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Applicants Sought for Inaugural Michael Van Leesten Awards Program

Published on October 16, 2020 by Rhode Island Housing
Applicants Sought for Inaugural Michael Van Leesten Awards Program

Awards to assist tomorrow’s housing leaders

Providence, RI – RIHousing is seeking applicants for the agency’s Michael Van Leesten Memorial Awards program, a new awards program that provides financial assistance to students pursuing a career in the construction trades or a degree in housing development. The awards program honors the life and work of Michael Van Leesten, a longtime advocate dedicated to improving the lives of Rhode Islanders through his business leadership, civil rights activism, and public service.

The program honors Van Leesten’s lifelong commitment to housing and education and includes both a scholarship program and fellowship position. Born and raised in Providence, Van Leesten was one of the founders and the Executive Director of Opportunities Industrialization Center of Rhode Island, a non-profit corporation offering career coaching, job training, and support for small businesses in urban communities. He served as the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of RIHousing from 1987-1991 and held leadership positions with the Providence Branch of the NAACP, Urban League or Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.

“Michael was a tireless advocate and passionate civil servant,” said Nicolas P. Retsinas, Chairman of the RIHousing Board of Commissioners. “By establishing these new learning opportunities, RIHousing is providing additional pathways for young people of diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in the housing or construction industries and continue his work.”

To support students pursuing education and training related to housing, RIHousing is offering two $5,000 scholarship awards, one for a student pursuing a career in the construction trades and a second scholarship for a student pursuing a degree related to housing development, including but not limited to, finance, economics, or public policy, with a focus on mortgage finance and housing markets. The agency is also offering a paid Research & Policy Fellowship for students to develop professional experience in housing policy, research, and analysis.

“We encourage Rhode Island educators, business leaders and members of the general public to share information on the awards program with eligible applicants who are interested in pursuing a career in the construction trades or housing development,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “We are seeking applicants interested in the housing field and construction trades to encourage and grow the next generation of leaders in Rhode Island.”

The purpose of this scholarship is to provide support to students of color with the goal of increasing opportunities for members of underrepresented groups to learn about and participate both academically and professionally within the housing field. All Rhode Island residents are eligible to apply, regardless of whether they are pursuing education and/or training in Rhode Island or another state.

The deadline for applicants is midnight on November 15, 2020. Interested applicants should visit for additional information and how to apply.

About RIHousing
RIHousing works to ensure that all people who live in Rhode Island can afford a healthy home that meets their needs. RIHousing provides loans, grants, education and assistance to help Rhode Islanders find, rent, buy, build and keep a good home. Created by the General Assembly in 1973, RIHousing is a self-sustaining corporation and receives no state funding for operations. For more information regarding RIHousing, visit our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to see all press releases.

Media Contact:
Christine Hunsinger