Rhode Island Civic Readiness Task Force

RI Civic Readiness Task Force Recommendation Report

Letter from the Commissioner (May 2023)

The Rhode Island Civic Readiness Task Force is a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including educators, parents, community members, students, and advocacy organizations who will support civics education in the state.

The Task Force convened for six sessions from September 2022 through March 2023 and was charged with advising the Commissioner concerning:

  • The advisability of adding a half credit course in civics in grades 8 and high school which would focus upon media literacy so students can learn to effectively utilize the internet and social media
  • Methods and resources to support students in how to have respectful conversations on controversial issues with individuals having different views from their own, to be shared with LEAs, and ways to include hands-on instruction on voter registration that will also be provided to LEAs
  • Implementation of the Commissioner’s Diploma Seal of Civic Readiness for high school graduates and civics award program for middle school students
  • The development of a specific definition of “civic readiness” – to include civic knowledge, civic skills (including media literacy skills), civic experiences and civic mindsets
  • Implementation of the requirement in the 2021 Civic Literacy Act that every school district provide one student-led civics project for students during either middle or high school
  • Such other recommendations as the Task Force members may deem advisable

The Task Force submitted its recommendation report to the Commissioner on March 31, 2023.

For questions about the Civic Readiness Task Force, please contact CivicsTaskForce@ride.ri.gov.

Eugenie Rose Belony

I am currently a student at the Providence Career & Technical Academy in the Pre-Engineering pathway. Leading change in my community, I am an activist, community organizer, poet, dancer, and the former 20-21 Rhode Island Youth Deputy Poetry Ambassador. I hope to become an Astrophysicist and Aerospace engineer in the future. I truly hope to build up other BIPOC femme to pursue their careers in the STEM field. I'm beyond excited to work with everyone on this amazing task force and am hopeful for the future of PPSD.

Crystal Bozigian

Crystal Bozigian graduated from Providence College in 2007 with a Bachelor in Arts in History and Secondary Education. Upon graduation, she was hired as a social studies teacher at North Providence High School, where for 15 years she has taught American History and Psychology. Crystal earned a Masters degree in American Media and Popular Culture from Arizona State University in 2015. In 2017, Crystal became the History Department Chair at North Providence High School where she serves in a leadership position while also still teaching classes. Crystal recently earned a Masters in Educational Leadership program at Providence College in May 2022 with hopes of furthering her career in education as an administrator. In addition to teaching and leading, Crystal is also her high school’s swim coach, mock trial advisor, and Advanced Placement coordinator.

Tashal Brown

Tashal Brown is an Assistant Professor of Urban Education and Secondary Social Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Brown’s scholarship is shaped by her experience as a former educator in New York City public schools, her commitment to advocating for youth of color, and changing the social conditions that impact their lives. Her collaborations with youth, educators, and community-based organizations demonstrate an unwavering commitment to equity and cultivating critical and transformative educational spaces with an increased capacity for innovative teaching and opportunities for youth to engage critically and creatively. She looks forward to learning from and with other Civic Readiness Task Force members towards contributing to meaningful change in Rhode Island schools.

Dr. Michael Browner, Jr.

Dr. Michael Browner, Jr. is a veteran Rhode Island educator who has served in both teaching and administrative roles in the public schools of Newport and Pawtucket as well as The University of Rhode Island and Rogers Williams University. Dr. Browner is committed to the work of the RI Civic Readiness Task Force and to the goal of improving Social Studies and Civics Education content and course offerings for all Rhode Island public schools.

Michael S. Burk

I have 25 years working in Government, including serving on a local school committee and now Town Council. Civic involvement has been an important part of my life since high school. As an elected Town Council member, I find that too many of our appointed positions for critical town committees remain empty. I believe one of the best ways to address this is to ensure robust curricula in our schools that help students understand that our democracy only works well when we know how to think critically about the issues facing our society and are willing to be engaged in our communities.

Faith Carbon

Faith is the Associate Director of program on Generation Citizen's New England team and is representing the Rhode Island Civic Learning Coalition which is a multiracial, multiethnic, and multigenerational coalition committed to ensuring that all Rhode Islanders have equitable access to high-quality civic learning opportunities. Previously, Faith was a Program Director at Propel America, overseeing programming in RI and MA, managing partnerships and working with young adults to help them realize their career potential. Faith also recently completed the Women's Policy Institute Fellowship with the Women's Fund of Rhode Island. Faith holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Smith College, and an M.A in Urban Education Policy from Brown University.

