From Rhode Island to All: Latino Policy Institute’s Vision for America

In the tapestry of the American narrative, every thread tells a story. The Latino strand, vibrant and enduring, weaves a saga of courage, aspirations, and a spirit that knows no bounds. Yet, for all its luminance, its potential has often been shadowed by challenges that demand acknowledgment and action. At the forefront of this change stands the Latino Policy Institute (LPI), an organization steadfast in its mission to amplify the Latino voice, shed light on its experiences, and ignite transformational change.

Rhode Island has been more than just a geographic location for LPI; it’s where our heart beats, our mission finds its footing, and our vision takes flight. Over the past 14 years, our commitment to the Latino community here has been unwavering. But as with every story that demands to be told, ours is now ready to resonate across the nation.

In recent years, LPI has been a vanguard of transformational change, championing pivotal legislation that uplifts the Latino community and other underserved groups. Among these groundbreaking enactments are the “Let RI Vote Act,” a beacon ensuring enhanced voting accessibility in Rhode Island; the “Cover All Kids” initiative, a compassionate step that provides healthcare to undocumented children under the age of 19; and the “Safe Roads Act,” a culmination of over a decade’s advocacy, offering driving privileges to undocumented residents. Each piece of legislation is a testament to our unwavering commitment to inclusivity and equity.

Education has long been our compass. The vision? An America where every Latino child’s academic journey is reflective of their cultural wealth, where linguistic diversity is not just accommodated but celebrated. “At the heart of LPI’s mission is the unwavering belief that every child, irrespective of their background, should have access to a rich, empowering education,” states Marcela Betancur, Executive Director of the Latino Policy Institute.

But our narrative continues beyond education. Imagine an America where healthcare isn’t just a service but a right. Where healthcare practices speak the language of cultural sensitivity, and wellness is an attainable goal for every individual. “Our dedication is to ensure that healthcare extends beyond just being available. It needs to be inclusive, comprehensive, and tailored to the needs of the Latino community,” shares Diony Garcia, a longstanding supporter, and outgoing LPI board co-chair.

Our tapestry, while vivid and intricate, remains unfinished. There are stories yet to be written, challenges to overcome, and triumphs to celebrate. This is where our community, our partners, and supporters come in. Your belief in our mission, investment in our vision, and commitment to driving change are pivotal to the livelihood, empowerment, and success of Latinos across the country.

As we stand on the cusp of this new chapter, we extend an invitation to be part of our story. Join us at Latinos Unidos: Celebrating our Past, Building our Future on October 26th from 6-8:30 at Shark’s Peruvian Cuisine at 1420 Broad St, Central Falls, RI 02863There will be plenty of parking, live music, delicious food celebrating our Latinidad, and great company. We will honor champions, reflect on our journey, and chart the path ahead. Rhode Island remains our anchor, but our story is now America’s story. Join us in shaping it.

Visit for more information about Latinos Unidos and to purchase tickets.Â

Marcela Betancur is the Executive Director of the Latino Policy Institute (LPI), with a decade of experience advocating for social equity and empowering Latino communities. Her dedication to education, health, and economic empowerment has expanded LPI’s mission to embrace Latino communities nationwide.

Cover Photo Courtesy: North Central Regional Center For Rural Development

Diaz-Jusino appointed a Strategic Initiative Officer

PROVIDENCE – Carmen Díaz-Jusino has been appointed a Strategic Initiative Officer at the Rhode Island Foundation, where she will be responsible for leading the Foundation’s activities and grant-making for economic security.

“Carmen’s diverse experience in small business development and job training make her a natural to lead our economic security strategic priority,� said Jenny Pereira, vice president of grants and community investments. “She understands the role of philanthropy in sparking community change and is committed to improving the economic security of all Rhode Islanders.�

Díaz-Jusino came to the Foundation from Bank Newport, where she served as a vice president and community development officer. Previous to that, she served as Vice President of Programs and Community Development at the Center for Women & Enterprise and was a Bilingual Business and Employment Specialist with Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island.

The Providence resident received her undergraduate degree from the Universidad del Caribe, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and received an M.S. in Organizational Management and Leadership from Springfield College.

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 $75 million and awarded $84 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities last year.

