10 questions with … Brian Estrada

Brian Estrada

Get to know a little more about middle school advisor Brian Estrada, a former Crusader who graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a bachelor’s degree in business information systems analysis and a concentration in graphic design. Our students know him as Mr. Brian. Learn a little more about this former Crusader.

1. What music is your usual soundtrack?

My musical soundtrack consists of a vast variety of genres, from classical music to Kanye West, gospel albums to celebrity interviews and sports talk. As long as there is something keeping me interested, I’ll be listening.

2. What is the best part of your job?

The most rewarding part of being an advisor is hands down being with the Crusaders. Being able to interact, relate and learn at the same time is the ultimate reward.

3. What is the last thing you read for fun?

I really enjoy reading; some know my catch phrase, which is, “Be safe and read a book.” I am currently reading a couple leadership books, “Didn’t See it Coming” by Carey Nieuwhof and also “Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne.

4. What’s your dream travel destination?

My dream travel destination is 100% Cuba. I love the food, history, the culture and art. It’s like being able to go back in time without the time machine.

5. What is one thing most people might not know about you?

Some people might know, but I feel like many might not know that I am a minister and that I have three young boys, Jared, Noah and Seth.

6. What two or three people would you love to meet for coffee?

I would love to have coffee with Jay Leno, who is my favorite comedian and best late-night host of all time. I would also enjoy a cup of coffee with Mr. Kanye West. I just feel like we have a lot to talk about; I am confident that we will hit it off. And last I would enjoy a cup of coffee with one of my preferred ministers Joseph Prince. I just want to pick his brain. There are definitely more people I’d like to have coffee with and lots of coffee for me to try.

7. What is the best advice someone ever gave you?

I am blessed enough to be surrounded with lots of great inspirational people, but one of the best pieces of advice I heard was at my high school commencement, when the speaker literally just said his name and said, “Never forget where you come from” and walked off. That has been instrumental in not getting too full of myself, staying humble and hungry for more.

8. What qualities make you good at your work?

I feel as if the energy, charisma and creativity I bring allow me to be good at my job.

9. What is your favorite food or meal?

Soup. Now, I love food. I love Peruvian food, which is hands down my favorite, but you can never go wrong with soup! Nice warm, relaxing, cloud nine soup.

10. What’s your life motto or favorite saying?

I have a whole bunch of those. But be assured when someone asks me how I’m doing you’ll hear me saying, “I’m doing soo good, soo great. Oh, my gosh, let me tell you, soo good.” I always try and bring a positive vibe anywhere I go.

Bryant Estrada adapts to new way of teaching

Bryant Estrada

Bryant Estrada compares the early days of the pandemic to the stages of grief. “You start off with denial, and I know for me and for our kids, there was that sense of denial. Like OK, we’re starting our vacation a little earlier than usual, but we’ll be back soon.”

He’s referring to his 10th– to 12th-grade students at Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket, where he teaches mathematics. “We started doing asynchronous teaching, but after about a month and a half, I was like this is actually a real thing. I was in denial not just about teaching, but also socially in general.”

He wasn’t satisfied with the asynchronous format. “It’s totally the opposite of what my pedagogy looks like. It wasn’t me teaching; it was me assigning videos and work.” Someone else noticed, too. “My dad has always pushed me to do my best. He told me, ‘That’s not the way to teach; that’s not the way you do it.’ Kind of like, ‘I expect more from you. We expect the most of you so why are you not doing it?’”

Things got much better for him when he started teaching live classes this spring, but he had to make some policy changes, especially when it came to grading and flexibility. “I know before I used to teach with equity in mind and I need to teach even more with equity in mind. I’m not going to have this semester be the one that sinks them.”

His school is full distance learning this fall but students can be in the building at least twice a week. “It’s one of our ways to best combat the equity issue and serve the learners with the most needs – intellectually, emotionally or needing a separate space,” he said.

Estrada is in a classroom by himself, with a laptop and camera and a Chromebook connected to a TV monitor so he can see his students’ faces. He’s not teaching with slides; he’s actually solving problems on the board with them.

“The part of the job that brings me the most joy is being in the classroom and it hurts that I can’t do my job the way I want to do my job. The more I think about it, I get emotional because I miss my babies,” he said. “I tell them that at the beginning and end of each class. It’s hard; my practice when I come to teaching is very much strong on the aspect of mentoring, relationship-building and full of love.”

Assessing students’ understanding is challenging via distance learning. “Testing right now is weird for all of us,” he said. “A lot of teachers probably say, ‘What if my kids cheat?’ Integrity is a thing for me. If you ruin that, it’s you. That’s your diploma that you don’t deserve. I say if you get to the point where you reach a problem and you feel that you need to cheat, don’t do that problem. Get in touch and we’ll work through a similar problem together.”

