Two Cranston students awarded R.I. Foundation scholarships

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Two Cranston students are among six high school seniors who will head off to freshman year sharing $100,000 in college scholarships from the Rhode Island Foundation.

Taleen Donoyan and Diana Iglesias will receive the four-year, renewable scholarships the Foundation's Roger Williams Initiative, which honors the state's founding farther. Conceived of and funded by philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the annual program will begin accepting applications from next year's senior class in October.

"Roger Williams believed in the importance of learning from those around him. Thanks to the foresight of the Carters, we are able to inspire students and their parents to think big about what's possible for their future," said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation's president and CEO.

More than 120 students applied for this inaugural round of scholarships. The six recipients were selected based on financial need, appreciation for Roger Williams' values and record of academic achievement and community service.

"It is clear from the quality of the applications that these students see Roger Williams as a set of living ideals and not just an historical figure. We hope our support helps these six young people achieve great things," said John Carter.

Donoyan plans to attend the University of Rhode Island.

"The Roger Williams Scholarship has not only provided me the opportunity to become more confident about being able to comfortably accomplish my goals in higher education, but has molded me into a more confident individual having my accomplishments and achievements be validated in such a rewarding and honorable way," she said. "I am very optimistic for what my goals in Nursing hold and the Roger Williams scholarship is another helping hand to guide me towards a successful career and college experience, and for that I am very thankful."

In her application, Donoyan had this to say about the impact Roger Williams still has today.

"Roger Williams' drive, determination and resilience gave him the all the power and means to achieve his goals and become a pioneer and advocate for freedom and tolerance in religion, culture and simply matters of conscience and new ideas. In my life, whether in school, outside of school, in my community and beyond, these traits that Roger Williams exemplified through his achievements have helped me to develop my own methods of success and have helped mold my character into the independent, ambitious and passionate Rhode Islander that I am today," she wrote.

"As a first generation citizen of immigrant parents from Syria and Lebanon, I have been told the stories of my parents' journeys to America in order to escape a life of war and begin building a new life in what they saw as the promised land. I have been brought up in a family of determined and driven people - people who appear as any average folk, but in reality have endured hardship, resistance and brutality, just as Roger Williams himself experienced in his journey in establishing the Providence Plantations, in hopes of revolutionizing peoples' thoughts on new and different religion, culture and lifestyles," Donoyan wrote.

"Much the same, Roger Williams, having been banished from the Massachusetts colony in 1635, did not throw away what he had learned in his years as a minister and reformed theologian. Instead he used it to his advantage, maintaining his integrity and pushing through adversity- having no land accept his beliefs, he established his own colony, offering refuge to those who had endured his same fate and were drawn to his "new and dangerous ideas," she added.

Iglesias plans to attend Providence College.

"The Roger Williams scholarship has impacted me tremendously. It gave me a boost of confidence, knowing that I can attend a college and not have to worry about financial circumstances, and I can attain my goal of majoring in the business field," she said.

In her application, Iglesias had this to say about the impact Roger Williams still has today.

"It is still so surreal to me, so many intelligent students at my school competing, and with my devotion I achieved it all and managed to get through all my four years of high school, like Roger Williams' devotion led him to many of his achievements," she wrote. "I had implemented Roger Williams' characteristics of diligence to continue striving for my aspiration and goals, because I am proud to be an educated Latina, proving to many individuals that we can all achieve our dreams if we put our minds to it, just like Roger Williams."

Joining Donoyan and Iglesias as this year's scholarship recipients are Kelsey Dellinger of North Kingstown, Fatou Dieng of Woonsocket, Ngan "Kim" Le of Woonsocket and Night Jean Muhingabo of Providence.

In addition to the scholarships, the Roger Williams Initiative includes a free online education hub offering activities and discussion starters on Roger Williams and his teachings for elementary, middle and high school educators to use in their classrooms. The site - findingrogerwilliams.com - also offers researchers a comprehensive collection of verifiable information about Roger Williams, his life, legacy and character.

"By providing access to resources and opportunities inspired by our state's founder and his teachings, we are promoting a sense of place and awareness for all Rhode Islanders," said Jessica David, the Foundation's senior vice president for strategy and community investment, who led the project.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2016, the Foundation awarded a record $45 million in grants to organizations addressing the state's most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit www.rifoundation.org.

ROGER THAT:

Cranston residents Taleen Donoyan and Diana Iglesias are among six high school seniors who will head off to freshman year sharing $100,000 in college scholarships from the Rhode Island Foundation.

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