CCRI students share school experience with Gov. McKee

Working to overcome hurdles

Posted 5/11/22


Governor Daniel McKee joined 20 CCRI students and alumni at the Knight Campus in Warwick on April 28 for a roundtable discussion on why students chose CCRI to further their …

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CCRI students share school experience with Gov. McKee

Working to overcome hurdles



Governor Daniel McKee joined 20 CCRI students and alumni at the Knight Campus in Warwick on April 28 for a roundtable discussion on why students chose CCRI to further their education as well as how their school experience has been.

CCRI President Meghan Hughes introduced McKee and acknowledged the diverse range of students in the room, noting that some came directly from high school while others were returning adult learners and were either full-time or part-time students.

“I think it’s really important that we get out and work with the young people in the state of Rhode Island, listen to them about what they think their futures are and also some of the challenges they have to meet that future,” said McKee.

Cranston’s Talia Thibodeau recounted the past two years she’s spent at CCRI.

“The whole experience has been amazing,” said Thibodeau.

Thibodeau is a sophomore and general studies major with a concentration in sports media and communications – her dream is to be a sports commentator or sideline reporter. She is also part of CCRI’s joint admissions agreement (JAA) so – once she graduates from CCRI on May 12 – Thibodeau will transfer to the University of Rhode Island (URI). JAA allows students to obtain a four-year degree by starting their course work at CCRI and transferring to either URI or Rhode Island College (RIC) for the remaining two years.

Thibodeau attended George Peters Elementary School, Western Hills Middle School and Cranston High School West where she graduated in 2020. While at CCRI, she said she has made good connections and – at the governor’s visit on April 28 – said she liked hearing other students’ stories who she may not have otherwise met.

McKee drew upon his personal experience of working with younger people and spoke to understanding that some individuals have more hurdles to overcome than others.

“Where there were hurdles or are hurdles, we want to lower them or eliminate them the best we can,” McKee said, adding that he wants it so everyone can be successful and have the education they need to reach their potential and contribute back to communities and earn a fair living.

Eliminating those hurdles includes meeting students where they are and helping them get to their next goal. Imani Blake, who was born and raised in Providence, is a nursing student at CCRI and was able to work education into her work schedule.

“I experienced the four-year education at the University of Rhode Island, and when I thought about pursuing further education, I thought it was nearly impossible because once you are thrown into the real world. You start your career, and it seems like times against you,” said Blake.

She mentioned that CCRI’s tuition was affordable and adapted to her schedule.

“I chose CCRI because I think they do a great job on showing balance….I've seen so many students here who are mothers, fathers. They have a full-time job while they’re here, and I think it showed me and gave me the confidence to do something that I previously thought was impossible,” Blake said.

McKee, whose sports references were spread throughout the hour and a half conversation, found commonalities with two students who are sisters and softball players for the school.

Warwick’s Kate and Kiley Ferns are part of the school’s RI Promise program which has resulted in their tuition being $60 to $90 per semester.

“We have enough time in our day to go to work to school and back to work,” said Kiley, who mentioned she liked the online classes due to their flexibility.

Kiley is an education major with a concentration in early childhood development and will attend RIC in the fall for elementary education.

Kate chose CCRI because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after school. The cost of schooling was more affordable and CCRI assisted her in finding her path.

“With the help of my advisors I actually have a major,” said Kate.

Kate is part of the JAA program and is pursuing a general studies major with a concentration in marketing and with the intent of transferring to RIC. She said she is considering graphic design at RIC.

Workforce housing 

McKee mentioned the types of things he would like to fund through the FY 2023 budget to help students. He’s considering a $250 million budget appropriation for housing and said part of those funds would be classified as workforce housing with the intent of exploring the idea of transitional housing for jobs Rhode Island needs to fill to move the state forward.

Putting funds in the budget for a higher education academy is another one of the governor’s tasks. McKee wants to propose the idea to the General Assembly about appropriating funds so they can go into the communities, talk with people and upgrade certificate degrees, associates degrees and four-year degrees. McKee would also like to double down on education in entrepreneurship and small businesses, and in the budget, is seeing about obtaining funding for minority and women-owned businesses and traditional financing for non-minority businesses. 

Hughes made it a point to mention that CCRI meets Rhode Islanders wherever they are and to get them to where they want to be. Warwick's Lauren Buchholz is an example of this.

Buchholz graduated from URI in 2017 where she studied economics, political science and Chinese; her original goal was to be an analyst for the federal government. She said she had lived in China for over a year and a half and was deemed a security risk and essentially locked out of all the positions in that field that required security clearance. For the ones that didn’t require security clearance, the available job positions required PhDs or were offering an unpaid internship.

Buccholz had a bachelor's degree and knew a PhD would take money and time for a low paid position. She decided to switch careers that gave her more flexibility and a higher paying job – which the CCRI workforce program did.

“The people who designed the program very specifically went out to employers and asked them what skills they needed. And in all of my years searching for jobs, there’s always been such a disconnect between what employers are looking for and what the degrees are providing,” said Buchholz.

Because Bucchholz already has a bachelors and is currently obtaining an associate, she’ll have the necessary prerequisites computer science coursework to complete a masters. She also has a passion for Chinese and would like to use her skills to address gaps in language learning tools.

Hughes spoke about the reverse credit transfer and aligning course curriculum with job opportunities. The school is doubling down on taking Rhode Islanders who have some college or no degree and positioning them with a two-year degree and pathway. Additionally, the school is looking to award credit for prior life experience and work experience .

Overall, Hughes said CCRI nearly 20,000 Rhode Islanders are educated in its programs and another nearly 20,000 are educated in the workforce space.

In some last words of advice, McKee spoke about the RI 2030 interactive website which is a blueprint for Rhode Island’s 10-year strategy when it comes to workforce, education and family and children.

Students attending the roundtable event included Ana Duarte Spencer, Imani Blake, Erin Ingebretsen, Christine Williams, Lauren Blanchette, Kaele Rodriguez, Melanie Paquin, Richard McIntyre, Maya-Jane Lima, Casey Regine, Emily McNeil, Kiley Ferns, Kate Ferns, Talia Thibodeau, Theo Jadotte, Elizabeth Bruno, Edgar Lopez Reyes and Lauren Buchholz.



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