26 Jan 2022


Josh Pereira


Britney Fernandez was just four years-old when she witnessed grandfather’s arrest.

“He was thrown to the ground. He did not speak English. No one read him his rights,” said Fernandez. “He had no idea what was happening.”

Years later, the vivid memory of her grandfather lying on the ground still haunts her. The traumatic incident also defined her career path. She hopes to one day become an immigration attorney.

Yet, the Bryant University junior who is studying politics and law, never shared her story- until recently.

A member of College Leadership Rhode Island’s Class of 2022, Fernandez opened up for the first time during the initial meeting with her classmates.

“I never shared my experience with anyone. But (College) Leadership Rhode Island is different from any group I have been part of before. EVERYONE spoke and shared stories,” said Fernandez “There was a lot of diversity, and everyone had an opportunity to speak. I have never been a part of something like that before. They encourage you to become a leader and give you the tools to do so.”

Fernandez has participated in several leadership programs in the past, but few are as inclusive and as strongly focused on diversity as CLRI.


“Being Hispanic, I have felt in certain places like I didn’t belong, and with LRI you really feel how open and welcoming everyone is,” said Fernandez. “There are so many people with different backgrounds to learn from and so much diversity. (CLRI) strives to create deep and meaningful relationships with the class members and encourage openness and compassion, which is absolutely necessary to be able to make a better Rhode Island.”


With the support recently received from the Papitto Opportunity Connection, Leadership Rhode Island will increase opportunities for students of color to participate in CLRI. The POC investment will also provide tuition assistance that will make it possible for more leaders of color to participate in the Core Program, an intense 10-month training session for Rhode Island’s emerging and established leaders that offers a hands-on look inside the inner workings of the Ocean State – including government, education, and the state’s prison system.


“LRI’s efforts toward inclusive programming and training will now expand and accelerate due to this support and added capacity,” said Michelle Carr, LRI deputy director. “Leadership Rhode Island does not seek to make an impact ON the BIPOC community. Rather, we look forward to working WITH the BIPOC community to nurture individual empowerment and transformational relationships that facilitate increased access to, and equity within, leadership ranks.”


“Creating opportunities for emerging leaders of color, including college students, aligns with our goal to create pathways to success for Rhode Island’s BIPOC communities,” said John A. Tarantino, managing trustee of the Papitto Opportunity Connection. “We believe this support will help LRI to attract people of color, especially from smaller businesses and non-profits who might not have been able to access this program in the past.”

Share your Story of Life

We all have a story. Your story and that of your community should be told by you, because it’s lived by you.