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Above: The incoming freshman took college courses and got to know Rhode Island
by visiting destinations such as the Roger Williams Park Zoo.
Middle: Program director Kaitlyn M. O'Malley (left) chats with Amie Mbye ’18.
Below: From left, Dominic Silva '18, Jason Ventura '18, Onassis Valerio ’18 (pink
shirt), Maodo Lo '18 (orange hat), Hall Director Federica Bucca, and Jeffrey
Vasquez '18 pose at the zoo.

New Friar Foundations program earns students’ praise, gratitude

Twenty-five students in the Class of 2018 got a jump start on college by spending five weeks at Providence College this summer, living in a residence hall, building skills at workshops, and taking courses for credit. The program, Friar Foundations, was made possible by a grant from The Angell Foundation.

Amie Mbye ’18 (Pawtucket, R.I.) faced a choice: spend her last summer before college hanging out with friends and family, or join a five-week program at Providence College for an introduction to the rigors and demands of college life.

“My Upward Bound counselor said, ‘PC doesn’t usually offer this, and you should do it.’ He kept on encouraging me,” said Mbye, a graduate of Shea High School in Pawtucket. “I was like, ‘I don’t know — that’s my summer, before I go to college.’ But I could earn credits, so in the end I said, ‘Why not?’”

Mbye was one of 25 students from PC’s Class of 2018 who accepted an invitation to enroll in Friar Foundations, a summer bridge program offered for the first time through a grant from The Angell Foundation. She earned six credits toward her bachelor’s degree while studying introductory sociology and attending courses on writing and other college skills.

The students lived in apartments in Davis Hall, shared meals in Raymond Dining Hall, and had mandatory study sessions in Phillips Memorial Library. On weekends, accompanied by 10 PC student leaders working as peer mentors, they visited the Roger Williams Park Zoo, toured the mansions in Newport, rode the Boston Duck Tour, and donned ponchos at the rainy Newport Jazz Festival.

“I’m so glad I got to meet all these people,” said Mbye. “I feel like we’re a family. We interact with each other. It’s not clique-y.”

Getting a jump start on college

With an understanding that transitioning to college can be challenging for many students, the College launched Friar Foundations this summer with the primary goal of supporting approximately 30 PC students who could benefit from building academic and social momentum heading into the fall semester.

The first year of Friar Foundations was funded by a $169,875 grant from The Angell Foundation. The foundation was established by David L. Angell ’69 & ’94Hon., who won Emmy awards for writing and producing television shows such as Cheers, Frasier, and Wings, and his wife, Lynn. They were killed in the terrorist attacks on New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

Kaitlyn M. O’Malley, program coordinator for Friar Foundations and assistant director for student-athlete services and life skills coordinator in the Office of Academic Services, said students who chose to enroll in the program came from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and South Carolina.

“They were a great group and really bonded over their weeks together,” said O’Malley. “The program allowed them to become familiar with campus and to understand how to manage the demands of academic work and find time for socialization, too.”

Learning about time management

The most valuable part of the program was learning how to manage time, said Onassis Valerio ’18 (Providence, R.I.), a graduate of nearby La Salle Academy who lives on the city’s South Side.

“They keep us on a very solid schedule,” Valerio said. “There’s always stuff to be done and stuff to do, even up to 11 at night. We’re better off for it.”

Breakfast was at 8:30 a.m. each morning, followed by morning classes and a mandatory study session in the library. After lunch, during a three-hour break, some students — including Mbye and Valerio — had paying jobs on campus. Then there was time for homework, or a visit to the Concannon Fitness Center, before dinner at 4:30.

Evenings included a three-hour study session in the library or a class. From 10 to 11 p.m., there were team-building exercises or another non-academic program.

“I’d rather have a little free time, but this is college,” said Mbye. “You have to get used to it.”

Valerio studied Introduction to Public Speaking as his three-credit elective course. Other options were:

  • Principles of Economics (Micro)
  • Principles of Business Management
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Politics
  • Introduction to Sociology

Professors and staff presented supplemental workshops on academic integrity, note-taking strategies, time management, test-taking strategies, and engaging with professors, among other topics.

“Getting an edge” on college

To find peers to mentor the students, the College reached out to students in leadership positions and encouraged them to apply. Mentors, who also lived on campus during the program and were paid for their work, were:

  • • Marco Aurelian ’16 (Hartford, Conn.)
  • Ariel Cormier ’16 (Wayland, Mass.)
  • Aida C. Cruz ’15 (Bridgeport, Conn.)
  • Alfredo Gonzalez ’15 (Nixa, Mo.)
  • Molly Illikainen ’15 (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  • Rilwan Ilumoka ’16 (Pawtucket, R.I.)
  • Brittany O’Shea ’16 (East Northport, N.Y.)
  • Kristen Perrelli ’16 (Madison, Conn.)
  • Eric Rivera ’16 (Chula Vista, Calif.)
  • Melissa Sheil ’16 (Southwick, Mass.)

Mbye loves math and plans to major in computer science and be involved in student government at PC. For five years, until she was 10, she lived in Gambia, West Africa, where she “really learned to respect people.” 

“Wow, Providence College is really amazing,” said Mbye. “I love how many resources there are — the Writing Center, and tutoring, and so much support.” She said she would definitely recommend Friar Foundations to other students.

Valerio is interested in studying biology, business, and social work. He hopes to become involved in cultural diversity, club wrestling, and mentoring students at Providence’s San Miguel School, which he attended. He said his experience through Friar Foundations “exceeded my expectations.”

“Before the program I knew that Providence College was a special place, and that people were kind, but now I feel that the people here go above and beyond,” said Valerio. “They are extremely welcoming, are always willing to help another in need, exchange a smile, and even have insightful conversations. There are also so many resources which will definitely help me to be successful.”

The program also helped his family get used to having him away from home, said Valerio.

“It gives me an edge.”


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