Media release

31 people selected for second Equity Leadership Initiative class

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

The Rhode Island Foundation has selected 31 people to participate in the second class of its Equity Leadership Initiative (ELI). The program will identify, cultivate, mentor, and seek access and opportunity for individuals who identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial, from across sectors, to help build a pipeline of future leaders for established positions of influence throughout the state.

“This past year, we had the incredible opportunity to provide the space to allow our leaders to be themselves, to honor their respective diversity and to witness their accomplishments. We’re looking forward to meeting and working with the next cohort of leaders and supporting their success,” said Angie Ankoma, ELI executive director and a vice president at the Foundation.

The cohort was selected from nearly 70 applicants. Members identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Indigenous or multi-racial. More than 80 percent identify as women. Members of the cohort work in government as well as the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.

The 12-month leadership development initiative includes monthly group work sessions, regular one-to-one coaching sessions, being matched with a mentor and networking with high-level connections across sectors.

The participants are Michael Almonte, Shameem Awan, Debasree Banerjee, Peter Chung, Betty Clinton, Bryanca Colvin, Melissa Cruz, Frances Dalomba, Amanda-Joy Febles, Libertad Flores, Kassandra Florez, Lehidy Frias, Jennifer Gaviria, Octavian Goncalves, Tami Hughes, Jessica Knight, Rodney Eric López, Niko Merritt, Erendida Montes, Elizabeth Moreira, Luckson Omoaregba, Dorca M. Paulino, Zoila Quezada, Omar Reyes, Arthur Robinson, Hannah Ross, Ratha Sen, Nakita Thomas, Jessica Vega, Maria Elena Wah-Fitta and Wendy Wallace.

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.

“Addressing disparities and inequities is among our fundamental values as well as a focus across all of our work in the community. A racial equity lens is central to our decisions when it comes to allocating resources to improve health, educational success and economic security, among other critical issues,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation.

In addition, the Foundation announced it is funding $2 million to establish an endowed fund that will permanently support the work of its successful Equity Leadership Initiative. The Kraft Family Foundation has also recognized this unique opportunity and committed $100,000 to support current operating expenses.

“Growing opportunities for diverse leaders is something that will take sustained commitment. We are glad to see our contribution is already inspiring others to support this exciting initiative,”

- Steinberg

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 $98 million and awarded $76 million in grants in 2021. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.