Meet the First Gentleman’s Guests For Tonight’s Speech

Tonight, Governor Raimondo will share inspiring stories of Rhode Islanders in her annual State of the State address. The First Gentleman has invited a number of guests to attend, and several will be mentioned in the speech. Keep reading to learn more about all of the First Gentleman’s special guests.

Izabele Bauzyte is a first-year student studying at CCRI on a Rhode Island Promise scholarship. After graduating from Barrington High School, she chose CCRI because other college options were not affordable. Izabele is studying computer science, which she says is “much more interesting” than she originally expected. After completing her associate’s degree, she plans to transfer to a four-year institution.

Erin Dube is a mother of two and member of the Pawtucket School Committee. Her oldest daughter, Alexandria Greenman, is a third grader at Potter Burns Elementary School. Erin and Alexandria remember what Potter Burns was like before it was renovated, thanks to Governor Raimondo’s decision to lift the previous administration’s freeze on school construction. The old Potter Burns that Alexandria attended in first grade was dark and dreary and the ceiling was leaking. Now, it’s bright and clean, with a new library which has been totally rebuilt and wired for 21st century learning. Alexandria particularly loves her computer science class, and tells her mom “it’s like solving puzzles.” Erin now describes Potter Burns as, “what a school should be.”

Austin Ferrara graduated from Coventry High School in 2017. As a senior in high school, Austin enrolled in a Prepare RI program that taught him advanced welding. Before graduating, Austin was offered a job at Electric Boat. He’s interested in merging his welding skills with his passion for business, and Electric Boat has programs that might help him get there. Read more about Austin and the other Coventry graduates here.

Nikos Giannopoulos was Rhode Island’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, and went viral when he visited the White House this past spring. He lives in Providence and earned his teacher certification in Secondary Special Education and Secondary English as a Rhode Island Teaching Fellow through the New Teach Project. He now works as a special education teacher at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, and also is the sponsor and coordinator of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.

Jonathan Goyer is an overdose survivor and the manager of the Anchor MORE, a statewide outreach program that sends peer recovery coaches into the community to talk with individuals suffering from substance use disorders. He is a member of Governor Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. Watch PBS tell the story of Anchor MORE here.

Michael Hallock is the CEO of the Rhode Island Mushroom Company, the supplier of mushrooms to every Whole Foods north of New Jersey. Governor Raimondo visited RI Mushroom in November last year to see their newly renovated facility in West Kingston, a change helped by a Small Business Assistance Program loan from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. The new location includes a 40-foot walk-in cooler, updated packaging equipment and new office space. Read more about RI Mushroom here.

Kristin Hayes-Leite has been a social studies teacher at Narragansett High School for the past 16 years and is the 2018 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year. Kristin serves as Social Studies Department Chair, and has created and teaches new elective courses for the high school, including Contemporary Issues, and Law and Society. She is also a member of the Blended Learning Catalyst Team and was recently named to Narragansett High School’s Fuse Architect pilot design team, which is charged with creating and piloting systems to increase personalization and student engagement in learning. Read more about Kristin here.

Evan Oliveira lives in East Providence and owns Universal Cleaning, a janitorial service company. He is a Navy veteran and a graduate of 10,000 Small Businesses, a program Governor Raimondo brought to Rhode Island as the first statewide launch of the initiative in 2016. Last year, Evan received a Small Business Assistance Loan from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. The loan helped him buy new equipment. Learn more about 10,000 Small Businesses here.

Rodrigo Pimentel is a Dreamer who was born in Portugal, and brought to the United States by his parents at just 10 months old. Thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Rodrigo was able to live, work and pay taxes in Rhode Island. In September 2017, Governor Raimondo pledged her support for the Dreamers in Rhode Island and across the country, and announced an effort to cover the $495 renewal fee for every Dreamer in Rhode Island who was eligible to renew their status. Rodrigo has been active in support of the DACA program, and serves as the Immigration Coordinator for the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats. Watch video from the Governor’s meeting with DACA recipients in Rhode Island here.

Alisa Diaz Richardson is a mother of three living in Warwick. Her children–Elisabeth, James and Katie–are building skills for the future because of training and education investments Governor Raimondo has made. Tune in tonight to hear their full story.

Amber Pinheiro is a first-year student at CCRI. Originally from Cranston, she graduated from Cranston East High School with plans to study psychology and become a psychiatrist. Knowing that medical school won’t be cheap, she jumped at the chance to attend CCRI tuition-free for two years with a Rhode Island Promise Scholarship. Amber is the first person in her family to attend college right after high school. After completing her associate’s degree, she plans to transfer to a four-year institution.

Karen Tarasevich is the 2018 Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year. She has served as the Superintendent in West Warwick since 2013, and previously served as the high school principal in West Warwick. Prior to that, Karen served as the Associate Principal of Secondary Schools in West Warwick, and as a middle school and high school English teacher in Narragansett. Karen was one of 100 superintendents recognized by President Obama in November 2014 for her district’s commitment to Future Ready learning and technology integration in education.

Lisa Tortolani graduated from Villanova University in 2001, where she majored in Political Science and Italian Studies. After years of teaching high school level Italian as well as working for an Italian based company in Boston, Lisa was accepted as a teaching fellow and graduate student at Boston College. Since earning her MA in Italian Languages and Literatures from Boston College in 2013, Lisa has taught language, literature and culture courses at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the University of Connecticut, worked extensively on translations, and presented on topics such as literature and technology in the foreign language classroom. In 2004, while working as a high school Italian teacher, Lisa and her husband Alan founded ABCYa. What started as a way for them to share educational games with other teachers has evolved into a company with 11 employees and over 1.5 billion games played just in the past year.