Equity Leadership Initiative Inaugural Class of 2021/2022

Adetola Abiade, Adewole Akinbi, Ana Barraza, Yvonne Heredia, Teddi Jallow, Manuela Raposo, Juan Rodriguez, Kajette Solomon and Kilah Walters-Clinton selected for inaugural Equity Leadership Initiative class

They are among just 31 statewide selected for initiative to build a pipeline of Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous and multi-racial future leaders in established positions of influence throughout the state

Adetola Abiade, Adewole Akinbi, Ana Barraza, Yvonne Heredia, Teddi Jallow, Manuela Raposo, Juan Rodriguez, Kajette Solomon and Kilah Walters-Clinton, all of Providence, have been selected to participate in the inaugural class of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI). Through the program, the Foundation will build a pipeline of Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial future leaders for positions of influence throughout the state.

“I am excited to get to work to cultivate the next generation of industry leaders – bank presidents, hospital CEOs, leaders in academia and kindergarten through 12 education, corporate executives, policy-makers, judges and more – who are people of color,” said Angie Ankoma, ELI executive director and a vice president at the Foundation.

Abiade is an Executive Director of Organizational Effectiveness with JPMorgan Chase in Providence. She has 20 years of experience leading global organizational, product, innovation and talent transformation at scale for Fortune 500, mid-size, non-profit and startup companies. She earned a BS in Marketing, Sociology and English at Providence College.

“I am looking forward to networking, building new connections and learning and sharing with colleagues through the program."

- Adetola Abiade

Akinbi is a facilitator with half full llc, where he works on youth development, workforce training, soft skills development and community building. Previously, he worked at Groundwork Providence, the Nonviolence Institute, the Met High School and Plan International USA.

“I am beyond grateful to be a member of the inaugural cohort for the Equity Leadership Initiative. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn and grow with like-minded individuals from across the state. I’m looking forward to engaging in proactive conversations on how to move our state into the future with new and creative ideas on how to solve old challenges. This will be a year of learning, growth and personal development for all members selected to the ELI.”

- Adewole Akinbi

Akinbi earned a BA in communications at Rhode Island College, where he was president of Harambee, the school’s multicultural student organization. He is OSHA 10 certified.

“I am committed to empowering and training the youth of our state to create a solid core of new age Leaders from the next generation,” he said.

Barraza is the Interim Director of Diversity and Outreach at Roger Williams University Law School. Previously, she worked at Brown University, Texas Woman's University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University, Stonehill College and Semester at Sea.

"I am always excited when I have the opportunity to engage with people that are making an impact. I am looking forward to the engagement with this cohort and the knowledge that each one of us brings and will share in the inaugural Equity Leadership Initiative."

- Ana Barraza

Barraza is a shelter advocate with the Crossroads Domestic Violence Program, teaches at College Unbound, serves on the boards of the Paul Cuffee School and the Nuestro Mundo Public Charter School, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Theta Psi Omega chapter.

She earned a BA in English Literature with a concentration in African/African-American literature and an MS in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in College Student Personnel from the University of Rhode Island.

Heredia is a senior manager of Care Management at Neighborhood Health Plan of RI. She earned a BS in Nursing at Rhode Island College, an MS in Nursing Administration at the University of Rhode Island and a PhD in Public Health at Walden University.

“Change happens when enough people speak up in the same voice. ‘A voice with action’ is what I hope to glean from this experience."

- Yvonne Heredia

Heredia has more than 20 years of expertise in women’s health and birth outcomes, particularly related to social determinants of health, health disparities and population based health. She volunteers regularly at homeless shelters, recreation centers and schools to provide education on health topics that are both culturally and linguistically appropriate.

Jallow is the co-founder of the Refugee Dream Center. A refugee from The Gambia who arrived in the United State in 2009, she is a Certified Nursing Assistant, certified Medical Technician and certified Community Health Worker and is pursuing a degree in Health Promotion at Rhode Island College.

“Being part of the ELI program is particularly meaningful to me because it will avail me with networking opportunities, training, and boost the resources and skills I need to engage in my area of work. I am confident that the program will make me become a more effective leader who can adapt to changes even if it means getting out of my comfort zone, build my confidence and turn big opportunities into big wins."