How We Cover Democracy: LNN’s Promise

Almost one year ago, the Latino News Network pivoted its coverage to focus on local Hispanic / Latino communities’ relationships and involvement with democracy.

In the United States, a rich history of inaccessibility and general distrust between communities of color and governmental systems has led to exclusive representation and participation within democratic processes.

Our newsroom is committed to actively listening and building trust with the diverse communities we serve so we can provide relevant, accurate, nonpartisan, and in-depth coverage year-round that civically informs and motivates underrepresented and underserved residents.

All six digital news and information outlets under the Latino News Network have also taken a collaborative approach to motivate and support communities through solutions-focused reporting rather than problem-focused coverage.

We will continue this work by practicing collaboration, inclusion, and transparency:

  • We have partnered with trusted organizations to accurately inform the public and expand the reach of our coverage to combat misinformation.
  • Our team continues to actively listen to our audiences through surveys and events rather than assuming what communities need or would like to know.
  • LNN’s democracy coverage will follow the interests, concerns, and needs of voters throughout the year — rather than solely focusing on the candidates or a single day (Election Day).

Across all six digital outlets this year, we have partnered with Be The Ones (a national grassroots organization dedicated to civically informing and engaging residents), produced statewide voter guides, and examined active or proposed legislation relevant to our audiences.

As our reporting and civic engagement efforts continue, it is crucial for us to adjust and adapt our work to meet the needs and interests of the communities we serve across the East Coast and Midwest.

Our newsroom sees these communities as more than just our audience; they are our collaborators. Community insight and feedback continually shapes our work.

Please take a moment to answer the short questionnaire below. We want to hear from you—What issues would you like to see reported on more? How can we improve our coverage or community engagement?


A few of our practices—including active community listening, emphasizing transparency, and collaborating with trusted organizations—have been adopted from NH Latino News and RI Latino News’ participating in the Democracy SOS Fellowship. Run by Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN), the initiative looks to build understanding, trust, and engagement between U.S.-based newsrooms and the communities they cover.

Rhode Island’s Urban Communities See Less State Education Funding, More Pandemic-Related Learning Loss

The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) is urging the General Assembly to reevaluate and adjust how it distributes education funding across the state. 

A recent report from RIPEC revealed that districts including Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick, and Woonsocket represent about one-third of state-wide student enrollment yet received less than half of all new funding over the past three years. 

“Rhode Island faces particular challenges when it comes to education funding because our communities are so diverse,â€� shared Jeff Hamill of RIPEC. “We have several districts with very low property wealth and high concentrations of poor students that are heavily reliant on state funding.â€� 

While funding for multilingual learners has increased in recent years, RIPEC suggests that the General Assembly improves the funding formula it uses to better calculate students living in poverty and the needs of underserved Rhode Island districts.  

“…In Rhode Island, there are several communities with property wealth much lower than the state overall and dramatically lower than more affluent communities. Many of these municipalities with the least ability to raise property tax revenues for education also have much higher concentrations of economically disadvantaged and multilingual students—who require greater educational resources,â€� reads the July RIPEC Policy Brief. “Consequently, these communities rely heavily on state funding to provide an adequate education for their students. 

Another report released this past spring found that students across Rhode Island lost over four months of learning math and two months of learning reading amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Researchers at Harvard and Stanford University conducted the Education Recovery Scorecard, a nationwide report that evaluates learning loss between 2019 and 2022. The report compiles data from 8,000 communities in 40 states and Washington D.C. 

“What we did was we pulled together all of the results on last spring’s assessments from different states and put them on the same scale so you could compare the losses by districts across states,â€� said Thomas Kane of Harvard University. 

The report revealed that South Kingstown students lost almost nine months in learning math and over five months in reading, Newport students saw up to eight months of learning loss in math and over six months of learning loss in reading. 

Districts including Providence, Woonsocket, Westerly, North Providence, Cranston, West Warwick, Pawtucket, East Providence, and Chariho lost around six months of learning in math and three months in reading. 

The only district that did not show any learning loss in math or reading during the pandemic was Narragansett. 

Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green has previously shared that it will take around three to five years for students to catch up, according to NBC 10 WJAR.

