Equity Leadership Initiative Inaugural Class of 2021/2022

Janelle Amoako, Doris Blanchard, Angelyne Cooper, Steven Craddock and Edward Tavarez selected for inaugural Equity Leadership Initiative class

Goal is to build a pipeline of Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous and multi-racial future leaders in established positions of influence throughout the state

Janelle Amoako, Doris Blanchard, Angelyne Cooper, Steven Craddock and Edward Tavarez of Cranston 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.

Amoako is a nurse at The Miriam Hospital and is pursuing a master’s degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. She earned a BS in nursing at the University of Rhode Island, where she participated in the Student Alliance for the Welfare of Africa, Campus Ministry International, and the Student Nurses Association. In addition, she volunteered and later worked at Clinica Esperanza in Providence.

“As a first generation Ghanaian-American, I feel empowered to be part of the solution in aiding underserved communities. This will be instrumental because of both the mentorship and networking opportunities I will gain. I want to meet more like-minded individuals and also form relationships with people with experiences and knowledge beyond my own. I have a lot to learn, and I am not afraid to say I do not know. This experience will further solidify my path, and I am here for the long-haul."

- Janelle Amoako

Blanchard is Director of Small Business Programs at Rhode Island Commerce, where she manages the Supply RI program, as well as the Small Business Assistance Program, which helps entrepreneurs and small businesses gain access to capital, especially women- and minority-owned enterprises and those in Rhode Island’s underserved communities. She also serves as a Commerce liaison for several state agencies, including the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, the Rhode Island Alliance for Business Resilience and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

"I feel very honored to have been selected among an incredible pool of nearly 100 applicants to join the inaugural cohort of the Equity Leadership Initiative. I’m looking forward to learning from each other, contributing to the cohort, and being part of a group of amazing diverse leaders to make a difference and create a positive impact towards equity, diversity and inclusion."

- Doris Blanchard

Blanchard earned a BS in business administration and computer information systems and a graduate certificate in nonprofit studies from the Center of Public Policy at Rhode Island College.

Blanchard has been honored as the Small Business Administration’s Rhode Island Financial Services Champion of the Year, with Rhode Island College’s Alumni Award, Honor Roll 2013, with the Extraordinary Woman Award in Business Development and with Providence Business News’ 2021 Business Women Award for Government/Quasi-Government Industry Leader.

Cooper is Legal Counsel for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) and an Associate Judge of the Cranston Municipal Court – the first judge of color for the court. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Roger Williams University School of Law.

“I’m looking forward to being in a room with 30 other highly credentialed change agents who look like me."

- Angelyne Cooper

Cooper earned a BS in Criminal Justice, summa cum laude, from Utica College of Syracuse University and a JD, cum laude, from Roger Williams University School of Law where she served as President of the Black Law Students Association and was a member of the Multi-Cultural Law Students Association.

She is a member of the Rules Advisory Committee for the First Circuit Court of Appeals, Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association, Rhode Island Thurgood Marshall Law Society, Rhode Island Hispanic Bar Association, and the Greater Providence RI Chapter of The Links.

Cooper has also served as a City Year Providence AmeriCorps mentor. In 2014, she was appointed by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee as a Commissioner for the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. She is also a member of the board of directors for the Rhode Island Center for Justice and Genesis Center, and a former board member for the Rhode Island Urban Debate League, where she held several leadership positions.

Her prior legal experience includes prison litigation monitoring to ensure that incarcerated individuals with mental health illness received constitutionally adequate mental health care and providing advice and counsel on a wide range of legal issues as an attorney for Rhode Island Legal Services and the city of Providence. She was also a law clerk for the Honorable O. Rogeriee Thompson on the First Circuit Court of Appeals -- one of 12 federal circuit courts of appeals directly underneath the Supreme Court of the United States.

Craddock is the Principal and Managing Partner of TruRay 44 LLC, a Native American-owned strategic resource connector in the areas of access to capital, contract procurement, organizational partnerships and business development for BIPOC small businesses, entrepreneurs and organizations.

“I am elated by the opportunity to be a part of this vibrant leadership experience, to exchange perspectives, nurture personal growth and join colleagues to cultivate a community of change agents for social justice, equity and inclusion."

- Steven Craddock

Craddock earned a BA in Social Psychology at Tufts University. He has more than 25 years of regional experience in executive leadership, management, equity and inclusion, urban affairs and employee relations. He is active with numerous national and local organizations, including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, the Plymouth 400 Board of Directors and the United South and Eastern Tribes.

Craddock serves as a Tribal Councilman and Chairman of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee. Additionally, he is the Secretary of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corp. and liaison to Natural Resources Department.

Tavarez is a Performance Improvement Consultant at The Academy, which is Bank of America’s award-winning onboarding, coaching and development organization dedicated to the success of every client-facing teammate and manager across Consumer & Small Business. He leads a team that specializes in small business servicing. He is active in the community, currently serving on the board for Progreso Latino and The Community Advisory Board for United Way.

“I’m looking forwarding to participating in this inaugural program. I have aspirations to lead and influence in Rhode Island and this program will provide me with the tools I need to achieve this goal."

- Edward Tavarez

Amoako, Blanchard, Cooper, Craddock, Tavarez 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 Adetola Abiade, Adewole Akinbi, Rose Albert, Ana Barraza, Madeline Burke, Michael Cancilliere, Krystal Carvalho, David Dankwah, Rupa Datta, Yvonne Heredia, Teddi Jallow, Stacy Jones, Silvermoon Mars LaRose, Francisco Lovera, Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Ray Nuñez, Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi, Monsurat Ottun, Alisha Pina, Manuela Raposo, Juan Rodriguez, Victoria Rodriguez, Rosedelma Seraphin, Kajette Solomon, Carla Wahnon and Kilah Walters-Clinton.

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.