Leadership Rhode Island Awarded Papitto Opportunity Connection Grant

Award expands access to their college program for BIPOC students


From earning a high GPA to juggling deadlines, the academic demands on college students can be overwhelming. But on top of grades, this is the opportune time for students to learn critical skills like nurturing relationships, developing leadership, and serving their communities. That’s where College Leadership Rhode Island (CLRI) comes in, a program of the Providence-based organization Leadership Rhode Island that has been inspiring young people since it was founded in 2004.

As Rhea Bhatia, a 2019 graduate of the program explains, “College taught me what to do on the job, but not how to network or make connections.” With approximately 450 graduates, the tuition-free program has adapted to the needs of its students and the community they are being prepared to serve. 

Dilasha Dixit, a participant in the current CLRI class, echoes these impacts: “When I joined, I was craving an environment where people are constantly bettering themselves. I can certainly say that my goal has been achieved and meeting different-minded people gave me new perspectives and broadened my mindset.”

Part of the program’s evolution is a focus on well-being, preparing students for success in their personal and professional lives. The idea is that working adults cannot thrive in their careers if they are struggling in other areas of their lives, whether it be socially, financially, or physically.  That message rang true as the program continued throughout the COVID pandemic, responding to the unique needs of participants during that  challenging time with a hybrid approach incorporating in-person and remote learning.

“Even during the pandemic, students were able to build relationships with one another and connect with leaders throughout the state,” explains Samantha Bergbauer, CLRI program and alumni coordinator. “It prepares participants to step up once they complete the program.”

To expand access to students from diverse communities who may not be aware of the program, Leadership Rhode Island was recently awarded a Papitto Opportunity Connection grant. The goal of the award is to offer a path for more young people of color to step into leadership positions.

The $1.75 million grant to the organization – the largest in LRI’s history – includes funding to provide sponsorship support for college students participating in the year-long program. The Papitto Opportunity Connection is a private foundation dedicated to creating a positive impact on the lives of the state’s Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) population.

“At the very core of this work is building a culture of inclusion, where everyone can put their innate talents into practice every day to reach their highest potential,” says Michelle Carr, LRI deputy director.

Graduates from CLRI have gone on to earn significant roles in government, the nonprofit community, and the private sector, including the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island National Guard.

Participants in CLRI enroll from colleges in Providence and throughout the state including Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island College, and the University of Rhode Island.



No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here