Leo Pollock Tells Our Story at Rhode Island Foundation Centennial Community Conversation #RIF100

IMG_4850We were thrilled when Rhode Island Foundation asked us to present as part of their Centennial Community Conversation on Innovative and Proven Programs, held at the New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich on March 23. It was an honor to share our story alongside some incredible innovators in the Rhode Island community, all of whom have received funding and support from the amazing group at the Rhode Island Foundation.

We were welcomed to the beautiful building by Steve Kitchin, VP Corporate Education & Training for New England Tech, and it sounds like we can expect exciting changes at the school, starting with expansion coming in 2017!

Neil Steinberg, President and CEO, Rhode Island Foundation, also welcomed the crowd. He spoke about inspiration and the prediction that we would leave the evening feeling positive about the State of Rhode Island. The belief behind these conversations is that as we come together for events like this, as we hear of work like that being done by the presenting organizations, we are really crossing sectors and barriers and it will move us forward to a better and brighter RI.

The six presenters (including Leo Pollock, RIFPC!) then were up, and because it truly was an inspiring evening that left us feeling great about Rhode Island (success, Neil Steinberg!), I wanted to share a tiny bit about the fabulous things we heard about.

Laura Adams, President and CEO of Rhode Island Quality Institute, spoke about the Current Care system that was created to address challenges in coordinating care in today’s healthcare world. This program integrates multiple electronic record systems so data follows patients wherever and whenever (a really important thing when you realize that each doctor’s office has a different brand system that does not connect with others!).

Daniel Schliefer, Executive Director, New Urban Arts spoke about the value of a space where learning is the result of curiosity, and shared about the great success soy their community arts program in the West Side of Providence. They run a variety of after school programs and have local artists who act as mentors to students. They also are in their second year of the program “A life after school,” for both students who are college-bound and not. He had tons of information on why arts matter for high school students, and how arts education improves academic success as well — a no brainer, yet arts programs continue to be cut in schools across the country.

Christine Alves, Director of The Teaching Studio, is part of a larger program called The Learning Community, a public charter school in Central Falls. The Teaching Studio supports other public schools in Rhode Island by providing targeted professional development for teachers across Rhode Island schools. The Learning Community is considered a leader across the country and its success has been highlighted nationally including a writeup in the New York Times. Proud to say this school calls Rhode Island home!

Leo Pollock, Network Director, Rhode Island Food Policy Council, spoke about why food is important and it’s not just about economy or tourism, it’s about environment, access to food, there’s a health component too. The whole food system matters when it comes to food policy, and RIFPC began with the idea that there was no entity in our state looking at food from a holistic, full food system view. It was created with the goal of bringing people together and aligning values. There are tough issues around food and we want to help organizations and government offices trying to address those. He also spoke about our Food System Snapshots which start to develop baseline data at the community and state level for food systems topics. Looking forward, we have an exciting year ahead, and we were excited to share with the group that we are updating our 2011 food assessment with KK&P, and also working closely with our state government on food strategy and a state food plan.

Loren Spears, Executive Director, Tomaquag Museum, spoke about the Museum’s growth in the past several decades. The Tomaquag Museum tells the story of Rhode Island, and of Rhode Island as it was originally known, the land of the Narragansett people. She spoke of how Rhode Island Foundation took the Museum under their wing via the Expansion Arts Program, such that now they are a an institution with resources that researchers come from all over the world to use. The have much to be proud of for their achievements, and it looks like it is an exciting time ahead, with a planning grant in the wings, along with awards and recognition from leaders in the field. We are fortunate to have this fantastic resource in our little state!

Cathy Doyle, Executive Director, Year Up Providence was a great choice for the final presentation, as she inspired all of us in the room to do more. The first thing she said: “Talent is distributed equally, opportunity is not.”  Year Up is a national non-profit for young adults aged 18-24, and it is the fastest growing, youth-serving nonprofit in the nation. She spoke of how opportunities exist that are just waiting for talent, and at the same time there is a pool of untapped talent just looking for opportunities. Year Up is a high support program that helps young people get a leg up in workplace and professionalism preparedness, as well as with college preparation. Their graduates have seen incredible success, and we are grateful that they are helping the young people of Rhode Island reach new heights.

The evening was closed by Jessica David, Senior VP, Strategy & Community Investments, Rhode Island Foundation, with the promise of more Community Conversations to come.

We, like the other organizations presenting this evening and all the others that are funded by this organization, greatly benefit from the support of RIF and our other funders. We are especially fortunate to be in this state, where so much is happening — there is energy and action around important causes. We certainly did leave the evening inspired and excited to see what is happening around us, and hope you are too as you learn more about the fantastic organizations doing great work in the state!




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