The Puerto Ricans Illegally Occupying Land to Resist Displacement

Hispanics represented about 14.6 percent of Rhode Island’s total population in 2017. About 38,860 residents across the state identified as Puerto Rican. As many of these residents remain closely connected to the Caribbean island, issues like access to high-quality community services similarly impact these extended communities.

RI Latino News covers the five social determinants of health to highlight how community organizations and services are integral to public health.

This story was supported by the journalism non-profit the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and co-published with The Real News Network/ 9 Millones

CAGUAS, PR — In front of a mural that reads “Only the people save the people,” Marisel Robles Gutiérrez stood before a group of elderly adults, to make an announcement: the non-profit organization Comedores Sociales had gained ownership of the abandoned property that they occupied in 2017 by negotiating with a real estate investment company.

With a slightly cracked voice and smiling, she said: “We rescued this building… we gave it life, and thanks to all these years, to all the people who have participated,â€� —she interrupted and placed her hands to her chest— “finally, we can announce today that it is ours.”  

Immediately, the twenty or so participants and volunteers of Super Solidario, a grocery store focused on offering affordable food, applauded. The people drumrolled on the table and cheered. The Mutual Aid Center (CAM for its Spanish acronym), which was founded in September 2017 to address hunger in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, would not be evicted. 

“The CAM is ours and it belongs to all of Puerto Rico,” they chanted on February 13, when the feat was announced to the community.

“Achieving this victory was like taking something out of the claws of the vultures and celebrating it,” said Robles Gutiérrez, who joined Comedores Sociales in 2018. 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, community groups throughout different parts of Puerto Rico have rescued vacant lands and transformed them into spaces for social and community development. While some, like CAM, have been able to acquire the ownership of the property, others, like the Huerto Comunitario San Mateo del Batatal, remain uncertain about whether they will be able to keep the space they reclaimed. 

 “It was a space that was totally abandoned, it was even scary. We entered illegally and cleaned it up,” said Arnaldo López López, one of the residents who helped transform the space on Carolina Street in the Santurce neighborhood. The neighbors —who had gone hungry during the Hurricane Maria emergency— worked the land, built wooden beds and began planting. In a short time, papayas, eggplants and broccoli —among other vegetables— sprouted where once there was decay. 

“Progress is not just cement, buildings and construction. Progress can be agriculture.”

Arnaldo López López

While the community initially had permission from an owner who inherited the property, its future now rests in the hands of an investment company. 

In 2019, PDDK Opportunity Zone Fund LLC purchased properties 1617 and 1619, where the garden was located, for $125,000. It paid almost all of it in cash to the seller, Mayra Franqui Rodriguez, according to the deed of sale. 

In several deeds of sales, David Kingsley is listed as the president of the Board of Directors of PDDK Opportunity Zone Fund. The investor, who resides in Manhattan, New York, did not agree to an interview.

Members of the Huerto are negotiating with Kingsley to rent the land for $1 a month, or at least until he decides what to do with the property. Meanwhile, uncertainty is growing among the neighbors, who no longer devote the same amount of time and energy to harvesting in their community garden, but they still hope to collectively buy the property and return the land to its productive days, López López said. 

Huerto San Mateo in its most productive time. Photo by Reymesh Cintrón.

In the case of CAM, MR CTC Caguas acquired the title to the property in 2015. The limited liability company is connected to Morgan Reed PR, according to the State Department’s corporate registry. The property sat abandoned for 7 years, until, in 2022, the corporation threatened to evict Comedores Sociales, according to Robles Gutierrez.  “Either you rent it or I’ll have you out in 30 days,” was the ultimatum. The community, which had invested $120,000 in the property, replied that the space belonged to them and began to negotiate.

Morgan Reed is a real estate investment company that has been expanding its operations in Puerto Rico. One of its executives, Brian Tenenbaum, applied for and received the tax decree for foreign investors in December 2014, according to the Department of Economic Development and Commerce’s (DDEC for its Spanish acronym) public database. Tenenbaum did not agree to be interviewed.

Since the administration of former Governor Luis Fortuño created Law 22 of 2012 (now under Law 60), there is a continuous annual increase in the granting of these tax privileges that benefit foreign investors moving to Puerto Rico. With this tax exemption, they pay 0% in capital gains taxes, compared to tax rates of 9 to 33%, paid by residents.

