RIC Partnership with Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Creates New Opportunities for Students, Businesses

RIC students and RI Hispanic Chamber of Commerce staff members pose for a photo in front of a banner
Rhode Island College Impact

The RI Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sees enormous value in its partnership with RIC: it opens opportunities in the future to work on projects that can benefit the community

“Doing an internship at the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is very applicable to my career. It has really helped me get experience in the real world that I can transfer to any organization I might work with in the future,” says Maria Friedman, a masters of social work student at Rhode Island College, who will be graduating from the MSW program on May 13.

Founded in 2016, the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is an organization with a helping spirit and commitment to support the business community and seek all possible ways to benefit the public. “One of the best ways we do this is by establishing collaborations and cooperation agreements with different organizations,” explains Oscar Mejias, founder and executive director of the chamber. “Knowing that more than 25 percent of RIC students come from a Latino community, that generates in us a natural attraction to establish a partnership.”

For Jenifer Giroux, a vice president of Professional Studies and Continuing Education (PSCE), this partnership is valuable to both parties because of the opportunity to work with the business community, especially small local businesses, and to provide access to educational resources. “Our Workforce Development Hub in Central Falls provides the ideal space to offer programming and services that meet the needs of the local business community,” she says. “It is imperative for PSCE to develop programs that meet the immediate and long-term needs of business and community members.”

Asley Corrales is a marketing undergraduate student at RIC, member of the American Marketing Association and a parliament member of Student Community Government who is doing her internship at the chamber. She is the marketing and communications specialist in charge of regular communications to members and the community across different mediums, to highlight and publicize the organization’s work.

“Being an intern at the chamber is very productive and meaningful.,” she says. “It’s a win-win situation when a student can get that real world work experience to build their skills and confidence while the chamber also gets the benefit of having more help for all the projects they’re doing.”

“The idea of this partnership is that it lasts and that the students, once their time here comes to an end, continue a line of succession,” says Martha Perez-Barton, operations and programs manager at the chamber. “At the end of the day, we are here not only to help the Latino business community, but also to help these students grow, get the work experience they need, and build connections with the business community.”

The RI Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sees enormous value in its partnership with RIC: it opens opportunities in the future to work on projects that can benefit the community and creates a synergy between students and member businesses. “We are creating opportunities for both students and business owners that can receive a direct or indirect benefit depending on the development of the relationship,” explains Mejias. “That’s why I believe that this partnership will be very effective.” 

He also notes that the interns have demonstrated a commitment to collaborative work and responsibility. “The time they have been involved speaks very well of the quality of professionals they will be,” he adds.

The contributions they’ve made go beyond the routine administrative tasks typically associated with college internships. Friedman has been collaborating to transition the whole organization to using an

electronic, internal database in order to keep track of client information and their progress on various applications like PPP and other grant programs. Corrales has helped with marketing, including the creation of newsletters and dissemination in the social networks. Daniel Clarkin, another former intern, helped with data analysis.

“This internship has really helped me grow in so many areas like organizational development, how to help an organization grow, how analyze policies and procedures and make sure that everyone on the team is involved and has a say in the process,” explains Friedman, who, as the chamber’s data analyst and business advocate has helped implement a customer relations management system. “When I got to the chamber I knew nothing about data analysis, but it’s definitely been able to help me learn things that I can use in the future and build my resume. I’m learning things that I never thought I would know how to do.”

Friedman and Corrales both agree that what they are doing at the chamber goes hand-to-hand with what they are learning in their respective degree programs at RIC. “It’s very essential to what I need and where to go with my career,” says Corrales.

She also sees a bright future for the partnership and the RIC students who will succeed her at the chamber. “We are the foundation of something bigger to come,” she says. “This is just the beginning and I can’t wait to see where the chamber will be in five, ten, thirty years. I only have big hopes.”

“We are creating a future for both the interns and the business community, which for me is essential to be able to improve our community as a whole in the next five to ten years,” adds Perez-Barton.

Giroux explains that these types of partnerships are the exact reason why the Workforce Development Hub in Central Falls exists. “RIC endeavors to be a community partner to offer programs to adults that strengthen Rhode Island's workforce and meet the ever-evolving needs of employers,” she says. “This partnership will allow PSCE to engage firsthand with employers to better understand and respond to educational and workforce development needs.”