PROVIDENCE, RI -- Students of color will receive all seven of
the Rhode Island Foundation’s Carter Roger Williams Scholarships, which honor
the state’s founding father. The four-year, renewable college scholarships are
through the Carter Roger Williams Initiative, which was launched last year by
philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter.
“Roger Williams had the opportunity to further his education
because of those around him. Thanks to the vision of the Carter family, we are
able to encourage students and their parents to think big about what’s possible
for their future,” said Foundation Executive Vice President Jessica David, who
leads the initiative.
Nearly 150 high school seniors from throughout Rhode
Island applied for the scholarships. The seven recipients were selected
based on academic achievement, financial need, appreciation for Roger Williams’
values and record of community service.
"It is clear from the quality of the submissions that these
young people see Roger Williams as a collection of living ideals and not just
as a character from the past. We hope our assistance helps these seven young
people go on to do great things,” said Letitia Carter.
The winners are Taiwo Demola of Classical High School in
Providence, Coura Fall of Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Sherenté
Harris of the Paul W. Crowley East Bay Met School in Newport, Latifat Odetunde
and Dorbor Tarley of Classical, Taliq Tillman of the Metropolitan Regional
Career and Technical Training Center in Providence and Pichkatna “Hannah” Ung
of the William B. Cooley Health and Science Technology Academy at the Juanita
Sanchez Educational Complex in Providence. They are eligible for nearly
$300,000 in aid over four years.
Demola co-founded Diversity
Talks and participated in the Providence Student Union and the Classical High
School Theatre Company and interned at the Center of Slavery and Justice at
Brown University. She plans to attend Mount Holyoke College.
In her application, Demola wrote about what she learned from
Roger Williams’ values.
”In studying the legacy of Roger Williams, one can discover the
groundbreaking effect of implementing choices that align with one’s core values
and learn what it takes to inspire the likes of the framers of the U.S Bill of
Rights,” she said. “Most importantly, the narrative of Williams demonstrates
the importance of fostering meaningful relations that transcended political,
religious, and cultural boundaries in order to uplift our communities through
tolerance and inspire the next generation of audacious decision makers.”
Fall participated in the
United Nations, Debate Team, Creative Writing Club and Model Legislature at Mount
St. Charles and volunteered at St. Charles Soup Kitchen in Providence and Seven
Hills in Woonsocket. She plans to attend American University.
In her application, Fall described how Roger Williams’ values
guide her own life.
“The ideas of Roger Williams have influenced me to pursue a
vocation and future career in international relations. Juxtaposing the same
approach that he had towards new people he met, I want to join the Peace Corps
and work with people from developing areas in order to improve their quality of
living,” she said. “I am particularly interested in studying human rights and
international law. Social justice is something I am very passionate about and I
want to expand on that interest into a career. Roger William’s basic dogma of respect,
tolerance and kindness are basic tenets of any decent society, and so I want to
help instill that everywhere I go.”
Harris interned with the
Tomaquag Museum, the Narragansett Language Preservation and Revitalization
Program and the Kettle Pond Visitor Center, received a Rhode Island Civic
Leadership Award and participated in the White House Tribal Youth Gathering.
Brown University, wrote about the impact Roger Williams continues to have.
Roger Williams has been salient in my work to revitalize my Indigenous
language. The writings of Roger Williams have served as the basis of linguistic
revitalization, after hundreds of years of oppression and attempted erasure,”
participated in Youth in Action, the Student Senate at Classical and received a
Rhode Island Civic Leadership Award. She plans to attend Boston College.
In her application, Odetunde described how Roger Williams’
values guide her own life.
“Roger Williams was a resilient leader whose individuality, and
nonconformity led him to help those in need. I consider myself to be a triple
threat composed of being Nigerian, Muslim and female against a system that is
not made to uplift me, but suppress me,” she said. “I use this as motivation by
not conforming to what society wants me to look, or wants me to act, and turn
to activism to serve as a voice for youth like Roger Williams was for others.”
Tillman co-founded Diversity
Talks and participated in the Highlander Institute Culturally Responsive Design
Team and interned with the Trinity Repertory Company. He plans to attend
In his application, Tillman wrote about what he learned from
Roger Williams’ values.
“Roger Williams was extremely conscious of promoting tolerance
through all of his endeavors. He took the initiative to go against a
traditional system and propose ideas that were considered dangerous for the
time,” he said. “From my personal experiences, I have come to understand that
that same initiative, passion and determination is exactly what’s needed in
order to truly change a system.”
Tarley participated in
Generation Teach, the Providence Student Union and the Inspiring Minds Kids
Bridge Program. She received the Harriet Tubman Award from the Providence
branch of the NAACP and a Gold Award from the College Crusade of Rhode Island.
In her application, Tarley described how Roger Williams’ values
guide her own life.
“I aspire to be similar to Roger Williams in the way he
connected with his community. Roger Williams not only advocated for his
community but he also prioritized community involvement,” she said.
“Through my knowledge of Rhode Island history, I am even more confident being a
part of a community whose founder emphasized religious freedom and intended for
Rhode Island to be a safe haven for those seeking refuge, as my family and I
did from Liberia a little over 10 years ago.”
Ung was on the wrestling
team, participated in Beat the Streets, is a member of the National Honor
Society and interned with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown
University. She plans to attend the University of Rhode Island.
In her application, Ung wrote about what she learned from Roger
“We, as community members, are always willing to help others to
build a community, like Roger Williams when he first came to Rhode Island. His
curiosity led him to discover harmony and left a legacy for us to remember that
only education and acceptance can bring peace into the community,” she said.
“As a member of a community that is predominantly of people of color, I believe
we should work together to solve an issue and also to understand each other's
stories and experiences based on our identities.”
In addition to the scholarships, Carter
Roger Williams Initiative offers a website – findingrogerwilliams.com
-- that includes educational resources for students and educators and awards
grants of up to $400 to underwrite school field trips to the Roger Williams
National Memorial in Providence.
“By providing access to resources and opportunities inspired by
our state’s founder and his teachings, we are promoting a sense of place and
awareness for all Rhode Islanders,” the Foundation’s David said.
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most
comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with
generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded
$43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing
issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership,
fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and
organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.
For more information, visit rifoundation.org.