In addition, the government is offering up to 40% in tax credits for those investing in tourism development. Another federal law, approved in 2017, created the Opportunity Zone Program, which grants a full tax exemption on profits produced in low-income communities, if the investment is sustained for 10 years, according to DDEC. The United States Department of the Treasury and the Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) declared 98 percent of Puerto Rico an “opportunity zone.”

“These spaces are ours, this territory belongs to us and we are going to develop it as we understand we should develop it,” said Zeus Omar, of Urbe Apie, an organization whose members have occupied 8 abandoned spaces in the urban center of Caguas, and have already identified a couple dozen additional spaces they want to acquire by 2030.

“If we don’t rescue our spaces, who is going to do it? The ones who are doing it [now] the ones from abroad… and then, they make a lot of Airbnbs and make rent very expensive in the community and people will not be able to pay it, they will have to leave,” concluded Omar. 

Bianca Graulau directed the video report that was adapted to text by Laura Quintero. Camille Padilla Dalmau and proofreader Luis Alfaro of 9 Millones contributed to the written version of this report.

Publisher’s Notes: RI Latino News partners with 9 Millones in best serving Rhode Island’s diverse Hispanic/Latino communities. 

The Latino Policy Institute Looks To Expand Efforts Nationally

The Latino Policy Institute (LPI) at Roger Williams University is set to transition to an independent research and advocacy organization starting July 1, leaving the Bristol-based university after 17 years of operation. 

The institute announced its departure on April 24 as the organization looks to expand its education, research, and advocacy work on a national level. 

“LPI has shaped public policy discourse by objectively researching and communicating the evolving Latino experience in Rhode Island for the past 17 years,â€� the institute shared in a press release. “With the move towards independence, LPI is excited to explore new opportunities for impact and continue its critical work toward greater social, political, and economic equity for the country’s growing Latino community.â€�  

The organization plans to offer additional consulting, reporting, and advising projects that amplify and support the needs of diverse Latino communities across the country.

“During its partnership with Roger Williams University, LPI has been instrumental in shaping policy decisions related to important issues such as health disparities, driving privileges for undocumented immigrants, and housing for Latinos in Rhode Island,� shared LPI Executive Director Marcela Betancur. “As LPI sets its sights on national impact, it is excited to continue collaborating with Roger Williams University and other higher education institutions on research and projects that serve the Latino community.�

Founded in 2005, the institute moved to RWU’s Providence campus in 2009. LPI’s new offices will be in the Olneyville neighborhood, according to Betancur.

“Roger Williams University is proud to have been a partner of the Latino Policy Institute, which has made a tremendous impact through its work and continues to serve as the leading voice of education and advocacy on the most important issues facing Latinos in Rhode Island,� commented RWU President Ioannis N. Miaoulis. “While LPI is ready to start moving in new and independent ways, we still look forward to continuing to partner with them on research and projects that serve Rhode Island and the Latino community.� 

Supporting Youth of Color in Civic Engagement

RI Latino News covers the social determinants of health and democracy.

Informing and supporting marginalized communities on civic engagement gives underrepresented and underserved individuals the tools to advocate for issues most important and urgent to them.

PROVIDENCE — Andrea Gonzalez Sanchez sat right by the door, greeting students as they shuffled in for Young Voices’ regular Monday and Thursday afternoon programming. Seven years ago, she was one of those students—now, Gonzalez Sanchez helps lead the meetings as one of the organization’s program coordinators. 

At 13 years old, Gonzalez Sanchez immigrated to Providence with her mother and enrolled in Providence Public Schools. Missing all her friends back in the Dominican Republic, Gonzalez Sanchez longed for that sense of community she had back home but her limited English skills seemed to hold her back from connecting with her new classmates. 

On top of that, Gonzalez Sanchez had to prioritize finding a way to make income, even though job opportunities are greatly limited for youth under 18 years old. Fortunately, a distant relative mentioned the Young Voices Summer Workforce Program to Gonzalez Sanchez.

“And that cousin was like, ‘hey, I’m doing this summer program and they’re giving us money for just being there,’ and I was like, ‘bruh, I need money,’� she said in an interview inside the State House.

