URI senior aims to empower individuals, communities

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Pawtucket native building Alumni of Color Network at University

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 18, 2010 – University of Rhode Island senior Tyrene Jones wants to help people empower themselves.

Whether it is her classmates at URI or the community in her hometown, Jones has a passion for helping people find the tools they need to improve their own situations. That’s why the Pawtucket native has dedicated much of her senior year to strengthening the Alumni of Color Network at the University of Rhode Island.

Working closely with Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Michelle Fontes-Barros and junior Marquis Jones (not related), Tyrene Jones developed a week-long series of events in April dedicated to helping students connect with alumni. A speed networking night introduced students to staff from Career Services and alumni from the professional world. A scavenger hunt helped students find campus resources aimed at helping them think about post-graduate opportunities. There also was a panel discussion and dinner with graduate students and alumni who provided advice and networking opportunities.

“It was a great feeling to see the events grow from an idea into action,” said Jones, a double major in political science and English with a minor in leadership studies said. “We spent the year making a push to get more and more people involved, and the momentum from those events really carried over well.”

Jones’ efforts with the Alumni of Color Network have helped the University develop a mentorship program that will pair students one-on-one with faculty, staff and professionals.

“The idea of empowering each student with a network of support is a real driving force for me,” Jones said. “If there is just one person with power in a situation, it doesn’t do much good for the long term. When you empower a group of people with information and ability, that’s when you can make a true impact.”

This is what Jones did with the student organization Uhuru SaSa, which is dedicated to maintaining cultural, social and educational enrichment of all people at URI. The group held events such as a ball for the African American and Pan-African holiday Kwanzaa in December.

“Our goal was to cultivate a social knowledge on campus in a variety of ways,” Jones said. “Whether it was an academic or social setting, we wanted to expose everyone to culture and help educate about different things, such as the history and meaning of Kwanzaa.”

Not bad for someone who admittedly did not want to come to URI as a freshman. Jones wanted to go out of state when it came time to choose a college, but wound up finding the experience she was looking for in the state university.

“Even though I did not want to come to URI, I maintained an open mind,” Jones said. “When you start out with a negative mindset, you are already defeated.”

It’s that type of mentality that will serve Jones well as she looks to her future. After graduation, she plans to spend a year working for AmeriCorps Vista, where she will gain experience in community advocacy and outreach.

“I know that I want to do graduate school, but I also need to figure out exactly what I want to do,” Jones said. “Whether it is law school or a program suited to urban development or public policy, I’m not sure. AmeriCorps Vista will help give me experience in those areas and help me determine the right path.”

Pictured above

Tyrene Jones

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.