Superlatives Class of 2015

Best Mentors

Without getting all “Greatest Love of All” here, the children really are our future – and their boundless imaginations have a lot to contribute to improving our daily lives. …

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Without getting all “Greatest Love of All” here, the children really are our future – and their boundless imaginations have a lot to contribute to improving our daily lives. That’s the theory behind Downcity Design (minus the gratuitous Whitney reference... that was all us). The nonprofit is “dedicated to improving the city of Providence by getting young people involved in building our future,” says Adrienne Gagnon, co-founder with her husband Manuel Cordero Alvarado. “We help kids become change-makers by inviting them to design and build structures that respond creatively to challenges and opportunities in their communities. Our free youth programs engage and empower students, while making the city a better place to live, work and learn.”

Over 800 kids have participated in their design/ build programs, and have added over 35 permanent amenities to PVD public spaces, including, “community gardens, benches for their schools, play structures for parks and outdoor classrooms to host workshops on healthy and sustainable communities,” Adrienne describes. They also facilitate adult Design Days, which challenge people to think differently about problems, like the one they did with the RI Department of Education to help them with their strategic planning about their values and priorities for public education in the state. “Our young designers come to see that they don’t have to just accept the status quo, that they have the power to make positive change happen,” Adrienne says. “At the same time, they’re learning a way of thinking and an approach to problem solving that will serve them throughout their lives, and they’re learning concrete design and fabrication skills that could lead them to careers in engineering, design, construction or manufacturing. Meanwhile, everyone who lives in Providence benefits from the amazing public amenities they design and build.”