The Rhode Island-based nonprofit Project Undercover and Community College of Rhode Island leadership knew they were on to something when they first met to discuss a potential scholarship.
For 25 years, Project Undercover has provided socks, underwear, diapers and baby wipes to Rhode Islanders in need. For more than 50 years, CCRI has offered all an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for intellectual, professional and personal growth.
In short, both organizations exist to serve Rhode Islanders.
So it was a natural fit to partner and create the Frank DePetrillo Project Undercover Award, a scholarship that will provide up to five CCRI students with diapers for an entire year. Applications are being accepted through June 30 for a fall award. The scholarship is named after Project Undercover’s co-founder, Frank DePetrillo, who has spent the majority of his life helping Rhode Islanders in need.
“Everybody on the board has dedicated themselves to giving back to Rhode Island,” said Richard Fleischer, co-founder and president of the Project Undercover board of directors. “This scholarship with CCRI is a way to really give back to Rhode Islanders. In that way our two missions are aligned.”
Project Undercover has helped approximately 20,000 young children in Rhode Island who are living in poverty.
“This is really an extension of Frank’s idea of solving a problem through education,” said Fleischer. “The more we met with folks at CCRI, the more we all bought in. Once we got more involved, we both realized this could be something to hang our hats on.”
The scholarship will be awarded to one enrolled student at each of CCRI’s four campuses. Project Undercover will deliver diapers on a monthly basis in the size the student selects.
To qualify, students must be a parent or legal guardian of a child up to age 7 or an expecting parent whose child will be born before the start of the award. Eligible students must have a grade point average of at least 3.0, demonstrate extenuating financial circumstances and be enrolled in at least their second semester at CCRI.
For Project Undercover, the CCRI award is a way to extend its services to even more Rhode Islanders.
“CCRI is such a diverse and wonderful representation of the people we are trying to work with. This is a great and creative way to ease the cost burden of necessary education costs in a unique way,” said Katherine Linwood Chu, an advisory member to Project Undercover’s board of directors.
Looking forward, Project Undercover also hopes to secure grant funding to support a paid position for a CCRI student to help coordinate the program. “That would give this student a bit of money and a bit of real world experience. If we can spring some great money for a stipend for a CCRI student we think it would be a great fit,” Fleischer said. “That’s something we will be exploring as we go forward.”
According to Investopedia, the average cost of diapers for a newborn is more than $550 per year, potentially forcing students to make difficult budgetary decisions.
“With scholarships like this one, the students won’t have to choose,” said Sadie DeCourcy, secretary for the board of directors at Project Undercover. “We’re going to give you the materials that you really need so you don’t have to sit down and look at your budget and decide where the money needs to go.”
“CCRI students juggle families, jobs and school while making sure they have access to reliable transportation, health care and income,” said Dean of Students Michael Cunningham. “CCRI has been making efforts, especially in the past two years, to increase its connections with social service agencies, nonprofits and other colleges to make sure it can make strong referrals to students in need.”
The Project Undercover Scholarship is a result of this work.
“This type of opportunity will make a deep and meaningful difference for the scholarship winners and could well allow them to focus more attention on school or graduate a little bit quicker – or even just alleviate some of the daily stress,” Cunningham said. “When this opportunity was floated and people wondered how we would make it work, I immediately knew we just had to make it work for the sake of our students.”
The scholarship is the first in-kind scholarship offered at CCRI, and it could serve as a template for other potential donors to propose other creative in-kind opportunities to help students succeed.
“Anyone who is willing to partner with us to help our students overcome the barriers to earning their degrees quickly and efficiently is someone with whom we want to work,” Cunningham said. “We'll figure out the logistics and the details on our end to get the help you are willing to provide to the students who need it the most.”
To apply for this award by the June 30 deadline, use your MyCCRI email address and password to log in here.
If you have questions regarding this scholarship, or need help applying, please email Robin McDuff, coordinator, Office of Institutional Advancement.