Equity Leadership Initiative Inaugural Class of 2021/2022

Ray Nuñez, Alisha Pina and Victoria Rodriguez selected for inaugural Equity Leadership Initiative class

The 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

Ray Nuñez, Alisha Pina and Victoria Rodriguez of East 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.

Nuñez is the co-founder of Nuñez, The People's Agency. Founded in 2020, Nuñez is an anti-racist marketing and branding agency serving progressive causes, companies, and candidates. He serves on several nonprofit and community boards and earned a BS in Graphic Design and Digital Media at Johnson & Wales University.

“I'm most looking forward to the meaningful shared experience and the opportunity to build collective power with the inaugural cohort of the Equity Leadership Initiative. I'm eager to hear the stories of this group and innovate new systems to tackle inequalities, create coalitions, and steward equitable change in Rhode Island."

- Ray Nuñez

Nuñez has a life-long passion for creative storytelling, inclusive community engagement, and building successful brands. Since arriving in the United States from Los Reyes, Michoacán, Mexico in 1999, he has been recognized nationally for his creative work, including design, fundraising, marketing and brand strategy. In 2020, he was named to the Tech Collectives Next Tech Generation list.

Pina plans to launch “Wingspan,” her own communications, marketing and consulting firm, soon. In addition, she consults for small businesses, nonprofits and schools to drive systemic change. Most recently, she was Chief Public Affairs Officer for the state Department of Human Services. Previously, she was a reporter for the Providence Journal where the series “Race in Rhode Island,” of which she wrote pieces for and helped lead, was honored by the National Association of Black Journalists.

"There are so many aspects of this program that I am looking forward to and all of it will take me to a new level of leader for Rhode Island and beyond. I am particularly excited about the energy and inspiration that will be exchanged between the 31 inaugural ELI members as well as the one-on-one coaching and long-lasting connections that will be made."

- Alisha Pina

Pina earned a BS in journalism at Boston University. Among many other community and writing accolades, she was honored as a Woman of Achievement in 2018 by the YWCA Rhode Island. In addition, Pina coordinates and hosts public talks that create a better understanding and healing between age groups, cultures and communities. She performs spoken word pieces such as The ABCs of a Woman, which was recently published in Motif Magazine, and Black Love, Love Black to further empower, unite and bring joy to all. She is also writing her first novel.

“Bullying, low self-esteem, family wounds and race strain were dark muses for my early poetry. Those literary works and others helped land me an internship with the Journal at age 17. My laidback style, eye for the unusual and firm belief that all have a story worth sharing made me stand out. Community and writing awards quickly followed,” she said. “With God leading the way, I will continue to uplift and advocate daily.”

Rodriguez is a Certified Community Health Worker and the Assistant Director of the Care Management Program at the Rhode Island Parent Information Network (RIPIN), a peer-led organization. She serves on several RIPIN committees and co-chairs the Racial Justice Steering Team.

“I am excited about participating in the Equity Leadership Initiative and the opportunity to connect, share and learn from existing leaders of color."

- Victoria Rodriguez

Nuñez, Pina, Rodriguez 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, Janelle Amoako, Ana Barraza, Doris Blanchard, Madeline Burke, Michael Cancilliere, Krystal Carvalho, Angelyne Cooper, Steve Craddock, David Dankwah, Rupa Datta, Yvonne Heredia, Teddi Jallow, Stacy Jones, Silvermoon Mars LaRose, Francisco Lovera, Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi, Monsurat Ottun, Manuela Raposo, Juan Rodriguez, Rosedelma Seraphin, Kajette Solomon, Edward Tavarez, 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.