Letter: Turning RI's Economy Around Starts with Education

A letter from the co-director of the Newport County Mentor Co-Op Group. The first STEAM summit will be held at Salve Regina in April.

(Patch file photo)
(Patch file photo)

One of the keys to turning around our economy around in Rhode Island is enhancement of our educational offerings.

We have excellent teachers and administrations but they need the tools and funding to support programs to better prepare our students and provide them with careers needed to fulfill the needs of industry in Rhode Island.

There are jobs that are not being fulfilled in Rhode Island because employers cannot find adequately trained help. This is not the fault of our teachers or administrations — they need the resources and the focus of government in the science, technology, engineering, arts and math fields (STEAM).

A STEAM program is similar to existing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere except that we are endorsing that addition of the “A” for the arts and the Rhode Island School of Design into the mix, to provide a strategic strength and a very important creative component into the mix for Rhode Island. 

There is no unified top down approach in Rhode Island to address this lacking systems issue. No system has been designed to address the need in a positive fashion. Again, we have excellent teachers and administrators who love to come to come to work each day and perform excellent services for their students, but we have system issues. We need a top down, holistic resolution of the problem from the Governor’s office on down.

This same problem existed in other states and they took proactive measures to address the problem, especially in Massachusetts.

I am a co-director of the Newport County Mentor Co-Op Group. Our members are volunteers from industry, public service and the education sectors. Our prime focus is to provide mentoring and internship opportunities for Newport County high school students. It has been an honor to work with such a great group of dedicated individuals for more than five years.

We met with the Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist a few weeks ago and she agreed to attend, support and participate in a meeting that our group is sponsoring along with Salve Regina University and many others. The STEAM Summit RI- the Launch will address these issues at the Pell Center on the Salve Regina Campus on April 3rd from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

At this summit, we will present ongoing programs that are working in other states to address these issues. We’ll discuss solutions from the different perspectives, including lessons learned, the education industry, and the legislative pillars of balancing needs and resources in Rhode Island and elsewhere.

If you would like to attend please email Tiverton School based coordinator Linda Larsen at llarsen@tivertonschool.org

We feel that Rhode Island needs STEAM policies and goals, a STEAM Office in the Department of Education, a STEAM Council reporting to the Governor and a continuation of the STEAM Summit as an annual event.

We have also Invited gubernatorial candidates to attend the Summit to share with them the tools available to solve our system problems and help them to a create a vibrant platform to use when they win office. A platform to solve our educational system issues in our great state of Rhode Island.   

The timing with the upcoming governors race for this systems approach to our problems is ideal 

We ask for public support of the STEAM Summit RI-The Launch, we feel that a large portion of the solutions to our economic problems exist with the enhancement of educational platforms and can be solved with a proactive united effort by our citizens to address them, our great teachers, administrators and of course our students deserve the best from us and no less. 

- Chris Semonelli
Co-Director, Newport County Mentor Co-Op Group


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