He also implemented a feedback forum survey they receive after a test, asking whether they liked the format and had enough time. “What could I have done better to prepare you. What you could have done better to prepare? What do we need to go over a bit more? Students’ feedback is absolutely necessary if we want any positive shift during this time,” he said.

The Central Falls High School and Brown University graduate said the reasons urban communities are hardest hit are not because of the demographics, but how the communities are set up. He compared Burrillville, with about 17,000 residents spread over 57 square miles, to Central Falls, with nearly 20,000 residents in 1 square mile. “Central Falls has multigenerational households. If one person is affected, so are seven more people. You’re not going to see that in Burrillville, where houses are more separated.”

Students in urban communities face compounding variables that make the equity situation even worse, he said. “A student might not be submitting work not because they don’t care, but maybe they’re taking care of siblings because mom is working. We need to be understanding of those things and be a lot more lenient about things, whether that means giving a student an extra week to complete a basic assignment or tracking down a student who stopped attending classes to find out what’s happening.”

Estrada said he would tell aspiring teachers to stay optimistic that things will be better soon. “I hope that their true ability and potential to teach is fully realized and their love for teaching is reaffirmed. You’re going into teaching because you know you’re made for it. Keep thinking that you’re made for it.”

Jordan Day navigates changing pandemic in role with city of Providence

Jordan Day

The week of March 9, Jordan Day was traveling to a policy roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C., to talk about connecting children to nature. “And within two days, we decided to close facilities,” she said.

Day, senior deputy chief operating officer for the city of Providence, turned to her calendar to jog her memory of that week before the city closed its buildings on March 13. Before that, she was routinely in five or six in-person meetings a day in her role overseeing and supporting the execution of capital projects such as road improvements, playground upgrades, school renovations and more.

“Things are much different now as we continue to take precautions to protect our staff and residents. Depending on the day of the week, I am working remotely now while also coming into the office some days of the week with a limited pool of colleagues,” she said. “We are only conducting digital meetings or conference calls and we are always considering how the pandemic impacts the work, even if it’s not directly related to the subject at hand.”

Recalling the early days of the pandemic, she said all city departments had to pivot to respond to the new guidance. For example, the city’s licensing team had to contact up to 80 entertainment license applicants to tell them they would not be issued a license.

”We’ve had to get creative to ensure that our residents were still being served but that they didn’t have to put themselves at risk to get those services,” she said. “This included opening up additional test sites in the city to providing meal delivery services for homebound residents.”

As the city launches construction projects during this time, it must balance construction with safety. “Our partners in these projects are thorough and take additional precautions but you don’t know when you’ll receive a notice saying work at a job site must be suspended because someone at the job site or for the company has tested positive” she said. “We want to ensure that all precautions are taken but we now need to factor this into project timelines and be more conservative in outlining our completion dates.”

She said they also must plan for staff quarantining and how that affects city services. Protocols ensure team members are in specific groups to limit contact with one another. “This also means that we have created safety measures so that residents can still get access to in-person services. In all of our public-facing departments, we’ve installed plexiglass barriers to ensure that staff and residents can safely conduct business,” she said.

The pandemic has highlighted many of the inequities we knew existed in urban areas and communities of color. Day said the team immediately focused on engaging a variety of groups. “We’ve brought together stakeholders from the faith community, our African American Ambassadors Group, and the Latino Ambassadors group. Utilizing their feedback and getting a better understanding of the issues that they were facing helped up determine our response,” she said.

The city launched ADA accessible test sites that had food available, in addition to the meal program at city recreation centers and Providence Schools.

“As we continue to navigate the impacts that this pandemic will have on the city, we continue to look at ways to provide economic relief to our community through different forms. We have been able to provide funds through the Providence Business Loan Fund, artist relief fund and $50,000 to AMORE to support the undocumented community here in Providence. All of these interventions were done and intended to be low-barrier for residents and community members to access.”

Day, a graduate of Classical High School and Rhode Island College, encourages everyone to explore opportunities in municipal government, in part because of the range of areas of focus.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work in constituent services, do policy work and now managing capital projects. I’ve had the opportunity to explore many different interest areas and learn more about what areas I want to focus on.”

College Crusade to host two application nights for sixth-graders in Central Falls schools

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Oct. 16, 2019): The College Crusade of Rhode Island, whose mission is to prepare and inspire young people in Rhode Island to become the first in their families to attend and complete college, will host two application nights for sixth-grade students at Central Falls middle schools this month.

