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Providence, Rhode Island – Mariam Kaba, the 15-year-old daughter of West African immigrants, who is a sophomore in the Career and Technical Center at Woonsocket High School, is the first-ever winner of the Transform Rhode Island Scholarship (TRIS), the only scholarship program of its kind in the United States. For her transformative idea, focused on Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities in Rhode Island, Mariam will receive a $25,000 scholarship and will have a seat at the table as the Papitto Opportunity Connection invests $1 million to make her idea come to life.

The Papitto Opportunity Connection, a non-profit foundation working with Rhode Island’s BIPOC communities to empower and create success through education, job skills training and entrepreneurship opportunities, asked Rhode Island high school students of color to answer one question: “If you had $1 million how you would change Rhode Island’s communities of color?”  

“I hope the impact of my big idea on communities of color will be to restore and replenish BIPOC communities, give youth a sense of security and preparation for their future, and bring financial stability and employment aid to communities, said Mariam Kaba, who in addition to being a student, is also the social media manager and VP of a youth-led advocacy organization that aims to strengthen BIPOC communities in the metropolitan Providence area. “Overall, my goal is to help BIPOC communities beat all the odds against them.”

Mariam’s winning idea is to develop a program that offers career exploration, financial literacy, provides mental health wellness opportunities for young people of color and restores communities through dedicated activities. Her winning application was selected by a panel of judges that include Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante Green and POC Managing Trustee John Tarantino. 

“This scholarship will change lives, both for the students who receive a financial award from TRIS, and for their communities,” said John A. Tarantino, POC Managing Trustee. “The level of thought and creativity displayed by all of these students is truly remarkable, and we hope both the scholarships and our commitment to their ideas are empowering for young people of color who are often not heard.”

Nearly 100 students from 37 public, private, parochial and charter high schools from across Rhode Island shared personal essays, fun slide shows, thoughtful research, dynamic videos, and multimedia presentations.  Four other student finalists will also receive scholarships as a result of their ideas. 

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