Photo by Anna Meassick | Taft Hall is home to the Talent Development program, a program that helps in-state students succeed at URI.

The University of Rhode Island’s Talent Development program celebrated its 50th year on campus and was honored with a celebratory event at the Omni Hotel in Providence on Oct. 6.

Originally, 250 Talent Development alumni and their friends and family were expected to attend the event, but according to Gerald Williams, director of Talent Development, the estimated attendance doubled. The event began with a cocktail hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m, followed by dinner.

The night was packed with numerous activities, including a DJ, photo booth, silent auction and videographers. Also, the school store was present, selling commemorative gear. The event featured several notable speakers including Talent Development graduate and Mayor of Providence Jorge Elorza, URI President David M. Dooley, URI Vice President Kathy Collins and a representative from the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education.

The Talent Development program is designed for in-state students who have the grades to be accepted into URI but lack the required SAT score. The program was first started in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968 as a response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The first class consisted of 41 total students, and 13 of those students stayed at URI and graduated.

The program remains competitive with over 1,000 yearly applicants and only about 600 of those students are accepted. Once a student is accepted, they must attend Preparatory, which is essentially an orientation, towards the end of senior year. Students then take a Summer Success Program where they complete 10 credits over the summer in classes taught by URI professors and maintain a certain GPA. If they fail to complete both of these, the student will be removed from the program.

“We usually concentrate on the original 13 [students],” Williams said. “That 13 over 50 years has morphed into 1,200. If we talk about how it started as a grant program and now is in the base of the University budget, it’s huge in terms of 50 years. That to me speaks about the commitment that the University has had with the Talent Development Program over the 50 years.”

For those students who are accepted into the program, many have had a positive and life-changing experience. It has given them the opportunity to excel academically, and see a bright future within themselves.

“T.D. has given me the opportunity to be a student at URI,” senior Talent Development student Trayquawn Thornton said. “I think it’s monumental to see such a program that has helped so many individuals out to continue to strive to this day. It puts it into perspective that 50 years have gone by and so many students have been able to succeed with this program, I could only imagine what the next 50 years bring.”