The Papitto Opportunity Connection, headed up by local philanthropist Barbara Papitto, recently awarded 10 BIPOC Rhode Island students who exhibited the ability to conceptualize transformative ideas for their communities with scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.
“Nearly 200 students from 47 public, private, parochial and charter high schools from across Rhode Island – from Woonsocket to Newport – shared personal essays, thoughtful research, dynamic videos, and multimedia presentations,” the press release read.
The question posed to students to explore was, “If you had $1 million, how would you change Rhode Island’s communities of color?”
Cranston’s Jayden Chagnon, a junior at The Met School in Providence, earned himself a top-five spot and a $10,000 scholarship for his idea, “The Art & Maker Bus,” a mobile art studio that would travel around underserved areas of Rhode Island creating access to the arts, learning opportunities, and provide exposure for artists of color.
Students engaged their creativity in sharing their visions, and winners throughout the state provided solutions for the unhoused, ESL learning, educating Rhode Islanders about their cultural histories, medical interventions for underserved communities, and providing accessible and fun solutions (gaming) to teach Rhode Island’s youth valuable life skills.
“My idea was the Art & Maker bus,” Chagnon explained, “where the back of the bus would be converted into an art studio where kids and adults could create all different types of art including clothing.”
“I also wanted to create a website that can showcase all the art created in the bus so people in the BIPOC community, like underserved neighborhoods, could get exposure,” he said.
Jayden explained that as part of the entrepreneurship track at The Met School, he has created his own clothing business, where he either upcycles resale clothing, creates items adorned with motivational or inspirational words or phrases, or creates completely new items via his sewing machine.
“I believe fashion is a type of art,” he said, “and I feel it helps people mentally, like when I have personal problems, I’m able to go and create clothes just to take my mind off everything.”
Chagnon explained that he was introduced to fashion by his parents, who tended to be fashion-forward when dressing him as a child.
As part of The Met School’s entrepreneurship program, Jayden and other makers create and sell their items for the school community, on social media like Instagram, and will have a post at a few WaterFire lightings this summer.
“The students are out vending now,” Jodie Woodruff, Director of The Met Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship said.
“We’ve got a space at WaterFire, for a couple of the events,” she explained, “so Jayden will be out at those.”
Woodruff explained that as a senior, Jayden will have more opportunities to get out into the community selling his goods and he will be paired with a mentor as part of the school’s curriculum.
Woodruff is proud of the long-term success of the entrepreneurship program at The Met School.
“I have 14 students that are alumni running the businesses out in the community that they started here,” she said.
“We are the nation’s only freestanding entrepreneurship center for a public high school,” she added.
Woodruff explained she is grateful for the school’s relationship with the Papitto Opportunity Connection and the opportunities provided for The Met School’s students.
“We’re really proud of Jayden and the work that he’s done here that moved him forward to write a great pitch for the Transform Rhode Island Scholarship Program.”
Jayden will be entering his senior year in the fall and is hoping to build on his business after graduation.
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