Bryan Morillo Essay

Second Place Essay: 2013 “School Choice” Essay Contest – Bryan Morillo

See the Media Release here …

(July, 2013) Bryan Morillo is seventeen years old. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Providence when he was three years old. Bryan graduated from Mount Pleasant High School, and is about to enroll at CCRI, where he wants to study political science and economics.

Bryan Morillo accepts his prizes as runner up in the 2013 Friedman Legacy Day School Choice Essay contest!

Bryan Morillo accepts his prizes as runner up in the 2013 Friedman Legacy Day School Choice Essay contest!

Bryan hopes to get involved in elected politics. He would like to see fewer policies that take away rights from the individual, and a return to the basic, limited principles of the Constitution. Bryan believes this will help people feel more empowered, rather than further empowering disconnected politicians and bureaucrats.

Bryan’s essay is below …


How school choice could have affected my life

As a graduate of the providence school system I understand, just as thousands of others understand, how lack of school choice can negatively affect an individual. Before I delve into what school choice means I first want to give insight into what I’ve experienced without it. Lack of school choice has far reaching effects as I have witnessed for myself. These effects range from: Higher dropout rates, lower test scores and a lack of motivation to succeed in life. These are all things that I personally can attest to.

Even though I was not born in Providence this is the city I was raised in. As I grew up in the Providence school system I have seen a great number of my peers drop out of school. Although they were not all similar in character or personality, nearly all of them had the same reason for leaving school. It was not relevant to what they wanted to do in life. The goals they had set up in life didn’t seem to be achievable through continuing school.

For the longest time I too did not see the relevance of school in my life. The reality was that as I left middle school I was presented with 4 public schools as a choice. Any private school was either too far or too expensive for me to attend. So I resigned myself to Mount Pleasant High School. I felt no urge to push myself to do better in anything academically. I knew I could simply do just enough to get by and so I did.

All public schools in Providence have pretty much the same curriculum and thus do not have much difference except in faculty and location. Furthermore the curriculum presented no serious challenge, making it easy to simply go through the motions of showing and filling whatever sheet you were handed. The classes were either not necessary or inconsequential. Not to mention the variety in classes to choose from was nonexistent. You got the classes the guidance office gave you, end of story. In hindsight it was quite easy for me to want to drop out of school because school didn’t anything like what the real world would offer.

In the end I graduated high school unprepared for the real world and with no sense of accomplishment. It had become apparent to me that anything useful I picked up came from outside of school. It seemed that the school system made education more difficult to receive by failing to provide the student with what they need instead of what the curriculum desired. So it was the lack of availability in schools that condemned the students of providence to an attitude of “sit at home and collect a check.”.

However when you introduce true school choice to the situation you can deal with a plethora of problems. People wouldn’t have to resign themselves to the status quo if they knew they could achieve more. Not just more out of their school but in life in general. The ability to go to a school that better suited the student not only would reduce the dropout rate, because they are doing what they want to do, but also give them the motivation to push harder because there would be other students there striving to be the best. Students wouldn’t see testing as an annoyance but rather as a gauge of their abilities. The school system would succeed where it has previously failed for years and all it would take is to simply give students a say in where they want to go.

This would also carry well into college because now, a fresh batch of high school graduates, all of whom are well trained in their skill of choice would be entering into the halls of universities and colleges with an entirely different mindset than the previous generation. A larger percent now having an idea of what they want to do in life or what their career of choice will be. Colleges will be able to better perform their jobs because the high schools did theirs. In turn producing a generation of motivated individuals who have a sense of not only identity but purpose.

All of this does not have to remain speculation. The truth is that if this could be implemented the youth of Providence would be changed forever but for that to happen people must for first care for the youth of Providence. As a member of People United For Change I can speak for everyone by saying we care. It’s simply a matter of others caring too. Caring for the community and caring for the future as well. This is what school choice means to me. 

School Choice Essay Contest Winners

Read Tiffany’s essay here …  Read Bryan’s essay here …  Listen to Tiffany and Bryan on the Helen Glover Radio Show 920WHJJ-AM

Media Release: July 31, 2013

Providence, RI — In celebrating “Friedman Legacy Day 2013”, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will award prizes today to Tiffany Rezendes and Bryan Morillo, the top two essayists in a private essay contest it conducted with the youth-run empowerment organization, People United For Change, based in the Wiggins Village section of Providence.

Friedman Legacy Day is an annual celebration of the life and work of Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winning economist and one of the early pioneers of school choice in America. Today would have been Friedman’s 101st birthday.

