RI Reconnect opens: Academic coaching to complete degree, certificate, change career path

Governor Dan McKee and Rhode Island Postsecondary Commissioner Shannon Gilkey were joined by elected officials, General Assembly members and postsecondary leaders to open the new location of the RI Reconnect visitor center, a place for students and prospective students to receive support in breaking down barriers to pursuing their education and completing their degree.

RI Reconnect

“Opening new pathways to education and workforce training is at the heart of RI Reconnect, and this new center only furthers that commitment,” said Governor Dan McKee. “In my State of the State Address this year, I set a goal to raise incomes across Rhode Island by a minimum of $20,000. RI Reconnect will be key to reaching this goal and helping us ensure Rhode Islanders have the tools they need to build the future they want.”

RI Reconnect supports Rhode Islanders on their educational and workforce training journeys. Trained navigators encourage student success by addressing external barriers to completion, providing one-on-one academic coaching and navigation and becoming external academic mentors to students. 

In addition to the program’s new home base in the Shepard Building at 80 Washington Street in Providence, RI Reconnect has seen a surge in activity due to an $8 million investment proposed by Governor McKee and passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly. This investment allowed RI Reconnect to expand and engage Rhode Islanders whose academic progress was interrupted by the pandemic by providing them with targeted coaching and wrap-around services.

“The goal of Rhode Island Reconnect is to help Rhode Islanders persist in workforce trainings and at higher education institutions as they change careers, learn a new trade, or get on the path to a degree or certificate,” said David Caprio, chair of the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education. “Moving to downcity makes our office and our navigators more accessible to the adults most in need of wrap-around supports and academic coaching. As we increase our effectiveness in enrolling and re-enrolling students in postsecondary education, the effect will be a rise in completion of higher education and a clear path for improving the lives of Rhode Islanders.”

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said, “Rhode Island Reconnect is breaking down barriers to help individuals advance in life. This program is changing lives and helping people move out of the cycle of poverty, while finding a career path that is meaningful. I was proud to support the inclusion of $8 million in our state budget to support this incredibly meaningful work.”

President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio said, “The Rhode Island Reconnect program – and their new client center – is an important investment in our talented Rhode Island workforce. Returning to school, or beginning a new job training program, can be intimidating, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. This valuable program helps guide Rhode Islanders through the process, and supports them as they go, so they can meet their educational or job training goals. That’s good for the individuals and for our state’s economy.”

“This new client-center will be an invaluable resource for folks looking to advance their education,” said Mayor Brett P. Smiley. “The Rhode Island Reconnect program breaks down barriers to education and makes finishing a degree, learning a new trade, or completing a certificate more accessible. I’m thankful that the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner chose to establish this new center in Providence, and I encourage our community to utilize this critical opportunity for personalized academic coaching and mentoring.”

RI Reconnect navigators will hold office hours at the center and meet with adult students 24+ to provide career guidance. The most common wrap-around supports provided to students include laptops, internet connectivity, childcare, transportation and books. In addition to support from the Governor and General Assembly, Rhode Island Reconnect is supported by Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office, and local Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) funding. Seed funding by Lumina Foundation enabled the launch of the program in 2020. This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP0136 awarded to RI OPC by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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  1. Suzanne Arena on February 8, 2024 at 8:56 pm

    This is a very important step To remedying a failure in our past education system here in Rhode Island, where students have not all been given access.

    As the Founder of a RI nonprofit, Decoding Dyslexia Rhode Island, (all volunteer) we have long been aware of the shortfalls and met with every Commissioner and I have personally made it clear that the data Kids Count has presented over the years should be alarming as to the injustice we have done to children, their families and really the foundation of people with good skills for jobs.

    Many students graduate with a 4th grade education and have a horrible wake up call when arriving at College as they are grades behind.

    We have many parents and students who reach out asking what “we” can do for them? Our answer is we don’t have any resources for these young people.

    I love this program, I just wish there is consideration going forward. Or perhaps they can make room for students who were cheated in school from getting the 1 on 1 tutors for any additional help. Or even getting tested to see where they are, It’s such a colossal nightmare for these young people.

    • Nancy Thomas on February 9, 2024 at 10:32 am

      Thank you, Suzanne – if run correctly and well funded with good outreach this could be a game changer for many young, “stuck” people in RI. Mapping a career path is essential, not going from one entry position to another. Salaries are low because it IS an entry, not a landing spot. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open for how this program moves forward.

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