Gonzalez Sanchez thought she would give the program a shot and learn more about it. However, she quickly learned that her undocumented status might cause issues with payment and she began to worry that she could not participate in the program. 

“Luckily, Young Voices is a place where, regardless of your documentation, they’re willing to support you and provide for you,â€� Gonzalez Sanchez said. “They immediately provided me with resources and even money, regardless of any status that I got.â€� 

After the summer program, Gonzalez Sanchez entered her freshman year of high school with a new sense of reassurance that she had external support moving forward and adjusting to her new home. 

“I became really in love with everything that they were doing,â€� she said. “Mainly because I didn’t really have any other community that was so supportive of me learning English, that was so supportive of me growing into a person.â€� 

Rhode Island’s youth population becomes increasingly diverse each year. 

In 2020, about 47 percent of Rhode Island residents under 18 identified as youth of color—with 27 percent being Hispanic/Latino and six percent being Black or African American. More than half of these students live in urban areas including Providence and Central Falls, according to the 2022 RI KIDS COUNT Factbook.

Inclusive and culturally-informed support can make a significant impact on their lives, Gonzalez Sanchez expressed.   

Photo courtesy of Andrea Gonzalez Sanchez (left).

The annual summer program provides six weeks of intensive workplace readiness training for youth entering 9th to 12th grade. The program also offers a $750 stipend to participating students who engage in a variety of industry projects and educational workshops on skills such as resume writing and interview etiquette. 

“They were so mindful and understanding of the fact that I wanted to have a voice and I might have not had the language for it, I might have not had the skills for it, but I was a very powerful person and all that I needed to do was to get out…of any walls that I had built or that society had built around me.

Andrea Gonzalez Sanchez

By the time she was 15 years old, Gonzalez Sanchez decided that she needed to move out of her living situation at the time. 

“I was like ‘Okay, I really need to leave my home soon, it’s not a happy environment for me or a healthy one’, and [Young Voices Staff] were like ‘Okay, we’re gonna help you build a resume, we’re gonna help you get those jobs, we’re gonna make sure that we still support you,’â€� she shared. “I ended up getting so many jobs thanks to them and I had such good time management thanks to them—that I was in school, working, educating others, advocating, I was doing all of that. And by the time I was 17, I had $10,000 and I was able to go.â€� 

Photo courtesy of Andrea Gonzalez Sanchez.

Classical High School student Wujuudat Balogun also found a welcoming community in Young Voices at 13 years old, one that has inspired her to become more civically engaged.  

“So, with these programs, I took a huge step because I never really did any advocacy work before I got into Young Voices,� Balogun shared that she first got involved because she thought it would look good on her college resume. “My advice is to be impulsive, just do it—let’s see what comes out of it.�

“Because these programs that from the outside wouldn’t look like something that would help you in the future are actually the best thing to help you with achieving your dreams in the future,” she said.

Young Voices program coordinators and a few members (Wujuudat Balogun, bottom left) gather for a photo after a Leadership Transformation Academy (LTA) meeting on Monday, April 17. Photo by Belén Dumont.

March 9th: Youth-Led Call To Action Rally

Balogun was one of several student speakers at a youth-led Call To Action Rally, organized by Young Voices RI, in early March. 

“Out-of-school programs create a space where youth can build community with others and start a path to pave their own future,� she shared with the room of about 30 students. “If not for Young Voices, well, I wouldn’t be right here where I am today…because of spaces like this, I have been given opportunities to be a part of different things, like national panels and conferences where youth voice is the center of decision making.�

At the State House event, students emphasized the need and importance of policies that advocate for a culturally-inclusive school environment, specifically referring to current history curriculums and cafeteria food options.

“If I go to school, I want to learn about my history,� Balogun said, as a few students snapped their fingers in agreement. “I need the cultural difference to be there because the students already have cultural differences, why can’t the curriculum have the same?� 

“We deserve to learn about all types of cultures and learn about our own history,� Mariah Ajiboye said at the event. “I cannot stress this enough…everyone deserves to feel equal in the classroom and not to feel put down in a classroom.� 

Youth speakers also expressed concern about students struggling with mental health, bringing up the lack of counselors but the abundance of police officers in schools.  