Tiffany Rezendes and Bryan Morillo were announced as the top two essayist in the 2013 Milton Friedman Legacy Day Essay Contest celebration. Thanks to People United for Change for partnering with our Center.

Tiffany Rezendes and Bryan Morillo were announced as the top two essayist in the 2013 Milton Friedman Legacy Day Essay Contest celebration. Thanks to People United for Change for partnering with our Center.

Essayists were asked to write about how school choice has, or may have, made a difference in their lives or in someone they know. Both winners attended Providence district schools and each will receive an IPad donated by a Board member of the Center.

“A major assertion of Milton Friedman was echoed as a common theme in the personal essays we received; namely, that poor families are most affected by a lack of school choice,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Center. “He believed that residents of low-income neighborhoods, more than any other population, are disadvantaged as to the quality of schooling they can get for their children.”

Rezendes, 20, wrote about how one of her closest friends dropped out of high school due to a lack of a challenging curriculum in her Providence school, with no option to choose a school that was better suited to her interests, and how “she just gave up once she found out she wasn’t accepted into Classical because all her hopes of having a great education had to be lowered to settle for a below average school experience.”

Morillo, 17, discussed how lack of choice in schools “condemned the students of providence (sic) to an attitude of ‘sit at home and collect a check’ … ” because of a curriculum that left many “unprepared for the real world”, and “making it easy to simply go through the motions …”

People United for Change is a youth-run organization based at Wiggins Village in Providence, focused on empowering people to bring about positive and meaningful change, through unity, to the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island.

Read Tiffany’s essay here …

Read Bryan’s essay here …

ABOUT the Contest

The School Choice Essay Contest asked students to write about how school choice could have positively affected their life, or someone close to them. Essays were scored from 1-10 in each of four categories: emotional appeal, realism, defense of school choice, and quality of writing. Each of the five judges read and scored each essay.


Dr. Angela Dills, PhD – Economics Professor, Providence College. Doctor Dills has championed school choice for several years through research and speaking.

Matthew Fabisch – Attorney, Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights. Matt has worked extensively on the legality and principles surrounding school choice.

Creusa Michelazzo – Providence-based small business owner. Macremi specializes in PR, production, and community/business development.

Akash Chougule – Outreach Coordinator, RI Center for Freedom. Akash conducts the Center’s youth outreach to state and national liberty organizations.

Tyler Tassinari – Student, Arizona State University and Center Intern. Tyler is spending his summer doing school choice research for the Center.

School Choice Essay Contest Winners

In celebrating “Friedman Legacy Day 2013″, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is pleased to announce the winners for the top two essayists in a private essay contest it conducted with the youth-run empowerment organization, People United For Change.

[button url=”″ target=”_self” size=”small” style=”royalblue” ]Read The Essays …[/button]

Tiffany Rezendes Essay

Winning Essay: 2013 “School Choice” Essay Contest – Tiffany Rezendes

See the Media Release here …

(July, 2013) Tiffany Rezendes is twenty years old. Tiffany was born and raised in Providence and educated in the Providence public school system. Unlike many of her friends, who dropped out under-performing schools, Tiffany was accepted to and graduated from Classical High School.

Tiffany Rezendes poses with her IPad prize as winner of Friedman Legacy Day 2013 School Choice Essay Contest winner!

Tiffany Rezendes poses with her IPad prize as winner of Friedman Legacy Day 2013 School Choice Essay Contest winner!

She now studies liberal arts and psychology at CCRI. After college, she wants to do whatever will do the most to help people in her community. She is considering ministry because she believes that empowering people religiously will make the biggest, most positive impact on all other areas of people’s lives.

Her winning essay is below …


School choice

School choice was never really an issue of interest to me for two reasons. One reason was that I had no idea what school choice even meant. I was never taught that the possibility existed for students to choose the school they wanted to go to regardless of where they live or of their family’s economic status. I was always taught that when it came to school you either found a way to come up with the money to pay for the good schools (Moses Brown, LaSalle Academy), was smart enough to get into the charter schools and college prep schools or to just settle for the public school closest to your house. The second reason why school choice was never important to me was that I had the opportunity to attend Classical High school, so I didn’t have to worry about being sent to just any public school in my area, I was already at one of the best schools in Rhode Island. However, to my dismay this wasn’t the reality for many of my friends, who had no other choice but to choose one of the below average public schools.

