24 May 2023
Siya Singhal Wins 2023 Transform RI Scholarship
Papitto Opportunity Connection commits $1 million to making Wheeler freshman’s idea a reality.
Providence, Rhode Island – Siya Singhal, a 14-year-old freshman at The Wheeler School, is the first place winner of the 2023 Transform Rhode Island Scholarship (TRIS), the only scholarship program of its kind in the United States. For her transformative idea, focused on improving the lives of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in Rhode Island, Siya will receive a $25,000 scholarship and will have a seat at the table as the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) invests $1 million to make her idea come to life.
For the second straight year POC, a non-profit, private foundation working with Rhode Island’s BIPOC communities to empower and create success through education, job skills training and entrepreneurship opportunities, asked Rhode Island high school students of color to answer one question: “If you had $1 million how you would change Rhode Island’s communities of color?”
Nearly 200 students from 47 public, private, parochial and charter high schools from across Rhode Island – from Woonsocket to Newport – shared personal essays, thoughtful research, dynamic videos, and multimedia presentations.
Siya envisions a world where cultural confidence is every kid’s superpower fueled by collective cultural awareness.
“When I was a kid going to elementary school, I remember how tough it was for me to open my lunch box and have this amazing Indian food and not feel confident about it. I remember how it was to come into school and not feel normal because I was surrounded by people who didn’t look like me. And I remember how excited I felt when someone mentioned the word India,” said Siya Singhal. “And now when I gave the practice seminar to present my idea, I remember all of my classmates shuffling in their seat with excitement and that just gave me the motivation to pursue this idea to a larger level.”
Siya’s winning idea is designed to diversify Rhode Island by providing youth access and connecting elementary schools to non-profit cultural organizations through interactive seminars. The seminars will share the story of each organization’s culture and traditions so that students will feel culturally confident, gain a sense of pride and go to school feeling unique, instead of different. Her winning application was selected by a panel of judges that include Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green; Executive Director of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and adjunct professor at Seton Hall University Reginald Lewis; Associate Director for Translational Oncology at Brown University Legorreta Cancer Center Dr. Sendurai Mani, PhD., and POC Managing Trustee John Tarantino.
“The Transform Rhode Island Scholarships will not only change the lives of these students, but also the communities in which they live and go to school,” said Tarantino. “The level of thought and creativity displayed by all of these students is truly remarkable, and we hope both the scholarships and our commitment to their ideas are empowering for young people of color who are often not heard.”
Nine other student finalists will also receive scholarships because of their transformative ideas. They include:
$15,000 Scholarship: Nicolas Upegui, Senior, North Providence High
Nicolas’ big idea is anchored around a mentorship and enrichment program specifically for students of color through BIPOC mentors. The program would help students build confidence, critical learning skills, and leadership skills, while simultaneously destroying prejudice. An accomplished scholar-athlete and active member of his community who has won numerous awards for his leadership, Nicolas will attend Yale University in the fall.
$15,000 Scholarship: Eliza Vest, Freshman, Moses Brown
Ellie’s big idea is to partner with local businesses to create internship opportunities, which will be accessible in a convenient website and app. InternXRI will put the internship opportunities directly in the hands of BIPOC teens across Rhode Island.
$10,000 Scholarship: Jayden Chagnon, Junior, The Met School
Jayden’s big idea is to create “The Art & Maker Bus,” designed to provide access to creative learning opportunities, arts and entrepreneurship training to BIPOC communities across Rhode Island and offers exposure for artists of color.
$10,000 Scholarship: Zachary Pinto, Senior, Shea High School
An active member of his community, Zach’s big idea is to create street medicine teams that would bring critical services to Rhode Island’s homeless population, individuals struggling with addiction and those facing mental health challenges. Zach will attend Emerson University in the fall.
Rounding out the Top Ten TRIS finalists, who will each receive a $5,000 scholarship, include:
- Darius Ajakaiye, Moses Brown – Darius’ change-making idea is an immersive gaming experience built around life lessons, learning, career awareness and workforce development. A junior, his focus is to combine education with fun to reach youth where they already are (gaming), making it an easy way to reach them in the future.
- Keyla Citron, Classical High- Keyla’s change-making idea focuses on transforming unused areas into temporary living spaces for the homeless. A senior, Keyla will attend Johnson & Wales University in the fall.
- Adriyonna Lockhart, Rogers High – A sophomore, Adriyonna’s change-making idea is to create a family support center for BIPOC families and single parents struggling with food insecurity, housing, and the increasingly high cost of childcare.
- Donovan Turner, Classical High – A freshman, Donovan’s change-making idea is to create a program that offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and provides its students with childcare services and transportation.
- Krystallyah Ratsabout, Dr. Jorge Alvarez High – Krystallyah’s change-making idea is centered around a multi-faceted leadership program that would educate students about their culture’s history and, in turn, empower them to help others embrace their identity. A senior, she will attend Rhode Island College in the fall.
HEADER IMAGE CREDIT: Ian Travis Barnard Photography