Papitto Opportunity Connection Commits $1 Million to Bringing Transform RI Scholarship Winner’s Idea to Life

Mariam Kaba, a sophomore at Woonsocket High School's Career and Technical Center, plans to develop a program that offers career exploration, financial literacy, and mental health wellness opportunities for young people of color.
Transform Ri Scholarship

Mariam Kaba, Woonsocket High Sophomore /TRIS winner. Photograph by Kindall Brown.

The pioneering Transform Rhode Island Scholarship has found its first ever recipient in Mariam Kaba, a sophomore at Woonsocket High School’s Career and Technical Center and the daughter of West African immigrants. She will be awarded $25,000 for her transformative response to Papitto Opportunity Connection’s (POC) challenge to Rhode Island high school students. A nonprofit foundation which works with the state’s BIPOC communities to empower and create success through everything from education and skills training to entrepreneurship opportunities, POC tasked local young minds with answering one not-so-simple question: “If you had $1 million, how would you change Rhode Island’s communities of color?”

Kaba’s winning application outlines plans to develop a program that offers career exploration and financial literacy, provides mental health wellness opportunities for young people of color and restores communities through dedicated activities. Her idea was selected from nearly 100 submissions by a panel of judges including Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante Green and POC Managing Trustee John Tarantino. But while the $25,000 was a wonderful incentive in and of itself, it wasn’t the only life-changing reward at stake: POC plans to make good on that initial question, giving Kaba a seat at the table as the organization invests $1 million to make her idea not just a pipe dream, but a reality.

“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, says 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.”

Transform Ri Scholarship

John Tarantino, Trustee, Papitto Opportunity Connection;  Mariam Kaba, Woonsocket High Sophomore /TRIS winner; Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation; Angelica Infante-Green, Rhode Island Education Commissioner;  Madjouma Diarrassouba, Miriam Kaba’s mom; and
Barbara Papitto, Founder/Trustee, Papitto Opportunity Connection. Photograph by Kindall Brown.

Kaba isn’t the only one with such a goal. Students across thirty-seven schools (public, private, charter, you name it) in the state took up the POC’s challenge, entering personal essays, creative slide shows, thoughtful research stats and testimonials, dynamic videos and multimedia presentations. As a result, four more finalists will be recognized for their ideas and awarded scholarships, including:

Jalisa Ramos, a junior at Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, will receive a $15,000 scholarship for her idea to create a sustainable urban agriculture project that would combat food insecurity and increase access to healthy foods.

Daisha Jackson, also a junior at Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, wants to create yoga mats with QR codes that would provide constantly changing information on health and wellness. She will receive a $15,000 scholarship.

Isabelle Mitchell, a tenth grade Massachusetts resident who attends the Wheeler School, submitted a proposal for an annual BIPOC festival to celebrate the job and strength of the BIPOC communities. She will be awarded a $10,000 scholarship.

Finally, Ziondre Ogiba, a senior at Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, will receive a $2,500 scholarship in honor of his idea to start a program that combines athletics and education to combat summer learning loss.

“This scholarship will change lives, both for the students who receive a financial award from TRIS, and for their communities,” says John A. Tarantino, panel judge and 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.”