It isn’t surprising that on the list of the top schools in Rhode Island not one Providence public school (Mt. Pleasant, Hope, Central) is listed (U.S.News & World Report LP.). The top school on the list is Classical high school, which you take a test to get into, and the only other school on the list from Providence is Times2 Academy, which is a charter school, which you have to be chosen from a lottery to get into. This leaves the “choice” for students to be really no choice at all. You either get into one of the “smart” schools, pay to go to the good schools, or settle for the many below average public schools. A choice would mean that all students regardless of geographical location, economic status, or level of intelligence would have the opportunity to attend an institution where they know they can receive top-notch instruction from teachers who truly care about their educational success.

Many of my friends and fellow junior high classmates were there with me on the day of the Classical test. And sadly I can say that many of them were not accepted and because there is no school choice in Rhode Island they were forced to choose one of the local public schools in their district. And to further this point it pains me to say that I found out that two of them that I knew of dropped out of high school because they lost interest and motivation. I’m going to focus on one of these people for this essay.

My best friend Jess attended three Providence public schools within just the time span of her freshman year of high school. She went to these schools because they were the only options presented to her. I can imagine how demoralizing it must have been for her to not be able to attend the school she wanted (Classical) and then have to settle for one of the low standard public schools which everyone knows have horrible ratings when it comes to test scores and graduation rates. I strongly believe that if Jess had the opportunity to choose one of the top schools like Moses Brown or LaSalle, she would have graduated and would have been in college now. Jess was willing to work hard if she was put in an environment that would challenge her, but I think she just gave up once she found out she wasn’t accepted into Classical because all her hopes of having a great education had to be lowered to settle for a below average school experience.

In Providence the mindset of the youth is pretty much that, if you want a good education you have to get into Classical and if you can’t do that than your next best option is one of the charter schools because no one can afford the private schools. Everyday students are making decisions to drop out because of the lack of excitement to learn in their classes, the lack of creativity with which classes are taught, the outdated information being fed to them, and teachers who don’t care enough.

School choice solves these problems not only by giving students the opportunity to attend high achieving institutions and an equal chance at a good education, but it also causes competition among the local schools which will cause them to improve. If those low scoring schools have no students they will be forced to improve their curriculum, making it more relevant and interesting to the students and also to only hire and keep teachers who are well qualified and who really care about the education of their students.

I strongly believe that school choice plays a pivotal role in changing our broken school system into one that will thrive and become more relevant, inspiring, encouraging, challenging, and one that will better prepare its students for whatever they decide to pursue after high school whether that means entering the workforce, becoming an entrepreneur or entering a post secondary institution. There is no excuse that can explain why statistics show that so many Providence public school students score below average in math, reading and writing and upon entering college have to retake basic remedial classes, which they should have already been taught in high school. I know a lot of people, myself included, who have no idea why we must take these basic math, english, and history classes again if this is material that we were expected to master in high school. Year and year again students are taught the same information, yet still do not understand it. Why? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that information is not being taught, its being crammed in, rushed through and passed over. Students aren’t being challenged to learn through application and critical thinking, but rather being taught to simply memorize facts in order to pass tests and then forget the information. And even though I attended Classical high school, “the best school in Rhode Island” I still rarely had the experience of being able to critically think and apply what I was learning.

The question before us now is not whether school choice could change people’s lives but rather when will we allow this change to take place? It is clear that school choice will make a difference, but are we going to give it a chance? Obviously it is clear that I believe we should, and I know many people who also agree. Will you join me in giving every student an equal opportunity to pursue an educational experience that will actually do what it is supposed to? High schools that will turn students into informed citizens, equipped with the necessary knowledge to make them capable of walking their path to success regardless of where that path may lead. 

Rhode Island Employment Snapshot, June 2013: Still Steady, Now Down-Leaning

Rhode Island’s unemployment held at 8.9%, despite a decrease in employment and the size of the labor force. In other words, the state is still stuck in its rut.  The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not yet updated its quarterly release of “alternative” state-to-state unemployment levels, but if Rhode Island’s U-6 rate increased at the same rate as the national U-6 rate, it will be over 17%.  That’s the measure that includes not just those who’ve said they’ve looked for work in the past month, but also those who haven’t looked for work for a longer period plus those who say they are only working part time, while wanting full-time employment.

The first chart below shows that the employment situation’s mild gyrations are pretty much sticking to a horizontal line of no improvement.

The second chart shows that the Ocean State still has a long way to go to reach its January 2007 level of employment, and once again remains well behind Massachusetts and Connecticut.



