Former University of Rhode Island Talent Development alumna, Rhonda Price, started a nonprofit called Man Up, Inc. where she helps men of color and men from disadvantaged backgrounds find their place in the workforce.

Price graduated from URI in 1984 with a degree in psychology. Afterward, she spent nearly 20 years working in the court system. After working at both the state level courts and federal level courts, Price stepped away and started up a small flower shop.

“I was just so happy to be away from the legal system and the judicial and correctional system, but unfortunately the recession forced me to close my business,” Price said. “So, I guess it was really out of an adverse season in my own life that I started [Man Up].”

Since founding Man Up in 2011, Price’s nonprofit has helped approximately 200 men and one woman with training and entrance to the workforce. The company is aimed primarily at men because of what Price noticed during her time in the court system. She said the statistics show that men of color are often the ones with barriers to jobs and the education system due to their commonality with the prison system.

“She did very well,” Price said of the one woman who Man Up helped. “We’re not restrictive. When someone is referred to us, I’m not looking at gender or color. I’m looking at whether they meet our criteria for acceptance because all the training programs, they require strong math and strong reading skills. We require that strong desire to change the trajectory of their lives.”

Without URI’s Talent Development program, Man Up may not have been possible. “I was volunteering with Leo F. DiMaio, the former director of Talent Development and I wanted to start up an initiative of my own and he encouraged me to do so,” Price said.

Price noted that many men that enter the program have ended up in professions such as truck driving, information technology, pipe fitting, welding and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

“We’ve gotten many trained as CNC machinists,” Price said. “The acronym stands for computer numerically controlled machining. Those individuals have shown themselves to have a very high IQ for that type of work. Those are individuals that after they go through training and get placed in good jobs, we try to encourage them to pursue perhaps an Associate’s Degree in engineering technology.”

Price hopes that in the future the company can expand to other states and also develop itself into a small business opposed to a nonprofit.

“[Talent Development] provided me with a college degree that employers are looking for,” Price said. “It provided me with great mentors as well. In the Talent Development program, there were individuals that were able to give you the proper guidance, direction, kicked your butt when you needed it. Those were the folks in there that cared about your future.”

Bobby Britto-Oliveira, a current academic advisor for readmitted students in the Talent Development program, cites the academic advisors as the reason for much alumni success, such as Price’s.

“While the academic advisors are academic advisors, they deal with academics, but there’s also a social-personal aspect,” He said. “We’re very much involved in the lives of our scholars and alumni and that’s why we call it Talent Development nation. We go all over the place once we graduate, we maintain that network and continue to look at each other as family.”

“We diversify the campus absolutely,” Britto-Oliveira added. “We just celebrated our 50th anniversary, and I just think overall our students bring a perspective to the campus that often isn’t recognized.”

Price’s advice to these scholars is to keep pushing despite the adversity they’re faced with.

“Pursue your dreams. Work hard. Don’t let barriers get in your way. Find your way. These mountains that come into our lives, you have to find a way over them, around them, under them; you can’t give up. Don’t take the path of least resistance.”