Charon Rose chats with a team member.
Charon Rose ’12 recalls her days at Rhode Island College promoting American Democracy Project and Congress Comes to Campus programs. Fast forward seven years and Rose is still engaging in advocacy as director of outreach and constituent affairs for Rhode Island Office of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.
“Everything I do, I keep in mind that I’m doing this for my community,” said Rose, a first-generation college student and proud former resident of the Chad Brown public housing community in Providence.
Rose is one of eight members of Magaziner’s team that handles policy, outreach, communications and legislative matters. The team works collaboratively to explain to Rhode Islanders the various programs and goals of the treasury office, which Rose refers to as “the state’s banker.”
Managing the state’s retirement system – for 30,000 retirees and 30,000 active employees – is the office’s main function. Other treasury office initiatives include an unclaimed property program, which reunites residents with their money; a crime victims compensation fund and financial literacy programming in schools, the latter of which is Rose’s personal favorite.
“I’m passionate about financial literacy because as a 17-year-old, first-generation college student, I didn’t know to ask questions about financial aid packages,” Rose said. “I think a lot of first-generation students are like me, unless they’ve had personal finance courses, and even then some only have basic knowledge. When I speak to students, I aim to be realistic and let them know I am still feeling some of the repercussions of financial decisions I’ve made in the past and encourage them to search for opportunities to be smart with money.”
Magaziner is pushing a bill to mandate financial literacy education in the state’s public high schools by the 2021-2022 school year, citing 36 other states that mandate financial literacy courses while Rhode Island doesn’t. Rose said making financial literacy a high school curriculum requirement at schools in the state’s 39 municipalities isn’t an easy lift.
“Seven municipalities require their schools to complete a personal finance course while others either don’t have personal finance courses or are somewhere in between,” Rose said. “Therefore, big disparities exist in figuring out what approach will work best in advocating and promoting personal finance education. I’ve come to understand that financial literacy may be a priority for the treasurer’s office but some schools may have other issues to weigh.”
Rose hands a team member an annual report.
By virtue of working for a public official, Rose said she strives daily to be mindful of her interactions with people.
“The taxpayers are my boss,” she said. “It’s very important to me that people walk away from our office saying they had the best interaction they’ve ever had with government and that we’re working to put them in a better place than they were yesterday.”
Rose is no stranger to advocacy. While working as a switchboard operator at Women and Infants Hospital, she was an active member of the New England Healthcare Employees Union SEIU/1199, helping to advocate on behalf of membership at the Rhode Island State House.
“When I first met Charon, it was clear that she was passionate about civic engagement,” said Rhode Island College Associate Professor of Communication Valerie Endress. “From her union work, she was a skilled organizer and an enthusiastic public speaker, and we capitalized upon those skills by asking her to take a lead role in our 2009 Congress to Campus,” a program that sends bipartisan pairs of former congress members to schools to offer an unvarnished view of the inner workings of Washington, D.C.
“When Charon offered a presentation to high school students about the nobility of public service, she made a lasting impression on our honored guests, former congresspersons Beverly Byron and Barry Goldwater Jr.,” Endress said. “Charon is just that special. I continue to watch with great interest as she assumes a leadership role in Rhode Island.”
After graduating from RIC, Rose carried on her work in advocacy as deputy field director for the 2014 campaign of then-Providence mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza; as a co-director of the New Leaders Council Rhode Island; and as the first African-American president of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island.
In 2015 she was one of 13 recipients of the YWCA of Rhode Island’s Women of Achievement Awards. In her written remarks at the awards program, Rose spoke about how resiliency plays a major role in her life.
“I personally believe resiliency is about learning how to channel personal growth and use it toward the betterment of my life and my community,” Rose said. “I learn from my successes, but more importantly, my failures.”
When asked if she considers herself a role model, Rose dismissed such a notion.
“I stand on the shoulders of many people, particularly people of color, who came before me,” she said. “Although I’m the first person in my family to go to college, that doesn’t mean that others in my family were less ambitious or didn’t have the drive to do something with their lives. I don’t want to be a role model to prop myself up. I want to think of ways I can enable communities to prop up themselves.”