Political Class in Rhode Island: Living in a Land of Make Believe

Commentary (amended 7/15) 

See TV discussion on WJAR-10

What are we to make of recent legislative sessions and of our state’s political leadership? After all the talk from the Executive and Legislative about economic development, and comparing that with the virtual inaction we all witnessed, I have reached my own fanciful conclusion:

the Political Class in Rhode Island is living in a “land of make believe”

landofmakebelieveThe rest of us, taxpayers and business owners, are left to deal with real life.

Where are the jobs and the plan for economic growth we were promised? Consider …

In the land of make believe, the fact that over 50,000 of us are out of work does not inspire a need for bold public policy reform. In reality, Rhode Island is in the midst a severe Death Spiral, as fewer and fewer people are calling our state home, and those that remain and forced to support an ever-increasing budget burden … only perpetuating the downward spiral.

In the land of make believe, simply talking about economic development suffices as progress, while in the real world, we saw no major policy changes that gets onerous tax and regulatory burdens off our backs.

In the land of make believe, preservation of the status-quo budget is the top priority. In the real world, it is indeed this failed budget that has caused the Ocean State to be ranked so poorly in so many categories.

In the land of make believe, the myriad window-dressing bills and re-shuffling of the deck gives cover for legislators to hail that they helped our state. In reality, the 2013 legislative session further weakened the competitiveness of our already last-place state.

In the land of make believe, our generous social services spending provides critical support to the needy. In reality, ranking number one in terms of redistribution of wealth policies, Rhode Island is the most anti-family, anti-jobs state in the entire nation, depriving the needy of the opportunity for upward mobility and the financial self-security that they really desire.

In the land of make believe, providing a municipality with a statutory hammer to bully its local University into making payments in lieu of taxes is simply helping each side get together to work things out. In the real world, the state has stuck its nose into a place that it doesn’t belong and has created an non-level playing field that will make Rhode Island even a less attractive place for other non-profits.

In the land of make believe, raising the minimum wages helps low-income workers earn a few more dollars. In real life, this deprives jobs to others, particularly youth and families in need of additional income.

In the land of make believe, levying tolls and raising fees are just harmless means of finding revenues to pay for pet spending programs. In the real world, each of these money grabs results in yet another disincentive to some kind of productive economic activity.

In the land of make believe, a little bloodletting here and there in the form of new taxes and fees is healthy because it pays for some perceived good. In the real world, Rhode Island is suffering death by a thousand cuts.

In the land of make believe, it is considered a win-win to pay people NOT to work, via an expanded TDI family leave program. In the real world, actual businesses, workers and families know that this is a lose-lose scenario, forcing even further costs and loss of productivity onto an already strained private sector.

In the land of make believe, unionizing daycare workers will improve the quality of care. In real Rhode Island, unions will siphon off more dues from more workers and will increase their political power in the state.

In the land of make believe, state and local government officials hide behind assumed rates of returns for defined benefit public employee pension funds that are significantly higher than those assumed in the real, private sector world.

In the land of make believe, Obamacare and state exchanges were to lower the cost of health insurance. In the real Rhode Island, rates will rise by 12%.

In the land of make believe, a special session of the General Assembly is warranted to address a critical pension issue with a politically sensitive class of workers. Conversely, the fact that real world, average, everyday would-be workers face one of worst employment outlooks in the nation is not a cause for action, or even apparent concern … should be of concern to all of us.

In the land of make believe, passing National Popular Vote now makes ‘every vote count’ for Rhode Islanders in presidential elections. In the real world, our esteemed Political Class has voted to reduce our state’s collective clout in electing our nation’s leader by over 57%!

In the land of make believe, tolerance is a catalyst for economic growth. In the real world of economics, tolerance is not a variable in any economic formula that I have ever studied.

In the land of make believe, the political class believes that it is their responsibility to right every perceived wrong. In the real world, the unintended consequences of their policies are strangling us: We are more than capable of fending for ourselves if government would just get out of the way!

In the land of make believe, big government, with all its insider deals, special interest favoritism, and cronyism provides valuable services to certain citizens and businesses. In reality, we simply want a government that works for all of us, including the average little guy, not just for the special few.

There is one area, however, where the make believe land of the political class overlaps with the real world.

In the land of make believe, public officials are fearless that they will ever be held accountable for their actions or, this year, for their inactions. And, sadly, it is also true that in the real world Ocean State voters are not likely to ever hold their elected officials accountable.

On second thought, maybe it is we, ourselves, who are living in a land of make believe; by daring to hope that our elected representatives will someday have the vision and courage to make our dream of an economic recovery a reality; or alternatively, that if legislators continue to fail in this regard, that we will apply some measure of chronic political unemployment to them.