Mariam Kaba

Mariam Kaba, a 10th-grader at Woonsocket High School, is surprised with news that she is a finalist for the Transform Rhode Island Scholarship. All finalists received a $2,500 scholarship, with the $25,000 winner being revealed on May 26.

WOONSOCKET – Mariam Kaba is a high school sophomore with an idea – an idea that might be worth $1,000,000.

The Transform Rhode Island Scholarship is being offered by the Papitto Opportunity Connection, a foundation that was started in December 2020 to support the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities in Rhode Island. The organization focuses on empowerment through education, job skills training, and entrepreneurial ventures.

In a press release, POC reported that nearly 100 students from 37 public, private, parochial and charter high schools shared personal essays, fun slideshows, thoughtful research, dynamic videos and multimedia presentations that answered one simple question: “If you had $1,000,000 how would you change Rhode Island’s communities of color?”

The five finalists were announced last week, and included Kaba, a 10th-grader at Woonsocket High School. The project she submitted outlines a program that addresses job creation while simultaneously educating and restoring communities. She proposes a bimonthly job fair for BIPOC, which would include the consistent opportunity for job skills training. The educational component would cover sexual health education, mental health education and resources, and a revitalization of community supplies. The final piece of her proposal, called “Restoring the Village,” would include monthly community clean-ups, food and clothing drives, recreational events, donations to homeless shelters, investing in small businesses and investing in outdoor recreational areas for youth.

The concluding slide of her presentation includes a quote from Teyonah Parris: “It only takes one person to mobilize a community and inspire change. Even if you don’t feel like you have it in you, it’s in you. You have to believe in yourself.”

The third place winner will receive $10,000, the second place winner will receive $15,000, and the first place winner will receive $25,000, as well as a commitment of at least $1,000,000 toward launching their project idea. Each student will receive at least $2,500. The winner, second, and third place will be announced at a celebration on May 26.

Clarification: An earlier version of the article stated that students had received $2,500 at the time of the article's publication. The article has be changed to reflect that students will receive their awards on May 26. 

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