“As a kid, I remember feeling misunderstood and not really seen. As a result of this, I would get in fights with my teachers and peers…people would label me as a troublemaker, as a bad kid,� shared Village Green Virtual Charter High School student Jully Myrthil. “I felt really cast out, there were opportunities to practice restorative practice that would have allowed me to break down the walls that I built up.�

Restorative justice practices look to address the root causes of a youth’s actions by centering their voice in an open dialogue between them and community members. Juvenile justice reform advocates like Citizens for Juvenile Justice in Massachusetts continue to push for legislation that will expand these practices. 

“Youth need to feel that our mental health and well-being are not just considered but a priority. Students feel that there’s—one—not enough counselors, social workers, and resources at our schools and—two—not nearly enough resources for restorative practices to support youth that are labeled as having challenging behavior that may just be struggling with mental health and other factors at home.� 

Jully Myrthil

Students nodded and clapped in support as their peers took turns at the podium, sharing their personal experiences that many could relate to. At 5:30 p.m., the event came to a close and the room broke into a buzz of excitement and encouragement. 

“Advocacy is not something that just comes up on a whim,â€� Balogun had explained. “Advocacy is like that small voice inside your head telling you ‘something is wrong’ and you should go change it because nobody else is changing it. And you could be the first… So, all you have to do is just try.â€�

Learn more about Young Voices RI at

Ignacio Dominguez-Coronado, recipient of the Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship

Ignacio Dominguez-Coronado, a junior at California Baptist University, is the winner of the 2023 Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship.

Among Dominguez-Coronado’s many accomplishments is as the executive producer of Lancers Noticias, a Spanish language, student-run program on CBU-TV. He also writes for the Banner Newspaper, Pursuit magazine, and his hometown newspaper, Peninsula 360.

“Broadcast news intrigued me, but I didn’t see myself reflected in the profession – in the reporters, anchors, or even in the stories,â€� said Dominguez-Coronado. “My experience living through duality clarifies the importance of representation and allows me to identify strengths and struggles of my communities and tell their stories.â€�

Dominguez-Coronado was an intern with NBC Nightly News, and credits the experience for his interest in pursuing a career as a producer.

Domínguez-Coronado with José Díaz-Balart, anchor, NBC News

Dominguez-Coronado is the twelfth Hispanic-Latino student to receive an HZF Scholarship. The fund was created in 2016 by Hugo Balta, twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and owner/publisher of Rhode Island Latino News (RILN), one of six independent news outlets overseen by the Latino News Network (LNN), as a way to help students while honoring the legacy of his abuelita, Hortencia Zavala.

René Franco Rubio, 2019 Hortencia Zavala 👵� Foundation Scholarship recipient, Arizona Latino Media Association (ALMA)

Mike Gramajo, 2019 Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship 👵� recipient, NAHJ Central Florida Chapter

Since its inception, HZF has worked with NAHJ national and local professional chapters in identifying worthy candidates. “NAHJ has been working with the Hortenzia Zavala Foundation since it launched, and we’re happy to partner with them again this year to award a scholarship to a deserving student. Investing in students’ education is one of the key ways NAHJ supports emerging journalists in their efforts to work in the field. These students then become another avenue for having newsrooms represent the communities they cover,â€� said David Peña, Jr. NAHJ Executive Director.

Balta commented on the partnership with NAHJ, saying, “I know firsthand the benefit of the NAHJ in nurturing journalists professionally and personally. HZF is grateful to continue to collaborate in helping students like Ignacio, on their path of success.�

In 2021, HZF expanded its support of young journalists to include a journalism camp.

Covering race, ethnicity, and culture: a guideline for fair and accurate storytelling, led by Balta, is a free 12-week course designed to go beyond the inverted pyramid of basic news writing in examining the terminology, usage, and word choice of stories providing greater visibility and understanding of deep-rooted inequities in all aspects of society.

“The objectivity v. transparency presentation was the most relevant because as journalists of color we are often told that our experiences will create biased stories,� said Jacqueline Cardenas, DePaul University. “The conversation that came from the lecture was interesting too because it uncovered the ways objectivity can be used as a way to silence POC reporters meanwhile White reporters don’t face this dilemma.� Cardenas was a cohort in the class of 2022.

