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State Honoree

Rochelle Cotton

Rhode Island

Rochelle Cotton, 17, of East Greenwich, R.I., a junior at East Greenwich High School, founded the Rhode Island Student Alliance (RISA), a student-run, nonprofit organization that identifies issues and concerns among teens and attempts to find solutions. During a trip to Europe as a youth ambassador for the People-to-People Student Ambassador Program, Rochelle realized that teens around the world seemed to have the same issues and concerns. When she returned home, she decided to create a similar program that would bring youth together from all over Rhode Island. After obtaining permission from her school administrators, Rochelle presented a 30-page proposal to the principals of every high school in the state. Two student representatives from each school now attend monthly meetings to work on a variety of projects, including a pledge program designed to curb violence, and a book of tips for incoming freshman on how to survive high school. Rochelle also coordinates the alliance’s Web site, and raises funds to support RISA’s activities. “The only time students from different schools ever came together in the past was for competition,” Rochelle said. “Now we get together and exchange ideas to help one another.”