Alumni Mentorship Program Gets Financial Backing from Papitto and DeStefano Funds

Mentor and Mentee
Rhode Island College Impact

Alumni mentorship is a way to ensure that RIC students are not only successful in college but in their chosen professions.

Launched in 2021 by the Rhode Island College Alumni Association, the Career Empowerment Opportunity (CEO) program was recently awarded a grant of $105,000 from the Papitto Opportunity Connection and a gift of $75,000 by Anne ’66 and Bob DeStefano.

The CEO program pairs rising RIC juniors with RIC alumni who are leaders in their fields to help prepare students to be career-ready on day one. (In photo above, mentee Eva Coutinho ’22 was paired with mentor Dana McCants Derisier.)

Offered at no cost to the students, the CEO program provides yearlong personal and professional development opportunities, including practical skills-based workshops; networking lunches; and one-on-one mentoring in which RIC alumni share their professional experiences, insights and networks.

CEO Mentors 2020

The Papitto grant is designed to specifically fund the recruitment of students who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to the CEO program. Currently 41.4 percent of CEO participants identify as BIPOC, and nearly the same percentage are first-generation college students.

“Ideally, we’d like to have the capacity and resources to expand this program from 15 students to 30 students, with 50 percent from BIPOC communities,” says Director of Alumni Advancement and Engagement Suzy Alba. “We will be working closely with our newly created Black and Latinx Alumni Affinity Groups to not only recruit new alumni mentors from BIPOC communities but to connect with BIPOC students who could benefit from the program.”

Alba thanks Marcy Reyes, Alumni Association Board member and CEO program mentor, who also sits on the Papitto Opportunity Connection Board, “for championing the Alumni Association’s application for funding and for advocating on the association’s behalf.”

Founder and trustee of the Papitto Opportunity Connection, Barbara Papitto, states, “RIC’s CEO program fits well within our mission to provide pathways to Black, Indigenous and People of Color here in Rhode Island. This unique program exposes these students to networking and mentorship opportunities while also offering an opportunity for them to expand their skill sets in ways that we hope leads to broader opportunities beyond college. We are pleased to invest in this program.”

Anne and Bob DeStefano said they invested in this program because they are believers in the transformational power of mentoring. “My husband and I were former educators,” says Anne DeStefano, “so we strongly believe in mentoring and thus we felt that the CEO program is an appropriate place to donate funds to allow this new program to flourish.”

Their new fund, called the Career Empowerment Opportunity Fund, is designed to support the ongoing operations of the program.

“We are extremely appreciative of the generosity of the Papitto Opportunity Connection and the DeStefanos,” says Alba. “Their generous gifts will give us the opportunity to expand our program to more students. Mentoring can make a tremendous impact on the lives of our students and their futures, and we're thrilled to be able to have the support we need to strengthen and grow the CEO program.”