Woonsocket High Schooler Makes Big Waves at The Harbour

Pictured: Mariam Kaba

"This food pantry will save some of my kids' lives," Stump Evans, Director of Employment, Education, and Support Services. 

Mariam Kaba, a recent Woonsocket High School graduate, is transforming communities through collaboration and visionary leadership. In 2022, Mariam won big bucks for her big idea to engage Rhode Islanders of color in career preparation, mental health wellness, financial literacy, and more. The Papitto Opportunity Connection challenged high schoolers with the question: "If you had $1-million dollars to impact your community, what would you do?" Mariam’s compelling answer outshone 97 other teens, securing the funding to implement her idea.

Upon being awarded the $1-million investment, Mariam collaborated with Samantha Bergbauer from Leadership Rhode Island (LRI), along with planning and design teams, to turn her vision into reality. “Mariam’s really the vision and the driving force, and the planning committee, the design committee, and LRI are really the soldiers, the boots on the ground… staying true to Mariam’s vision,” said Stump Evans.

This past Tuesday, Mariam, with the help of dedicated friends and funding mentioned above, inaugurated The Mariam Kaba Community Food Pantry at the Harbour Youth Center. The ribbon cutting ceremony signaled the start of delivering crucial nourishment to many students in need—students with whom Mariam has forged strong bonds over the years.

Kaba and supporters at ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday June 26th

Mariam explains her motivation for starting this project: “My friends who work extra hours to help their parents with groceries. And my friends that say to me in class, 'I’m so hungry I can’t really study.’” She goes on to say that although there is a local grocery store, it doesn’t have the adequate amount of healthy foods the community needs, and many youth don’t have access to drive to Walmart in North Smithfield. “Woonsocket is a food desert.” 

“This food pantry may seem small, but to us, it really is huge,” emphasized Stump Evans. “We have a large population of unhoused youth. This is saving a young person’s life with a meal. That’s what this food pantry will do.” Samantha Bergbauer added, “Not only are the kids going to get food while they’re here, but they’re also going to be able to take it home to their families.”

A closer look inside the pantry.

The food pantry is a soul-stirring accomplishment for Mariam. She reflects that there’s a sense of family permeating around “A lot of people don’t have the greatest connections at home, so coming here to make those connections is super vital for youth. Having this space is so important.” Being able to not only provide nutritional nourishment, but also a welcoming community is absolutely essential for The Harbour staff. 

Mariam began attending the Harbour Youth Center at age 14, and the staff quickly became her extended family, with mentors who continue to guide her today. She reflects on how the staff assisted her through the college selection process, which ultimately led her to commit this year to Northeastern University, where she’ll be starting her studies in Nursing and Business Administration this Fall. 

Mariam is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when passion meets opportunity. This food pantry isn’t just about the clients at The Harbour Youth Center; it’s about impacting the entire community, one child at a time. From all of us at Community Care Alliance: Thank you Mariam. There are great things ahead, and we can’t wait to see what your future holds!

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PO Box 1700 | Woonsocket, RI | 02895 | Directions
401.235.7000 Main Agency | 401.235.7120 Emergency

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