Student Veteran, Ariel Polanco, Says Hope Scholarship is “Real Hope”

Headshot of Ariel Polanco
Rhode Island College Impact

“Hope is important to me,” says Polanco, “because I came from a place where there wasn’t much hope.” Enacted this fall, RIC’s Hope Scholarship makes the final two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree tuition-free for R.I. residents.

RIC Junior, Ariel Polanco, Reflects on How the Hope Scholarship Has Impacted Him:

“I’m a U.S. Marine Corp veteran,” says Polanco (pictured above). “I enlisted in the military when I was 19. I grew up on the West End of Providence, where there was a lot of drugs and gun violence. We all knew we had limited options. I thought joining the Marines was the only option I had. I wanted to go to college but I also knew I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t take advantage of the R.I. Promise Scholarship at CCRI because I graduated high school a year before it came into effect. So, the military was the only path I thought I had to becoming the man I wanted to be.

“After four years in the Marines, I enrolled at Rhode Island College. I’m in my junior year, majoring in computer science, with a minor in cybersecurity. Even though my tuition was covered by the VR&E, a program for disabled veterans, I know that government programs can end. With the Hope Scholarship, I know my tuition is guaranteed for the next two years and that I’ll be able to graduate college. For me, that’s real hope. It’s something I wish was around when I was 19.

“The common theme, growing up in my area of town, was limited options. It’s something we all felt. You felt trapped by the environment, like the environment was forcing you to become something that you weren’t. That feeling is something I’ll never forget. With the Hope Scholarship, you realize you’re not trapped anymore.

“This scholarship is great for inner-city youth. It will give them hope that they can actually do something with their lives, that now they can push themselves to become a better version of themselves and strive for greatness. I want to go back and encourage them to come to RIC, because at the end of the day, it’s a great school. The faculty are amazing and there’s a lot of history here. I love the RIC symbol – the flame. It symbolizes hope. Hope is important to me because I came from a place where there wasn’t much hope.”

Learn more on the Hope Scholarship website.

Hear testimonials from other students: Moses Nicolau, Remi Salako, Olivia Lancellotta, Tytain Sun and Jacqueline Carroll.