Women’s Fund of Rhode Island has selected 15 fellows to focus on policies that level the playing field for women and girls in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (August 12, 2020) – The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island has selected a diverse cohort of 15 women for its 2020-2021 Women’s Policy Institute (WPI). The concurrent pandemics  of COVID-19, financial crises and racial inequities highlight the need for more diverse voices influencing and making decisions that impact our community.

“The newest class of WPI fellows were chosen for their commitment to creating a Rhode Island where all citizens have equitable opportunity to thrive,” said Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. “More than ever, it is important to have women at the table where decisions that impact our future are being made.”

WPI is a professional development and mentoring program designed to develop policy, advocacy and strategic communications skills among women who are interested in influencing the policy making process. Fellows get hands on experience in drafting legislation, finding legislative sponsors, creating media campaigns and advocating for policies that will help make our state an equitable place to live. Along the way, they build relationships with Rhode Island’s movers and shakers, and learn how to become influential leaders in their own right.

WPI alumni include professors, retirees, recent college graduates, urban planners, talk show hosts, public sector employees, city councilwomen, nonprofit leaders, school administrators, small business owners, and even a state senator. Most recently, WPI fellows successfully advocated for paid family leave and pregnancy accommodations in the workplace, codified Roe vs. Wade through the Reproductive Privacy Act and repealed the tampon tax, policies which have now been signed into law on a state-wide level.

WPI will meet monthly for nine full-day sessions beginning in late August. Led by facilitator Paula Hodges of Anchor Strategies, the program will include guest presenters and community leaders involved in policy and advocacy. Graduates of the program have gone on to successfully run for office; others have stayed involved in advocating for community change through a variety of organizations and coalitions.

This program is free of charge and made possible by donors and sponsors, including the Rhode Island Foundation, the Otto H. York Foundation and a matching gift provided by members of the Prospect Hill Foundation.

About the Fellows

WPI fellows range in age between 23-50 and live in every part of Rhode Island. This year’s cohort is a diverse mix of women representing communities of color, LGBTQA+, and a variety of religious backgrounds. Some are parents, small business owners, fresh college graduates and leaders of nonprofit organizations. All are passionate about creating change for their communities through advocacy.

This year’s cohort includes:

  • Tamara Burman, Project Manager for Woonsocket Health Equity Zone (Thundermist Health Center) and a resident of Woonsocket
  • D’Nysha Cook, Graduate Assistant for Johnson & Wales University and a resident of Providence
  • Kelsey Edwards, Mental Health Counselor for VICTA and a resident of Johnston
  • Ebra Elsharouby, Teaching Assistant at Clark University and a resident of Providence
  • Emma Gauthier, Newsroom Editor of Business Wire and a resident of Providence
  • Jenna Giguere, Deputy Aid of Legal Services for the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation and a resident of Coventry
  • Kassie Hawkins, Manager of LGBTQ+ Programs for Sojourner House and a resident of Providence
  • Trinice Holden, Executive Director for Youth Restoration Project and a resident of Mapleville
  • Susan Diaz Killenberg, M.D., Chief Psychiatrist for the Department of Human Services Disability Determination Services and a resident of Providence
  • Olubunmi Olatunji, Program Director for Youth in Action and a resident of Providence
  • Tifany Sanders, Assistant Director of Career Placement for Community College of Rhode Island and a resident of Woonsocket
  • Evan Sargent, a resident of Middletown
  • Jo-Ann Schofield, President and CEO of MENTOR Rhode Island and a resident of Warwick
  • Kisa Jo Takesue, Director of Pre-College and Leadership Programs for Brown University and a resident of Cranston
  • Lori Viner, Human Resources Manager for The Children’s Workshop and a resident of Slocum

About Women’s Fund of Rhode Island 

Founded in 2001, the mission of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island is to invest in women and girls through research, advocacy, grant making and strategic partnerships designed to achieve gender equity through systemic change. As a leader in the movement to improve policies that impact women and girls in Rhode Island, the work of WFRI is focused on economic security for women and girls, as well as increasing political participation and representation. The organization also conducts research on the specific challenges facing women and girls in Rhode Island.

More about Women’s Fund of Rhode Island can be found at www.wfri.org.