The Journalism Camp that returns this Fall has a curriculum that includes getting one-on-one mentoring and hands-on experience in producing stories from concept to execution focused on social justice, determinants of health, and community empowerment.

Guest speakers also shared insights on networking with a purpose, strategies for managing one’s career, and the experience of often being the only person of color in the newsroom.

As part of his award, Dominguez-Coronado has the opportunity to be one of the attendees in this year’s journalism camp and have his work published on LNN.

If you’re interested in applying for the Journalism Camp, please send your resume and letter of interest to

Please support the HZF’s mission by making a donation via PayPalGoFundMe, or Zelle (the account is under

RI Opinion+: Juan Espinoza & Melissa Cruz

Welcome to another episode of RI Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Rhode Island. This week we spoke with Communications & Development Manager Juan Espinoza and Community Programs Manager Melissa Cruz from the RI Coalition To End Homelessness

The RI Coalition to End Homelessness has a variety of responsibilities across the state, such as being the lead agency for the Homeless Management & Information System (HMIS) and the Coordinated Entry System (CES) Call Center. 

The organization’s main areas of focus also include policy and advocacy work, training and support for service providers, along with educating the public on reasons why people experience homelessness to diminish existing stereotypes.

“Our commitment is to ensure that no Rhode Islander experiences homelessness,� Espinoza said. “We promote and preserve the dignity and quality of life for men, women, and children by pursuing comprehensive and cooperative solutions to the problems of housing and homelessness. And this is accomplished through advocacy, education, collaboration, technical assistance, and selective direct services.�

The HMIS is a shared database used by all homeless service providers in Rhode Island that tracks people who are experiencing homelessness across the state. 

“HMIS is basically the data repository for the Continuum of Care (CoC)…so it’s partnered with 47 agencies with over 200 projects that we are serving persons and households that are experiencing homelessness or [who were] formerly homeless,â€� Cruz explained. 

The CES helpline is available 24/7 and connects residents who may be experiencing homelessness to a shelter or other services related to housing and homelessness. 

“You can either call or send an email and that will connect you to an agent who will look at what are the available options to get you into shelter,� Espinoza told RI Latino News. “Now, shelter is not guaranteed as there is limited shelter in the state of Rhode Island, but they can put you on a waiting queue…the waiting queue has grown, unfortunately.�

RICTEH, among other local advocacy groups, has urged the government to declare a state of emergency for homelessness as this would prioritize homelessness as an issue. Although, enacting a state of emergency is a relatively new tactic in addressing homelessness, according to Espinoza. 

“It has not been a very common strategy, but…declaring a state of emergency for homelessness [would] reduce bureaucratic barriers, such as bypassing zoning requirements… which allows for a quicker ability to use city-owned property to open and maintain shelters, so it’s not just for housing, but also for shelter,� Espinoza said. “Declaring that would really mean more funding, more collaboration, and less bureaucratic red tape…�

Resources mentioned in this video: 

  • RI Coalition to End Homelessness Website:
  • The CES helpline: 401-277-4316
    • Learn more and/or contact the helpline online at 
    • Available agents speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, & Haitian Creole 
  • Check out local resources available through the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development at 

Community Advocates Call for Expanded Multilingual Learner Support

Through decades of academic and professional achievements, memories of being penalized for speaking Spanish at school have stayed with Delia Arellano-Weddleton of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. 

“I know that we can do better for our bilingual children,� Director of Engagement & Partnerships Arellano-Weddleton stated. “To do so will take intentional steps, including passing and implementing policies, allocating financial resources, nurturing mindsets and environments that value multilingual children and their families.�

About 11% of Rhode Island students from Pre-K to grade 12 were multilingual/English learners (MLL/EL) during the 2020-2021 school year—nearly double from a decade ago.  

Multilingual/English learners that school year spoke 92 different languages, although 81% spoke Spanish. Around 70% of these students attended school in Central Falls (45%), Providence (33%), Pawtucket (16%), and Woonsocket (11%), according to a new publication.

RI Kids Count released Multilingual Learners in Rhode Island Monday afternoon in a virtual event. Watch the full presentation HERE.   

