URI students receive Metcalf Fellowships for travel, adventure

Endowment at the Rhode Island Foundation honors late publisher of The Providence Journal

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KINGSTON, R.I., June 13, 2016—Three URI students will do everything from working at a Peruvian orphanage to volunteering at a big cat wildlife sanctuary in South Africa thanks to fellowships from the Michael P. Metcalf Memorial Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

Metcalf was chairman and publisher of The Providence Journal at the time of his death in a 1987 bicycling accident. His widow Charlotte and the Journal company created the Metcalf Fund in his memory in 1989.

“I wanted to create an opportunity that was a departure from the usual scholarship. I thought of making wonderful experiences – transforming experiences – happen for others,” said Charlotte about the Metcalf Fund’s mission.

The fellowships enable recipients to broaden their perspectives and enhance personal growth. The recipients were selected based on the clarity of their application and their thoughtfulness, creativity, motivation, self-direction, initiative and financial need.

Margaret-Amelia Crook
Margaret-Amelia Crook of Westerly. Photo courtesy of the Rhode Island Foundation.

Margaret-Amelia Crook of Westerly received $4,440 to participate in the GoEco.org Wildlife Cat Sanctuary Program in South Africa this summer. She will clean enclosures, gather and analyze research, lead tours for visitors and sanctuary guests, build and maintain enclosures and prepare food for the animals.

“I know that helping promote conservation and rehabilitation of wildlife in Africa will give me self-satisfaction that can only be described as self-actualization,’’ she said. “The idea of being so near to wildlife like big cats, elephants and jackals makes my heart flutter from excitement. It will be an experience I will never forget.”

The URI marketing major will spend most of her time in Kimberley, South Africa, which is the capital of the Northern Cape Province.

“I am interested in marketing because of the story it tells,’’ she said. “Most people believe marketing is about manipulation, but I have always seen it as an opportunity to raise awareness and create a connection between the audience and the brand. My passion is to one day work for an animal welfare organization as a brand manager or social media operator to promote customer involvement and donations.”

The Westerly High School graduate was inspired at the age of 13 while participating in a famine-relief event hosted by the Grace Fellowship Evangelical Free Church in North Stonington, Conn. She watched several films and videos detailing the harsh conditions that many people live with in Uganda, Kenya and other African countries.

“Volunteering for famine relief, local animal and warm shelters and a camp for children with developmental disabilities gave me happiness that cannot be replicated through material means,’’ she said. “The personal development which will occur as a result of this trip cannot be measured simply by goals.”

Ryan Curtis
Ryan Curtis of Coventry. Photo courtesy of the Rhode Island Foundation.

Ryan Curtis of Coventry received $7,000 to enable him to spend six weeks in Peru volunteering at an orphanage for children with disabilities and doing jungle conservation work through the nonprofit “International Volunteer HQ.’’

“I believe that international volunteer programs can bring people of different countries together to work side-by-side, while sharing perspectives and fostering cultural understanding,” he said.

The URI political science and psychology major will spend two weeks in the city of Lima, followed by two weeks in the city of Cusco and two weeks in the Amazon rainforest at a remote biological research station.

“I live my life with the simple philosophy that every experience provides a teachable moment,” he said. “The lessons I learn in Peru will never be forgotten and provide a different perspective to help guide my goal of giving back to those who can directly benefit the most.”

The Coventry High School graduate plans to go on to law school after graduating from URI. He envisions a career developing educational policy.

“My dream is to be able to make long-term changes in our educational system by working directly with at-risk children and families, stressing the importance of education and conservation,’’ Curtis said. “My majors will help me to specialize in the nonprofit sector as an attorney and activist for human rights.”

His interest developed while volunteering with local nonprofit organizations, including AmeriCorps, Inspiring Minds and Connecting with Children and Families. The majority of children he worked with are members of racial or ethnic minority groups, primarily Latinos.

“This type of immersion in Latin culture will prove invaluable in my future goals of eradicating racial disparities and under-representation of minorities in our educational system,” he said. Curtis also received support from the Christine T. Grinavic Adventurer’s Fund, which honors the memory of Grinavic, a URI graduate and 2001 Metcalf Fellowship winner who was lost at sea in 2007.

Nicholas Tierney of North Kingstown received $7,000 to spend two months traveling in the Patagonia region of Chile through a program supported by the National Outdoor Leadership School.

“An adventure through Patagonia is not simply a satisfaction of my wanderlust, it is a training experience aimed at preparing me for future work in alleviating poverty in Latin America,” Tierney said. “I seek a Peace Corps term, and learning to survive and make do with the bare essentials is a practice I will have to master for the future.”

The URI global and environmental health studies major will spend most of the time training, sea kayaking, backpacking and mountaineering.

“Surviving in the wilderness will teach me the wonders of simplicity,’’ he said. “As I hope to one day work in a non-governmental organization, I know that accuracy and success can only come from understanding the needs of the community. This means preparing for an experience living within poverty.”

The North Kingstown High School graduate will end his trip with a week-long, independent, student-led trek through Patagonia.

“This will test the limits of my will, and as I look to enact serious social change through sustainable development initiatives, an understanding of these limits will better prepare me for the successful implementation of my skills in development,” he said.

A Rhode Islander who is studying at the University of Virginia also received an award.

Joshua Jaspers of Warwick received $5,000 to support an internship in the Office of the Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.

“This internship at CMS will put me a step closer to pursuing a career in public service,’’ he said. “This summer, I hope to learn how to design and implement policy at the federal level. The politics major spent last summer interning in Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office and will spend 10 weeks in Washington this summer.??

Over the years, the Metcalf Fund has enabled more than 100 students to pursue personal enrichment and public service in locations ranging from Appalachia to Zaire. Past recipients have visited landmarks of Western historical and political thought in Europe, done a medical internship in Tanzania and volunteered at a Costa Rican orphanage.

The Foundation will begin taking applications for the next round of Metcalf Fellowships in November.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2015, the Foundation awarded $41.5 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit rifoundation.org.

Chris Barnett, senior public affairs officer at the Rhode Island Foundation, wrote this release.

Pictured above: Ryan Curtis of Coventry, and Margaret-Amelia Crook of Westerly. Photos courtesy of the Rhode Island Foundation.