“I knew in my heart that that wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. I knew that wasn’t what I was called to do," she said about her old career.
As a kid in Brooklyn, Wills would frequent neighborhood rec centers to play sports and be with the community. She wanted to bring that feeling to the Tri-Cities.
So when Wills found an empty beer warehouse, she knew what she wanted to do. But first, she had to talk with her family about leaving her job.
“When she told us that, as a family, that she wanted to leave it and start something like this, my dad was kind of hesitate," Wills' daughter Taja Cole said. "I just think it’s a different type of character, a different mindset [to open a rec center]. When you give, you’ll receive later down the road but it’s all about giving.”
Shining Star Academy contains two basketball courts and three volleyball courts. The academy host clinics, camps, and basketball tournaments that attract teams from across Central Virginia to Petersburg.
“It’s a great facility," Xavier Trimiew, Underground Phenoms Head Coach, said. “It’s extremely important because they’re not just playing basketball, they’re learning a lot about adversity, winning and losing, and what they need to do to achieve.”
This month Wills hosted a free community camp for kids ages five to 17.
"We’re giving away free breakfast, and free lunch, we’re making sure the kids are on the court playing, enjoying themselves," she said. “Every day they actually go in the Library and we have reading time. We talked about bullying, peer pressure, honesty, not being a follower but a leader.”
Wills said her goal is to change lives -- for the better.
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