- Teddi Jallow

Raposo is President of the RI Welcome Back Center (RIWBC), a not-for-profit agency that provides resources to internationally trained professionals in Rhode Island. In addition, she is Director of Student Placement for the Providence Public School District.

"I am looking forward to the opportunity of sharing experiences with like-minded individuals who are as eager as I am to grow, learn, and use this newfound knowledge to make positive changes in our communities."

- Manuela Raposo

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Raposo serves on the boards of Clinica Esperanza, the Mount Hope Community Center, The Welcome Back Initiative and The RI Welcome Back Center. She earned a medical doctorate at the Universidad Iberoamericana in the Dominican Republic.

Juan Rodriguez is Executive Director at Winners Circle XR Academy, where he provides diverse education and training- based experiences under the Virtual and Augmented Reality umbrella. In addition, the Providence resident is also a Career and Technical Education teacher at Hope High School in Providence.

“I am looking forward to working alongside some of RI's best leaders to disrupt the status quo and provide fresh, new meaningful solutions for our communities."

- Juan Rodriguez

In 2020, Rodriguez was named to the Tech Collectives Tech 10 Awards list. He earned a BA in Communications and is pursuing a MEd in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in technology integration at Southern New Hampshire University.

Solomon is the first Social Equity and Inclusion Program Specialist at the RISD Museum, where she manages the museum’s efforts to build an equitable, diverse and inclusive institution. She develops programs for the museum’s staff, volunteers, students and board of directors related to anti-racist pedagogy, teaching, research and interpretation of the collection.

“I am most looking forward to being a part of this network of like-minded social justice equity partners to move Rhode Island forward in becoming a more inclusive place to live and work."

- Kajette Solomon

In addition to her work at the museum, the Providence resident is the New England regional director on the board of the American Association of Museum Volunteers. She earned a BA in Art History at Arcadia University and an MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the State University of New York at Purchase College.

Walters-Clinton is Director of Race Equity for the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Previously, she had served as a Probation & Parole Officer and a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisor. She earned a BA in Social Science and a masters in Counseling Education at Providence College. She is a doctoral candidate in Johnson & Wales University's Education & Leadership Program. She stewards The Providence Shelter for Colored Children Foundation..

“The more we share, the more we learn. The Equity Leadership Initiative’s ability to harness a unique collective of knowledge and experiences, makes it a visionary professional development program."

- Kilah Walters-Clinton

Abiade, Barraza, Heredia, Jallow, Raposo, Rodriguez, Solomon, Walters-Clinton and the other members of the inaugural class were selected from nearly 100 applicants. Members identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial. Nearly 75 percent identify as women. Members of the cohort work across a variety of sectors.

The 12-month leadership development initiative is scheduled to begin in September. In addition to monthly half-day group meetings, participants will receive regular one-to-one coaching sessions, will develop a personal leadership vision and goals; will be matched with a mentor and will make high-level connections across industries.

The other participants are Adewole Akinbi, Rose Albert, Janelle Amoako, Doris Blanchard, Madeline Burke, Michael Cancilliere, Krystal Carvalho, Angelyne Cooper, Steve Craddock, David Dankwah, Rupa Datta, Stacy Jones, Silvermoon Mars LaRose, Francisco Lovera, Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Ray Nuñez, Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi, Monsurat Ottun, Alisha Pina, Victoria Rodriguez, Rosedelma Seraphin, Edward Tavarez and Carla Wahnon.

The leadership program is just one facet of the Rhode Island Foundation’s broad, 3-year, $8.5 million plan to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and access – with a first focus on racial equity – above and beyond its traditional yearly grant-making.

Recent work includes creating a capacity-building program to support nonprofits led by Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial executive directors or other decision-makers within an organization; and launching a grant program to help nonprofits create anti-racist organizational cultures.

“Eliminating disparities and inequities is among our core values, and is a major focus across all of our work in the community. We use a racial equity lens while making decisions about allocating resources to improve health, educational success and economic security among other critical issues."

- Neil D. Steinberg, Foundation president & CEO

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.