Shea alum’s future plans: Help make education more equitable

Shea alum’s future plans: Help make education more equitable

Sean Richardson, a Pawtucket native and recent Providence College graduate, says he hopes to spend his career improving educational experiences for students from marginalized populations.

PAWTUCKET – After Sean Richardson graduates from Boston College with his master’s degree in higher education student affairs, the Pawtucket native says he hopes to spend his career making education more equitable for students from marginalized populations.

“I want students to be confident in their experiences,” said Richardson, 22, who graduated from Shea High School in 2016 and from Providence College on May 17.

“My goal is to alleviate that stress and anxiety” for multicultural, first-generation, LGBTQ+, undocumented, and otherwise marginalized groups, he said, and to also teach them vocabulary to describe how they’re feeling about their situations.

As a first-generation student of color at a predominantly white college, Richardson said his own experiences have led him to want to do diversity work for an institution’s admissions or student affairs office and to work on higher education policy.

“No one is intentionally ignorant or isolating students (at PC),” he said. Rather, it’s “more small things that accumulate.”

The Lincoln resident will start his master’s program this fall.

Growing up in Pawtucket, Richardson was very involved with the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket from ages 11 to 18 and was named its Youth of the Year in 2015, the same year he was inducted into the Pawtucket Teen Hall of Fame for volunteering 350 hours at the Boys & Girls Club.

The club “gave me what I didn’t find at school: a sense of agency,” he said. There, he said, he felt that people were interested in hearing what he had to say. It also gave him the opportunity to mentor other students, both directly and indirectly.

Asked about his mentors growing up, Richardson named Mike Coelho, the former director of teen programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket. Coelho, he said, helped him understand the values of working hard and being a leader. Richardson walked into the Boys & Girls Club “timid and awkward” at age 11 and walked out at age 18 “confident and strong,” knowing a lot more about himself, he said.

Richardson said he was also very involved at Shea, where he took honors classes.

Reflecting back on his time in high school, he said he’s learned that there were things he needed at the time but didn’t know how to verbalize them, such as “more confidence in my experience as a black kid in that community.” He said he often wondered if he was the only student with certain feelings during a politically turbulent time; during his junior or senior year, he said, “a lot of black men were being shot by police officers” and “there wasn’t a time or place to talk about that.”

When he first started at PC, Richardson said his plan was to become an English teacher but he quickly learned that that wasn’t the right path for him. Wanting to still have a role in education of some kind, he said he switched his studies to sociology and public and community service studies. While at college, he mentored students of color and served on Student Congress and as a resident assistant.

Though he’s disappointed his senior year of college was cut short because of the pandemic, he said he finds nowadays “I’m very grateful for my health (and the) people who support me.”

“Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and brought me to this point,” he said.

Richardson said he’s looking forward to the work he’ll do in the future and hopes to inspire younger students from his alma maters, “uplifting voices where I can.”

His advice to current Shea students – and all high school students – is to be authentic and know their self-worth, he said. “I do think that that’s something I probably needed to hear in high school, too. Be confident in who you are; there is only one you.”