Opportunity Nation’s Warm Welcome in Rhode Island•
Rhode Island is proving to be fertile ground for Opportunity Nation’s mission to expand economic mobility, and the campaign is excited about building strong relationships in the Ocean State following our warm welcome there last week.
On June 20, Opportunity Nation co-hosted a dynamic event with Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and the Community College of Rhode Island, held at the Rhode Island Foundation in downtown Providence. RI KIDS COUNT Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant, CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale and Opportunity Leader Chace Baptista, co-founder of Young Voices, a youth advocacy and leadership organization in Rhode Island, underscored the importance of connecting more young people to educational and career pathways – a leading indicator of the Opportunity Index.
Rhode Island scored 30th out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Providence County earned a C on the Opportunity Index. We offered state leaders a “roadmap” to improve the county score to a C+ over the next two years, and we hope to work more closely with local organizations to help them achieve this goal.
Opportunity Nation combined our community conversation with the release of a RI KIDS COUNT report on college enrollment and completion in Rhode Island. The joint event drew 80 representatives of youth organizations, educational institutions and nonprofits all dedicated to expanding opportunity. As Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist tweeted after the event: “RI Kids Count & Opportunity Nation event on college access & completion became a revival on the power of education, opportunity & mentors!”
The state’s largest daily paper, The Providence Journal, covered the inspiring event.
About 10 first-generation college students who attended the Community College of Rhode Island shared their stories of overcoming obstacles and finding a meaningful path. Several CCRI graduates have gone on to bachelor’s programs in local colleges and universities including Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University and the University of Rhode Island, and are serving as leaders in various capacities.
Chad MacFarlane shared his journey from homelessness to two tours in Iraq and his current role as vice president of administration at CCRI’s Student Veterans Association.
Elsa Tavares, a recent CCRI graduate, received a full scholarship to Johnson & Wales and is serving as president of Collegiate DECA, an international organization for business and marketing students.
“I battled with academic tenacity,” Tavares said, who leaned on mentors for support and guidance. They “had a real conversation with me about expectations and what I needed to do to be successful,” she said.
Opportunity Nation’s Deputy Director Elizabeth Clay Roy shared Rhode Island-specific data with the audience and urged them to become engaged in the campaign.
We will be back in Rhode Island this fall with America’s Promise Alliance and are eager to help accelerate opportunity in this small, vibrant state. A huge thank you to everyone who helped make the June 20 event such a success.