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Changemaker Fellows Poised to Rock Rhode Island Entrepreneurship Scene

Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Founders League are thrilled to announce the selection of student superstars who will serve as Rhode Island Changemaker Fellows for the 2015-2016 academic year. The Fellows will be celebrated this evening at a ceremony co-hosted by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

The Changemaker Fellowship Program is a joint initiative between Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Founders League, and is made possible by a $200,000 Innovation Grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The purpose of this initiative is to better integrate students and recent graduates into Rhode Island’s startup ecosystem, open entrepreneurship opportunities to new populations, and strengthen the flow of talent that drives startup success.

“Investing in the talented leaders of tomorrow is essential for our state to stay competitive in the global economy,” said Whitehouse. “The Changemaker Fellowship will help talented student entrepreneurs start and grow businesses here in Rhode Island, and I congratulate those who have been selected to participate.”

An inspiring and talented group of students was selected for the first cohort of Changemaker Fellows due to their demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and leadership experience. The Changemaker Fellows will work over the upcoming school year to support entrepreneurship among students and recent graduates and unite Rhode Island’s diverse student bodies.

"The launch of the Changemaker Fellowship is an enormous win for Rhode Island's entrepreneurial ecosystem," says Social Enterprise Greenhouse University Initiative Director Cayla Mackey. "This is the first time that students have been brought together from across the state for the sole purpose of encouraging social enterprise and entrepreneurship in Rhode Island. As the base of the talent funnel, students are instrumental in improving Rhode Island's economy, and we together believe that one of the best ways to do that is through entrepreneurship."

As members of these diverse communities, Changemaker Fellows help Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Founders League work effectively across campus boundaries. The Fellows serve as conduits to share information, connect their peers to local resources for entrepreneurs in Rhode Island, and provide vital insight into entrepreneurial activity happening on their campuses.

“Campuses are dynamic places, where student interests and behaviors change quickly. Even if located only a few miles apart, our college and university campuses all have different channels for engaging students and recent grads in startup activity,” says Founders League Director Melissa Withers. “The Changemaker Fellows helps us understand this complexity and creates an on-the-ground connection to the people we want to serve. Bonus: the Fellows are all incredible leaders and it is inspiring to work alongside them.”

Each year, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation makes a series of grants to organizations that spread the ideals of entrepreneurship and benefit local communities. Working in partnership, Founders League and Social Enterprise Greenhouse were one of only 20 awardees selected from a pool of 500+ applications. Activities supported by the grant seek to help more students launch ventures, find internships, and seek post-graduation job placement at local startups. This is the first time Blackstone Charitable Foundation has provided funding to support entrepreneurship in Rhode Island.

“We are proud to support entrepreneurship in Rhode Island by providing funding to these two outstanding organizations through our Innovation Grants program,” says Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “Through our work with the Blackstone LaunchPad program, we recognize that engaging and supporting students is key to the success of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. By engaging local universities and colleges, we strongly believe the Changemaker Fellowship will drive economic development and business creation in Rhode Island.”

As compensation for their service, Changemaker Fellows receive one-on-one mentorship support, recognition as a student leader, and a cash stipend.

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