Both events will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The first is on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Segue Institute for Learning, 325 Cowden St. To register, visit bit.ly/SegCruNight. The second is Wednesday, Oct. 30, at Calcutt Middle School, 112 Washington St. Visit bit.ly/CalCruNight to register.

Starting in the sixth grade, the College Crusade offers students year-round programming through middle and high school, supportive advising, and college application and admission guidance and support – all at no cost to families. Students must enroll in the program in Grade 6.

Programs include after-school academic and enrichment programs, Saturday and summer learning opportunities, career exploration activities, college visits, PSAT and SAT preparation, assistance with financial aid forms and more. Parent workshops and leadership opportunities also are available to College Crusade families.

To complete an application at this event, parents/guardians must bring student proof of age through one of the following: birth certificate or passport (U.S. or non-U.S.), green card or I-94; SNAP (food stamps) letter or a letter from your child’s school to confirm free or reduced-price lunch OR confirmation of first-generation college-bound student status, meaning the parents/guardians do not have a bachelor’s degree from the United States; student’s final fifth-grade report card; student’s personal statement, which is a paragraph describing why he or she wants to be a Crusader; and proof of address, such as a current utility bill, bank statement or pay stub.

Anyone with questions can call 401-519-0210.

College Crusade to host application night at Deering

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Oct. 16, 2019): The College Crusade of Rhode Island, whose mission is prepare and inspire young people in Rhode Island to become the first in their families to attend and complete college, will host an application night for sixth-grade students at Deering Middle
School to join the program next month.

The event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7, in the library at the middle school, 2 Webster Knight Drive, West Warwick. To register, visit bit.ly/DeerCruNight.

Starting in the sixth grade, the College Crusade offers students year-round programming through middle and high school, supportive advising, and college application and admission guidance and support – all at no cost to families. Students must enroll in the program in Grade 6.

Programs include after-school academic and enrichment programs, Saturday and summer learning opportunities, career exploration activities, college visits, PSAT and SAT preparation, assistance with financial aid forms and more. Parent workshops and leadership opportunities also are available to College Crusade families.

To complete an application at this event, parents/guardians must bring student proof of age through one of the following: birth certificate or passport (U.S. or non-U.S.), green card or I-94; SNAP (food stamps) letter or a letter from your child’s school to confirm free or reduced-price lunch OR confirmation of first-generation college-bound student status, meaning the parents/guardians do not have a bachelor’s degree from the United States; student’s final fifth-grade report card; student’s personal statement, which is a paragraph describing why he or she wants to be a Crusader; and proof of address, such as a current utility bill, bank statement or pay stub.

Anyone with questions can call 401-519-0210.

College Crusade earns highest rating from Charity Navigator

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Sept. 6, 2019): The College Crusade of Rhode Island, the state’s most comprehensive college access program, has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. This highest rating reflects the College Crusade’s strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.

Since 2002, using objective analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating, and only a quarter of charities it rates receive this distinction. In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics focused on governance, ethical practices and measures of openness to its ratings methodology. These metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s rating, reveal which charities operate in accordance with industry best practices and whether they are transparent with their donors and stakeholders.

The College Crusade has received a 4-star rating in seven of the last 10 years. “The College Crusade of Rhode Island’s exceptional 4-star rating sets it apart from its peers and demonstrates its trustworthiness to the public,” said Michael Thatcher, president and CEO of Charity Navigator. “Based on its 4-star rating, people can trust that their donations are going to a financially responsible and ethical charity when they decide to support the College Crusade.”

“Our donors and partners make it possible for us to prepare and inspire young people in Rhode Island to become the first in their families to attend and complete college,” said Andrew Bramson, president and CEO of the College Crusade of Rhode Island. “It’s important that our donors trust that we’re using their contributions wisely, and our 4-star Charity Navigator rating demonstrates our good governance and financial accountability.”

The College Crusade’s rating and other information about charitable giving are available free of charge on www.charitynavigator.org. Charity Navigator’s website attracts more visitors than all other charity rating groups combined. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the financial health and accountability and transparency of more than 8,000 charities. The 501 (c) (3) public charity accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data.

Four elected to College Crusade board of directors

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Aug. 20, 2019): The College Crusade of Rhode Island, the state’s largest and most comprehensive college access program, recently elected four new board members – Willie Borkai, Alaina Restivo, Kim Perry and Jessica Marfeo – to three-year terms.

Willie Borkai of Providence has devoted his career working in youth development, community development and the behavioral health field. Borkai works as a program coordinator in workforce development at Lifespan. He and his colleagues provide job opportunities for undeserved population and he coordinates two of the department’s youth programs.

