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Changemaker Fellows will connect local startups with Rhode Island's colleges, universities

Oct. 5, 2015

photo of Nathalie Batista and Octavian Goncalves CCRI student Nathalie Batista and alumnus Octavian Goncalves '15, now studying at Rhode Island College, have been selected for an entrepreneurship leadership program.

Community College of Rhode Island student Nathalie Batista and alumnus Octavian Goncalves '15 are among 11 students selected from dozens of applicants to create a powerful new connection between local startups and Rhode Island's colleges and universities.

The two Providence residents are members of the inaugural class of Changemaker Fellows, an entrepreneurship leadership program and joint initiative between Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Founders League supported by a $200,000 Innovation Grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

"The Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Founders League jointly believe that a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem is instrumental to economic development and growth. Through the Changemaker Fellowship, we will connect students to the Rhode Island entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Social Enterprise Greenhouse University Initiative Director Cayla Mackey. "We see college talent and recent graduates as the base of the talent funnel, and we need to retain more talented students."

Mackey said that Batista and Goncalves, now a student at Rhode Island College, are prime examples of the sort of talent that the business community in Rhode Island should strive to nurture and retain.

"We were so impressed with Nathalie's ambition and her eagerness to learn and do good in the world," said Mackey. "And Octavian is a great example of a student using the opportunities given to him to get where he wants to go. He has strong entrepreneurial ambitions, and pursued opportunities at CCRI to give back to his community as well."

Mackey said that Batista, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, is "particularly inspiring. ... She is someone who has come up against a lot of adversity in her life and still has the passion and drive to do something to give back to the community and to help others like her achieve their goals."

Mackey said the yearlong program will give fellows access to mentors in the business community, networking opportunities, educational programming, tours of startup companies, and a cash stipend. The fellows also will participate in teambuilding exercises and complete a year-end capstone project exhibiting leadership and entrepreneurial skills on their home campuses.

At the start of the program, both students were unsure of what their projects would be, but each was excited to get to work and take advantage of all the program had to offer.

Batista, who started classes at CCRI about two years ago, is a member of the first graduating class of St. Patrick's Academy, a rigorous college preparatory school where she was on full scholarship. Growing up in her native Dominican Republic, her parents owned a farm, where she would help out from a young age. Now a Biology major at the college, she will seek to transfer to Rhode Island College to earn her bachelor's degree, and eventually hopes to open her own animal shelter.

"I feel like the Changemaker Fellowship program and CCRI are both big steps for my future. I'm really grateful for the opportunity," she said. "I'm planning to create new relationships and open up new worlds for myself, and I think that the Changemaker Fellowship will help to guide me through the steps to when I'm ready to open my own business."

Like Batista, Goncalves is interested in leadership and opportunities that intersect with business; he earned his Associate in Science in Business with a concentration in Financial Services at CCRI before transferring to Rhode Island College to study finance with a minor in economics. While at the college, he was involved in DECA, the business club, as well as student government, and he eventually founded his own organization, the Cape Verdean Student Association.

He said that CCRI helped him to build "the basic foundations of business sense," and that he saw education as the key to success in the business world. "Without education, you're really setting yourself into having a difficult life and not being aware of your options and opportunities," he said. "I plan on going into the fields of real estate, business and insurance, and I was very excited to hear the good news about the Changemaker Fellowship. I look forward to sharing my experiences with the fellows and people in general during the start of the semester."

Goncalves said that he was most looking forward to improving his entrepreneurship skills, gaining more experience dealing with cultural and societal changes that shape entrepreneurship, and preparing himself for a career "outside the traditional 9-to-5 job."

Batista shared many of the same hopes, with an eye on being able to help others through her developing business acumen. "I feel like if I was able to own my own company, I would be good at it," said Batista, who works part time in the Information Technology Department at CCRI in addition to her studies and obligations as a Changemaker Fellow. "I understand how hard it is to find jobs, and I'll be able to be more open to students to give them jobs."

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Last Updated: 5/2/18