The publication explores common challenges that multilingual and English learners face across Rhode Island along with state-wide recommendations to effectively support these students and address educational disparities. 

Community leaders at the event discussed the alarming gaps in high school graduation and college enrollment rates between multilingual/English learners and their peers. 

In the Rhode Island Class of 2021, 84% of all students had graduated high school in four years while 69% of MLL/ELs had graduated in four years, according to the publication. 

About 59% of the entire Class of 2021 were immediately enrolled in college, while 33% of MLL/ELs were immediately enrolled in college. The majority of MLL/EL students enrolled in college two-year college programs rather than four-year programs. 

“I think, overall, our programs need to think about centering multilingual learners as the norm across all of our education programs,� Rhode Island College Assistant Professor Erin Papa said.

Papa pointed to partnerships between the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), the Office of Postsecondary Education, and all higher education institutions to continue addressing barriers that prevent or discourage multilingual students from entering undergraduate and graduate programs.

In 2020-2021, dropout rates were the highest among Multilingual/English Learners at 18% dropping out—compared to 8% of all students—according to the publication. 

High School students who are chronically absent have higher chances of dropping out, emphasized University of Rhode Island Associate Professor Rabia Hos. Around 44% of MLL/ELs were chronically absent, the highest of any subgroup in the 2020-2021 school year.

The new publication also highlighted that multilingual/English learners are more likely to live in low-income households and attend high-poverty schools than their peers. 

“Studies show that it is not the home language, it’s not the fact that you’re a multilingual learner—it’s the poverty rate associated when you are a multilingual learner that is a more significant predictor of your academic achievement than anything else. So, it’s poverty levels,â€� explained Senior Policy Analyst Jessica Vega of RI Kids Count. 

The Blueprint for Multilingual Learner Success

Wednesday morning, March 1, state leaders announced that $322,899 in Multilingual Learner Success Grants would be awarded to ten local education agencies—kicking off the second phase of the Blueprint for Multilingual Learner Success

In 2001, RIDE first partnered with community-based organizations to develop the Blueprint for MLL Success, according to RI Kids Count. The final version was released in 2021.

As a part of the Blueprint, RIDE planned to spend 2021-2023 focused on engagement, expanding dual-language programs, revising regulations and policies, along with strengthening parent and community partnerships. Starting this year, RIDE looks to fully implement these policies by 2026.

Governor Dan McKee has also proposed to increase funding for multilingual learner support by $7.8 million in his #RIReady FY24 budget proposal.

Dual Language Programs 

Across the country, dual language programs have expanded as new initiatives to support the nation’s growing bilingual and multilingual student population. 

“Dual language programs…have so much potential,� Vega said. “Dual language programs are a way to teach students that will honor and celebrate their home language.�

In these programs, students learn and engage in two different languages: students will spend half of the day communicating in one particular language and then, for the second half of the day, continue with the same material in a second language. 

Schools in Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Providence currently offer dual-language programs—all involving either Spanish or Portuguese and English. 

“The goal is, if we have an increased pipeline of dual language teachers who are certified and world language teachers, then we’re able to open up more dual language programs throughout the state,� Vega explained. “And it’s really important that students who come from low-income communities have access to these programs because studies show, if you support a student’s proficiency in their home language, it actually improves their English proficiency as well.�

In 2020-2021, 5% of all Rhode Island public school teachers and instructional coordinators held an active Bilingual, Dual Language, or English to Speakers of Other Languages certification, according to RI Kids Count. 

One proposed policy, the Multilingual Educator Investment Act, looks to increase the number of multilingual educators in urban communities through an annual two-million dollar scholarship fund for teacher employment. 

Other recommendations in the Multilingual Learners in Rhode Island publication include improving data collection to identify MLL/EL students, providing high-quality early childhood care to MLL/EL students with developmental delays or disabilities, proactively responding to the challenges and needs of Newcomers, and enhancing assessment tools to effectively support Newcomers.

Available at, the Multilingual Learners in Rhode Island publication includes further context and recommendations on resources for multilingual/English learners and Newcomer students across the state.
Hear more about RI Kids Count’s work in RI Latino News’ Opinion+ Interview with Deputy Director Stephanie Geller below.