Borkai, a proud alumnus of Providence public schools, graduated from Feinstein High School and attended Roger Williams University as an intercultural leadership ambassador. He studied psychology with minors in anthropology and sociology. He also holds Master of Public Health in urban studies from Northeastern University.

Alaina Restivo of East Greenwich is chief executive officer of Restivo Consulting, which she formed after serving as vice president of talent and operations at Upserve (previously known as Swipely).

Restivo relocated back to her home state of Rhode Island in 2011 in part to play a larger role reducing educational inequity. As the performance management executive for the Rhode Island Department of Education, she monitored the efficacy of 27 work streams under Rhode Island’s $75 million Race to the Top grant. She earned national recognition for her data-driven approach towards monitoring the grant’s performance indicators.

She serves as an adjunct board member for Trinity Repertory Company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration in international business and human capital management from The George Washington University.

Kim Perry of Providence graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Boston University School of Law and worked as a business litigator in Boston before joining Fidelity as a risk manager in 2006. Perry held various roles at Fidelity, including the risk management lead for Personal Investments, Fidelity’s retail business, until she accepted a voluntary buy-out offer in 2017.

While at Fidelity, Perry was actively engaged in the company’s community service efforts and was awarded Fidelity’s community service award in 2013. She has served on the board for Sophia Academy, a middle school providing low-income girls in Providence with an empowering education, and has mentored students at Skip Nowell Academy and Year Up, taught middle school students through Junior Achievement, and assisted high school students with college essays and interview preparation through College Visions.

Jessica Marfeo of Warwick is the director of product strategy and development for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, where she has launched several innovations within the commercial market segment including network-based products, well-being programs and integrated consumer-directed health programs.

Marfeo previously held a variety of managerial roles in finance and operations at within large-scale retail companies Best Buy and the Home Depot.

A lifelong Rhode Islander, Marfeo is a College Crusade alumna and a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with bachelor’s degrees in communications and political science and a Master of Business Administration. She regularly volunteers through the BCBSRI Blue Angel Community program.

The board also elected officers. The slate includes:

•            Edwin Pacheco of Warwick, chair

•            Meg Geoghegan of North Kingstown, vice chair

•            Doug Sherman of Cranston, vice chair

•            Joe Monteiro of Lincoln, treasurer

•            Eric Shorter of Riverside, secretary

College Crusade to host first-ever gala in partnership with Centreville Bank to celebrate 30 years of student success

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (July 19, 2019): The College Crusade of Rhode Island will celebrate the success of 12,000 Crusaders over the last three decades with a 30th anniversary gala on Sept. 27 at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center.

The College Crusade has inspired thousands of the state’s students to believe that a college education is within their reach and has provided them with the tools, programs and scholarships to help ensure they achieve it. The 30th Anniversary Gala will raise funds to ensure that the next generation of students have the support they need to succeed in high school and college.

Centreville Bank has generously committed to serve as Host Sponsor, and Centreville President and CEO Harold M. Horvat will serve as honorary chair of the event.

“We are honored to support one of our state’s most impactful and consistent resources to help lower-income students attain high school, college and career success,” said Horvat. “This donation signifies Centreville Bank’s commitment to Rhode Island students and aligns with our mission to support nonprofits in Rhode Island.”

At the event, the Crusade also will announce its plans to make even greater impact on equitable high school and college success for Rhode Island students in the years to come.

“We are truly grateful and excited to have Centreville Bank as our host sponsor and partner in our mission,” said Andrew Bramson, president and CEO of the College Crusade of Rhode Island. “Centreville Bank’s support will help ensure that the next generation of Rhode Island students have equitable opportunities and support to become successful, contributing members of our communities.”

The event, which will begin at 6:30, will include inspirational stories, a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres and food stations, entertainment and more. For more information, for sponsorship information or to purchase tickets, visit thecollegecrusade.org/30years.

Other event sponsors are Junior Sponsor: University of Rhode Island; Sophomore Sponsor: Rhode Island College; and Freshman Sponsors: Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island; Cox; Collette; City of Central Falls; Webster Bank; New England Institute of Technology; Roger Williams University; and Pawtucket Credit Union.

The College Crusade, Rhode Island’s largest college access program, supports about 4,000 first-generation, low-income students in middle school, high school and college each year with the one-on-one advising and year-round programs that focus on academic enrichment, social and emotional development, career education, and postsecondary preparation. The College Crusade also has awarded over $43 million in college scholarships to more than 5,000 Rhode Island students since 2001. Sixth-graders who attend traditional public schools and select public charter schools in Providence, Cranston, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket and West Warwick are

eligible to enroll in the College Crusade.

