Cities of Service, a national coalition of mayors, has awarded Providence a $25,000 Impact Volunteering grant sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies, according to an Oct. 18 Providence city press release.
Only 18 American cities were chosen for the award. Providence plans to use the funds to start Leyendo, a new service initiative that will pair Spanish-speaking volunteers with Providence students who are reading below grade level and do not speak English at home. In 2011, 46 percent of Providence fourth-graders were proficient in reading, and half of all the students in the district did not speak English at home, according to the press release.
The initiative is also meant to foster a spirit of volunteerism. "As mayor, I am committed to fostering a city culture in which civic engagement and volunteerism is in our DNA," said Providence Mayor Angel Taveras at a press conference. "This grant will help us leverage the power of our citizens to strategically and measurably improve reading levels for students who don't speak English at home and are struggling to get to grade level."
The program will initially pilot in Carl Lauro Elementary School and Mary Fogarty Elementary School in Providence, two of the state's lowest-performing schools with significant English language learners student populations, according to the release.
The new program will be part of Providence's All-American City initiative, awarded to the city this summer. The All-American program aims to have 70 percent of the city's third-graders reading on grade level by 2015.
The Rhode Island Foundation opened its 2013 Innovation Fellowship to applications today. The program, now in its second year, provides two recipients with up to $300,000 over the course of three years.
The program is "built around the spirit of entrepreneurship," and the money is meant to go toward projects that will do "the greatest good for the greatest number," according to the Foundation's website. It is funded by Letitia and John Carter.
The first round of applications is due by Dec. 14, and the new fellows will be officially chosen in April 2013. Applicants must be from Rhode Island and 18 years or older.
The 2012 fellows are now in the midst of their own projects.
Soren Ryherd is using his funds to revitalize abandoned Rhode Island storefronts in an effort to promote "vibrant and desirable neighborhoods," according to The Retail Project website. The first "brick and mortar" store is projected to open in 2014, but Felix Chien, the project's online store selling high-quality canine fashion, is already up and running. Urbilis, which will market products direct towards urban gardeners, is expected to open soon.
The other fellow, Allan Tear, has brought together entrepreneurs from across the state in an effort to nurture a startup culture in Rhode Island. According to the Foundation's press release, Tear wants to connect individuals in areas ranging from the arts to "social impact ventures."