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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI alumnus -- Donor, recruiter, advocate Mentor/ Tutor Internship Program at URI beneficiary

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- June 27, 2005 -- Jerry Kritz not only financially supports the University of Rhode Island’s Mentor/Tutor Internship Program, he recruits students for it.

He figures he’s already recruited a half a dozen students while shopping at Shaw’s supermarket near his Wakefield home.

“I always carry brochures (for the program) in my car,” he says. “If I see a student working there is interested, I’ll run out and get a brochure. And they always know I’ll be back to the store the following week.”

URI Political Science Professor Al Killilea created the program in 1998, an outcome of his membership in the South County Coalition Against Racism. Killilea piloted the program with eight URI students of color to see if they could break down racial stereotypes in local schools by helping teen-age students who, feeling isolated, had the potential for truancy.

Since that time the program, under the guidance of the program’s energetic coordinator Cherie Aiello, MTI has evolved and expanded. Today, there are more than 200 URI student-mentors in elementary through high schools from Westerly to Providence offering children friendship as well as a firm footing to keep them from slipping in their schoolwork.

“These URI students are changing lives,” Kritz enthuses. “Kids who were on the verge of dropping out have remained in school and many have gone on to college. And some of them have even become mentors themselves.”

Community service has always been part of the Kritz family. “It is stressed in my religion,” Kritz says. His father was a cantor in Providence for 30 years; a tradition one brother carries on in Massachusetts. Kritz attended Hope High School, but graduated from the New England Academy of the Torah. He says the school taught “reading, writing, arithmetic, and community service.”

Three years ago, the 1976 political science alumnus asked his former professor and longtime friend, Al Killilea, how he could help URI’s Political Science Department. The professor suggested funding the growing internship program, which had been receiving some support from The John Hazen White Sr. Center for Ethics and Public Service at URI.

Kritz had asked that his gifts remain anonymous. “The story is about the students, not me,” says the Connecticut representative for Countrywide Home Mortgage. This year, he agreed to be interviewed only if it would help bring attention to the program.

“He’s been the Deep Throat of the MTI program,” says Killilea with a wide grin.

“MTI profits from Jerry’s encouragement and enthusiasm as well as from his extraordinary generosity,” says Killilea. “Jerry will go into our business classes to recruit and let the students know that community service is important to employers like him. Jerry knows they may try MTI for résumé reasons, but they will come to love the experience for its own sake.”

The day of the interview both men, along with Cherie Aiello, program coordinator, were busy packing nearly 3,800 books that were destined for elementary school children whose families can’t afford them. Students who mentored at the school and two other similar sites saw the need for the books. As a consequence, Aiello applied for and received a First Book grant for 4,200 books from the First Book Campus Advisory Board, formed last year by Darshell Silva, then a graduate student working in URI’s Clearinghouse for Volunteers, a program of the Feinstein Center for Service Learning. The advisory board is a local chapter of the national First Book Program, which gives children from low-income families the chance to own their own books..

“I can’t wait to see the kid’s faces,” Kritz says as he stuffs the last box of books into his SUV.

Photo caption
READY TO DELIVER: URI Professor of Political Science Al Killilea, left, founder of URI Mentor/Tutor Internship program, Cherie Aiello, MTI program coordinator; and donor Jerry Kritz rest briefly after packing books into Kritz’s SUV. URI Photo by Nora Lewis.