Travis Escobar was recently appointed to The Providence School Board by Mayor Jorge Elorza, is the founder of the award-winning organization Millennial RI and also works for The United Way. Our recent conversation for The Bartholomewtown Podcast focused on Travis’ vision for reshaping Providence’s future through educational practices and new ideas.
Bill Bartholomew (Motif): Is there anything specific that you would implement to change Providence education from the get-go?
Travis Escobar: One thing I really want to look into is a diversified education workforce. There’s been community outreach done by the mayor, particularly in convening student groups and youth groups, and one of the recommendations [has been] diversifying our education workforce. So, I want to look at it as a school board member. What can I and what can we do? I know that the mayor has been working with Rhode Island College on getting more teachers out into the workforce. I’m on the Rhode Island College Foundation Board, so I’m hoping to also serve as a connector in that way.
I went to Times Squared Academy, a charter school. I really think that was the greatest decision my mom ever made. I had young people of color who were educators. It was kind of the first time I saw a man of color, you know, wear a suit and tie, talk to me about the realities of the world as a person of color.
BB: What’s your thought just as a citizen of Providence, on the economic disparity that we see in the city? All you have to do is leave our studio here in Elmwood and drive a mile and a half downtown, go to College Hill and you’ll see night and day. In terms of the realities of the world, what can the school system in Providence do to serve as a central connector, to try to bring the city together in an organic way and lift people out of poverty?
TE: I think we need to make our school system as inspiring as possible, right? We have chronic absenteeism rate, not only for students, but our educators. I think in a Utopian world, our teachers should be making, you know, like six figures, right?
I think having our school system as a place of inspiration [is critical] because it was tough sometimes for me to go to school. I grew up in poverty and you know, sometimes you don’t want to go to school, or something happens at home and you’re just like going to geometry classes is not the top thing on my mind right now.
BB: Of course there’s the other side of this equation. When you have successful persons who come through the Providence school system, how do you get them to contribute to Rhode Island after they graduate, after they either go to college here or vocational training, or start a business, or join the military, whatever it is?
TE: I’m a big believer in expanding RI Promise [free college tuition program], just free college in general. I think if you get in top talent from high school, they’re graduating and looking at their options. As a young person being born and raised in Rhode Island, whatever the criteria is, having the option for free education, that’s going to be very attractive. [Another major element of this] is we need more affordable housing period. We just need more housing stock. A young person could should be able to get a college degree debt free, and find a place to live very cheaply. They’ll want to start a business here or find a job here in, in Rhode Island.
To hear the complete episode of The Bartholomewtown Podcast featuring Travis Escobar, visit bartholomewtown.com