How would you spend $1,000,000 to create change for Black, Indigeneous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities in Rhode Island? That’s the essential, and only, question asked in the application for the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) Transform Rhode Island Scholarship, an opportunity targeting high school students residing in the state.
“We’re looking for a million dollar idea, and with that idea a seat at the table to explore how to make that dream a reality,” explains POC board member Marcy Reyes. Not only does the scholarship provide funds for students to pursue their education but also the chance to develop a strategy to implement their award-winning answer.
“This scholarship provides an amazing opportunity for young adults,” Reyes says. “At this level of support, these students can really feel free to explore their ideas to implement change in their community.”
For students of color enrolling in higher education, obstacles beyond academics, like paying for housing and health care, can often create barriers in their path to success. Recognizing this challenge after listening to many voices, POC launched the Transform RI Scholarship to begin to close the gap between need and aid.
“We developed this program after speaking with community members about what type of assistance would have the greatest impact,” says Reyes. Ultimately, the scholarship provides a support system, both financially and socially. In addition to receiving funding, awardees will be connected to networks of successful Rhode Islanders who can provide guidance and mentorship.
Reyes offers, “So many people we spoke to want to help. They want to step up to a role that exposes young people to social capital in a way they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.”
The scholarship does not require financial need – just a good idea. Students can get creative about how they answer the question, too, in the form of a 1,000-word essay, video, or multimedia presentation.
Three scholarships will be awarded, in the amounts of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000, to be used for broadly defined educational expenses, including tuition, housing, and health care. If their million dollar idea is accepted, winners will also be brought into the implementation process so they can experience firsthand how their solution impacts their community.
The Papitto Opportunity Connection was founded to help BIPOC communities overcome systemic barriers, and this scholarship is just one effort to that end. “We’ve already invested in a considerable number of local organizations that are doing great work in communities throughout the state,” says Reyes. “With this scholarship, we can focus on giving individuals a platform to make a difference. We’re excited to see what happens next.”
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