About the Centreville Bank Charitable Foundation

The Centreville Bank Charitable Foundation was established as a nonprofit charitable

organization in 2006 by the Board of Trustees to further the philanthropic mission of Centreville Bank. The Foundation’s goal is to partner with local nonprofit organizations that work to strengthen, grow and contribute to the well-being of the communities that we serve.

About Centreville Bank

Founded in 1828 and headquartered in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Centreville Bank has seven branch locations in Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Narragansett, West Greenwich, West Warwick and North Kingstown, and assets of $1.2 billion.

The College Crusade wins national award for improving success of Latino students

PROVIDENCE, R.I., (Oct. 12, 2018) – The College Crusade of Rhode Island was honored on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C., by Excelencia in Education with a 2018 Examples of Excelencia award. The award is presented to programs that have shown evidence-based results in improving Latino student success in higher education.

Examples of Excelencia, sponsored annually by Excelencia in Education, is the only national initiative that recognizes and celebrates programs at the forefront of advancing educational achievement for Latino students.

This year 139 programs from 27 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico were nominated for an award, and four were chosen. Excelencia in Education made the announcement at its annual Celebración de Excelencia event, held at the historic Mayflower Hotel. The audience included higher education leaders, decision makers, and grant makers from across the country.

“It is a privilege to accept this award on behalf of our dedicated students and their families,” said Andrew Bramson, president and CEO of The College Crusade. “The young people in our program work hard over many years to achieve their goals and often confront multiple obstacles on their way to postsecondary success. Our role is to help them learn to overcome these challenges. Our program supports them every step of the way – from middle school through high school and into college. Both the data we see and the stories we hear from our students tell us our support makes a difference in their lives, and we are proud to congratulate them for their accomplishments.”

“I’m proud to congratulate The College Crusade on having its great work recognized by Excelencia in Education,” said Brenda Dann-Messier, Rhode Island’s commissioner of postsecondary education and a College Crusade board member. “The College Crusade is an important partner in our work to increase postsecondary attainment in Rhode Island. The college-readiness programming and advising they provide help thousands of our state’s first-generation students, especially Latino students, prepare for higher education.”

As a recognized Example of Excelencia, The College Crusade is profiled in Excelencia in Education’s 2018 edition of “What Works For Latino Students in Higher Education” compendium and is featured in their “Growing What Works Database,” the nation’s largest database providing tactical information about how to improve Latino student success. More information about the 2018 awards is available in Excelencia‘s announcement.

The mission of The College Crusade is to increase high school graduation, college and career readiness, and college completion for youth in Rhode Island’s low-income communities. For more information, visit www.thecollegecrusade.org.

College Crusade of Rhode Island students set off on summer learning adventures

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (July 9, 2018) – The College Crusade of Rhode Island’s summer learning season starts this month, offering many local youth the opportunity to have fun and acquire new skills while school is out.

A highlight of the summer is the Dolphin Program, a hands-on environmental education experience developed in partnership with the Block Island Maritime Institute. From July 9 to August 10, dozens of College Crusade students in grades 8-11 will spend a week living on Block Island and learning about ecosystems, biodiversity, and sustainability.

Other summer programs for middle school students include Rhode Island Write on Sports, which gets young people involved in creating sports stories and short video reports and learning interviewing and editorial skills, and the Wheeler Summer Program, which offers a three-week hands-on forensics curriculum with a focus on critical thinking and deductive reasoning. A popular summer option is the Crusade Adventure & Academic Program (CAAP), a two-week program in adventure education that develops skills in problem solving, team building, leadership, and healthy risk taking.

Summer programs for high school students include Crusade Summer Experience, which helps to develop skills in public speaking, team building, project planning, and leadership during a week on the campus of University of Rhode Island. In Creative College Essay Writing, students learn how to produce a quality college essay and build writing skills that make them more confident in their expressive abilities. Students entering grade 9 can participate in Passageways, an interactive program on how to make a successful transition to high school, and Math Matters, which helps them improve their math skills and prepare for classroom success. Additional programs for high school are Project Open Door, a weeklong workshop in digital photography hosted by Rhode Island School of Design, the SPIRIT Program, and classes offered by Brown Summer High School and the Johnson & Wales University Career Exploration Program.

College Crusade programming also includes summer transition support for high school graduates who are planning to enroll in college next fall. The UCRU 2 College program offers students starting their first year of college engaging activities and discussions designed to prepare them to navigate the higher education environment.