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CCRI Foundation event raises $80,000 for student support
Dec. 12, 2012
The Community College of Rhode Island strives to keep its tuition low and it is considered a bargain in the high-cost world of higher education, but there were still about 3,000 students who could not afford to pay their bills last semester.
The college’s annual Changing Lives Celebration is meant to help these students while honoring Rhode Islanders who have championed the college and its values in the realms of community, business and education. This year’s event, “An Evening of Enthusiasm and Enchantment,” was held on Nov. 29 at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston and raised more than $80,000 to help students in need.
About 330 Rhode Islanders attended and participated in an auction to raise money for students.
“Because of what you’ve done tonight, we will help students achieve their dreams,” CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale told the guests.
This year’s honorees were Education Champion Judge Frank Caprio, the former chairman of the Board of Governors for Higher Education; Business Champions Taco Inc./The White Family Foundation, led by CEO John Hazen White Jr.; and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian as Community Champion.
As the mayor of the city that hosts CCRI’s Knight Campus, the largest of four campuses, Avedisian has been a strong ally and supporter of the college. He also recently joined the CCRI Foundation as a trustee.
“CCRI is one of our anchors [in Warwick],” he said, “and it gives us an opportunity not just to talk about what should be, but to make it happen. … The city of Warwick is proud to have CCRI as its partner.”
Di Pasquale said he meets monthly with Avedisian to discuss the partnership between the city and the college, and that his leadership is appreciated.
White is also someone who works closely with the college on a personal and professional level. His company’s charitable foundation, Taco/The White Family Foundation, has given $50,000 to the college for tuition funds and renovation of the Knight Campus library. In addition, Taco Inc. has partnered with CCRI for its Taco Learning Center, which gives Taco employees free classes on everything from finance and civics to gardening and weight loss.
“At Taco and The White Family Foundation, we’ve made a conscious decision to become more and more involved with CCRI,” White said. “I’ve been impressed with the breadth and the depth and the strength of this wonderful place.”
He added, “We spend our lives trying to do good things but to be associated with something that is changing lives is the greatest honor I could receive.”
Caprio is someone who knows the importance of education firsthand. His father was an Italian immigrant and fruit vendor who hoped that his sons would have a better and easier life than his own. Education, he told them, was the way to earn that life.
During his tenure as chair of the R.I. Board of Governors for Higher Education, which oversees all of Rhode Island’s higher education institutions, Caprio always fought to get CCRI the funds it needed. Millions of dollars of investments were made in CCRI during his time on the board.
“He knows personally how important a college education is,” Di Pasquale said, adding, “… and I’ve never seen students give anyone a bigger round of applause.”
Caprio said that just as his parents immigrated to the United States for a better life, there is a new wave of immigrants today who deserve the same opportunities.
“The reason we’re all sitting here is that we had the opportunity to get an education,” he said. “It is only through education that we will make this country better.”