Rhode Island

NewsReel: RI Foundation has $1.8 million for scholarships, More Support for #freecollegeRI, and a Bachata Snow Day Video

#1 Scholarship Time


It’s that exciting time of year when high school seniors wait on pins and needles to see if they’ve been accepted to the colleges and universities of their choice. And it is also the time of year when the state’s largest philanthropic organization, The Rhode Island Foundation, reminds those headed to college about their many and varied scholarships.

Some of the foundation’s funds target specific geographic areas. For example, the Brian Moretti Scholarship Fund and the Holly Charette Scholarship are for Cranston residents while the Marissa Salabert Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Daniel Brian Cohen Scholarship go to Warwick residents.

Other funds provide assistance based on gender, family income or other factors. The B. Jae Clanton Scholarship at the Urban League of R.I. is awarded to students of color and the Patty & Melvin Alperin First Generation Scholarship is for high school seniors who are the first in their families to attend college.

You can find all the information at the Rhode Island Foundation website here.

Disclaimer: My husband works in development at the Rhode Island Foundation. 

2. #FreeCollegeRI Finds More Supporters From Business Leaders to Student Leaders


It’s no surprise that high school students are ‘all in’ when it comes to the Governor’s proposal of the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship and they showed up in force at the state house to testify about why it matters so much to them. In fact, between students and other members of the community, there were 200 people signed up for public comment before the start of the hearing. One striking detail that is worthy of our reflection is that most of the students who showed up to be heard come from low income families for whom paying for college is an impossibility. One of the students I heard testify (who happened to be my tour guide on a recent visit to Central High School) is a former refugee from The Congo who has lived through (and escaped) challenges and strife that most of us can’t fathom.


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Central High School Senior, Knight. He is also a former refugee from West Africa.

Here is what he had to say to the House Finance Committee:

My name is Night Jean Yves Muhingabo, I am a senior at Central High school. It is my pleasure to be here this evening. If I may, I want to tell you a little about myself. First, I am a proud refugee from Rwanda. For the majority of my childhood I was raised in a refugee camp called Camp Kintele. It was there where I worked 17 hours a day to provide for my family. And through it all, I never stopped believing in the American dream.

Two years ago, I have gotten closer to that dream. I was able to relocate to Rhode Island, from Rwanda, where I have been an active student at Central High School in Providence. Since coming here I have not only worked hard to catch up to my peers, but I have worked tirelessly to further my dream to attend college in the United States. My dream has always been to come to the United States to receive an education. I have hopes of becoming an electrical engineer so that I can not only make a difference here, but to one day bring electricity to my homeland Brazzaville Congo.

Recently, however, I have experienced how expensive college really is. Over the past few months, I have spent countless days in the college room at Central High School school. And with the help of the college advisors, I have analyzed every number and detail of every financial aid letter that I have received. And what I have quickly learned is that college is just too expensive for me and my family.

I say all of this for you not to pity me, but for you to give me a chance. I want every lawmaker here to know that I am hungry enough to change not only my future but for my families as well. I have a lot faith in what a college degree can do for me, and with the help of the RI Promise Scholarship, I hope the road ahead will be a little easier to walk.

Putting aside the politics, I can’t imagine someone in whom I’d be more honored to invest. Knight and the many students who testified after him put a real face and story on the realities that low income students and first generation students face when it comes to their dream of a college degree. The same dream we once had, the same dream most of us have for own children.

And the students have some powerful company (pun intended) in their support for the program.

Business leaders are also backing the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship including Gilbane Executive John Sinnott who penned an editorial in the Providence Journal to say just that. His main point is simple: this plan is good for business.

Rhode Island graduates have the second-highest debt in the country, per the College Crusade. When young professionals are weighed down by student debt, it hampers small-business growth and forces people to wait on marriage, homeownership, and more. It delays their ability to contribute to society and adds a drain to already tight resources.

Governor Raimondo’s plan isn’t a silver bullet for every challenge — no public policy is. Its focus on expanding opportunity and making college affordable for every Rhode Islander by having taxpayers pay for it is a worthy goal that would strengthen Rhode Island’s economy, communities and families, as well as our shared future.

We’re all proud of our Rhode Island roots at Gilbane and the fact that we were recently ranked as one of Fortune’s Top 50 Workplaces for recent college graduates. Construction today is about virtual models, laser scans and a host of other tools that make us efficient and enable us to tackle world class facilities.

If this proposal became law, it would help companies like ours find educated Rhode Islanders who want nothing more than the opportunity to succeed.

The proposal  also enjoys joint (and rare!) support from union leaders, and the state commissioners of education for K-12 and higher education. But like any proposal that comes out of the Governor’s office, there are voices out there who don’t like the plan. Some think it should be means tested, some think it’s unfair to those who who are already in college and won’t qualify, and think the focus should be on fixing K-12 first. All seem like fair points to me and there is no question that robust dialog and debate are needed and could even lead to a better version of the Governor’s plan.

But one thing must stick with all of us: the students talked about “needing someone in their corner.” That someone needs to be us.

#3 Snow Day Fun and….Bachata?

Victor Capellan had some fun with the most recent snow day announcement for his district of Central Falls chock full of bachata, vocals, and helpful reminders  parking bans, having shovels ready, and keeping chrome books charged. In a friendly mix of Spanish and English, he and his team inform, entertain, and keep us all laughing.

And that’s a wrap. Have a great day everyone and stay warm!

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