Dakota Williams selected to Changemaker Fellowship Program
Dakota Williams ’17 is one of 10 students selected as a Rhode Island Changemaker Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year. An initiative of Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Founders League, the Changemaker Fellowship Program’s mission is to support entrepreneurship among students and recent graduates while uniting Rhode Island’s diverse student bodies.
Fellows were selected based on their demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and leadership experience. Williams, from Palmdale, Calif., is working toward a B.S. in accounting with minors in business administration and philosophy. He is an inaugural scholar of the Nuala Pell Leadership Program, vice president of membership for the University’s Toastmasters chapter, and a founder and leader of Trustfall, an organization that provides a safe and supportive environment for young people going through hardships.
“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I’ve always wanted to make a change in the world,” Williams said. “[As a fellow] I’m able to do something that combines both of those and also allow me to meet with like-minded people.”
As a Changemaker Fellow, Williams hopes to show his peers that entrepreneurship doesn’t need to be a scary venture. “A lot of people are shy and timid about being an entrepreneur because they fear it’s something they can’t do,” Williams said. “If you can work for yourself, and you can find a way to make a change in the world, that’s as self-gratifying as it gets.”
Through his organization, The Cause, Williams has created and marketed custom-designed socks, with half the proceeds benefiting the Salve Regina scholarship fund. The other half is invested in taking donated T-shirts to help fight homelessness as well as using the recycled shirts to make paper. One of his long-term goals is to help families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to pay for college.
Williams and the other Rhode Island fellows were honored at a Sept. 14 ceremony co-hosted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “Investing in the talented leaders of tomorrow is essential for our state to stay competitive in the global economy,” Whitehouse said. “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.”
The Changemaker Fellowship Program 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.
As compensation for their service, Changemaker Fellows receive one-on-one mentorship support, recognition as a student leader and a cash stipend.