Demi Egunjobi

My name is Demi Egunjobi. I'm a Nigerian American who has lived in Providence my whole life, and is currently a junior at Classical High School. I've worked with many nonprofits, youth organizations, and served on various committees. I am very excited to work towards the implementation of civics learning in schools and advocate for myself and my peers' right to engage in our democracy.

Moira Hinderer

I am a resident of Providence and parent to a middle schooler. I work for the local non-profit College Visions, which helps students apply to college, enroll, and thrive. I have studied civics/intercultural education from the first half of the 20th century. I'm excited to learn from the group and explore how we can embed civics in the education of every Rhode Island student.

Pat Jaehnig

Rights and responsibilities of citizenship were an integral part of my life lessons during my formative years, with my dad as teacher and role model. I, along with my husband, have tried to be the same for my two sons, one of whom is now the dad of two elementary school age children and carrying on the family “tradition.” Having spent much of my personal life and over 40 years of my professional life working alongside others, studying, educating, training, organizing and advocating around issues of economic and social justice, nonviolence and peacemaking, and community and political engagement, I bring my passion, commitment and experience in schools, prisons, communities and on nonprofit boards and coalitions to the Civic Readiness Task Force; ready to listen, learn and add my voice to the others around the table for the purpose of exploring and recommending ways our schools and communities can support young people on their journey to have their voices heard, be active participants in our democracy, and make the world a better place. I firmly believe that “Democracy is not a spectator sport” and that we are never too young or too old to “do the right thing”.

Ryan Lafond

Ryan Lafond graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in History and Education. He has spent the last decade teaching 8th-grade U.S. History and Civics in North Kingstown. He is excited to serve on the Civics Readiness Task Force because his experiences in and outside the classroom have shown him that students in Rhode Island have the drive and passion to become effective leaders in their community when given the knowledge and skills to do so.

Ellijah McLean

Ellijah McLean is the Program Officer of Education Policy at United Way of Rhode Island. He is from Providence, Rhode Island and attended Bates College. By trade, he is an educator who intends to provide and expand educational pathways for all through inclusive and comprehensive public policy. He believes that upward social and economic mobility are most obtainable when comprehensive educational opportunities are provided to all.

Maureen McGuirl

As a recipient of the James Madison Fellowship, I earned a Masters in History from Providence College and Georgetown University. While my academic focus is the early national period and constitutional law, I teach the historical method using topics in global studies to seventh graders and civics through the lens of how events shape the Constitution to eighth graders at the Lawn Avenue School in Jamestown. Through the auspices of my mentor Michael Trofi, I have been working with the Center for Civic Education to promote civic and history education through two research based programs, Project Citizen and We the People. I am excited to serve on this task force to promote civic engagement in memory of Michael Trofi and Carlo Gamba who opened up opportunities for me to be a better teacher and to help students, teachers, and the community understand their agency. I would also like to pay forward the opportunities that the Rhode Island Historical Society provided through the professional development that they provided regarding the historical argument and research.

Natalie O'Brien

Natalie O´Brien has been a social studies teacher at North Smithfield High School since 2000. She graduated from Providence College with a degree with education and subsequently got a Masters Degree in East Asian Studies at St. John´s University and another Masters Degree in Political Science at the University of Rhode Island. Natalie has been very involved in the We the People program created by the Center for Civic Education and has served as a mentor in national, regional, and statewide civics professional development opportunities. In addition to teaching, Natalie is currently working on a new civics curriculum through the Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts. She is very passionate about civics and is excited to bring this vital content and skills to students throughout the state.

Jennifer Wood

Jennifer Wood has over 30 years of public interest experience in civil legal aid organizations, civil rights firms, state government, and legislative roles. Prior to joining the Center for Justice, she was the Deputy Secretary/General Counsel at the RI Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the General Counsel/Chief of Staff in the Office of the Lt. Governor. She also spent nine years as the Chief of Staff and Chief Legal Counsel at the RI Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She started her career as a fellow at Rhode Island Legal Services, before transitioning to private practice. Jenn is a graduate of Brown University and the Northeastern University School of Law.

Nancy Xiong

Nancy Xiong is a child of Hmong genocide survivors and was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Nancy’s parents arrived in the United States with hopes of freedom and opportunities. Yet those opportunities were nonexistent when they knew no one, struggled with the language barrier, and experienced difficulty adapting to this new land called home. They were not furnished with the necessary tools for survival and as a multilingual learner, Nancy navigated the education system mostly alone. These experiences empowered Nancy to create pathways with and for her community to thrive, not just survive.

The task force draws upon various resources and exemplars from both within and outside of Rhode Island to inform work and recommendations. The links below are a sample of resources that have been incorporated in the task force engagement: