Papitto Opportunity Connection hopes to transform R.I. with scholarships and a $1 million prize package to help transform the city

Papitto Opportunity Connection hopes to transform R.I. with scholarships and a $1 million prize pack ...

Who is the high schooler with the million-dollar idea to improve the lives of people of color in Rhode Island?

The Papitto Opportunity Connection is seeking to know what that is and its pledged a million dollars, literally, to make the right idea attainable.

Just before the torches were lit for a WaterFire dedicated to people of color, Papitto Opportunity Connection trustee John Tarantino and state Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green stood on the stage at Waterplace Park and announced re-established annual scholarships for Rhode Island high school students who are peoples of colour.

The "Transform Rhode Island Scholarship" established by the Papitto Opportunity Connection is open to any high schooler of color in Rhode island. What would you do if you had a million dollars to improve the lives of Rhode Islanders of color through education, housing, job skills training, health care, or business? From Nov. 1 to Jan. 30 every year, students may apply by submitting an essay, video, ou multi-media presentation that answers this question.

The top three finalists will receive $25,000, $15,000 or $10,000 in scholarships to be used for tuition, housing, health care, or other related costs.

The Papitto Opportunity Connection will provide $1 million to the winning idea.

Tarantino stated, "There is no other scholarship program quite like this where high school students are empowered to help their communities."

Infante-Green stated, We will be the beacon to teach other nations how to change the narrative." This is an opportunity for our youth to lead in ways they have never experienced before.

Since its inception last December, the new private foundation has given $8 million and committed $45 million more in grants and scholarships to initiatives in housing, education, business, and entrepreneurial endeavors that benefit people of color, according to Tarantino. The Transform Rhode Island Scholarship aims even higher.

Barbara Papitto, founder of Barbara's business, said that sometimes, as people get older, they lose hope and become more rigid, while holding an unlit torch just before the announcement. This scholarship and the promise to provide the best idea with $1 million if it is successful - could show young people that their dreams matter, she added. It provides students with the opportunity to lead, and to see their best ideas funded immediately.

They are brilliant, creative, and amazing, but they also want to help, Tarantino stated.

Arnell Milhouse, founder of CareerDevs and a member of the Papitto Opportunity Connection's advisory board, said, "This scholarship is designed to open young Rhode Islanders' minds and eyes and assist them in achieving their dreams." And, particularly for communities of color, few have felt that they had that power. Theyll be put behind the wheel and on the road, said McLaughlin.

The 27-year-old event, co-sponsored by the Papitto Opportunity Connection and Brown University, was the first time that the event had been dedicated to honoring the lives and contributions of Rhode Islands BIPOC communities. All of the performers, musicians, and vendors on Saturday were people of color, as well as several organizations that have been helped by the Papitto Opportunity Connection had set up booths at the event.

Loren Spears, the executive director of the Tomaquag Indigenous Museum, said the POC's support has given the Indigenous Empowerment Network the ability to expand its work, offer internships, and partner with schools and other groups.

She said shes excited to see what ideas will emerge from the scholarship. She reveals how young people are today empowered to speak out about equity and inclusion, and how they support their communities.

They will have not only a voice, but also an opportunity to implement their ideas, she added.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.

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