When Constellation employees Marie Rinkoski and Joanne Beaubrun signed up to be a part of Constellation’s Equity and Inclusion Task Force, they had no idea they would ultimately spearhead a successful outreach initiative that is changing the lives and academic trajectory of students in Baltimore City.
In 2021, a group of Constellation employees worked in collaboration with the mission of examining the company’s approach to equity. Rinkoski and Beaubrun focused on addressing the lack of access to higher education that existed in the Baltimore community, home to the company’s headquarters.
"Marie and I brainstormed organizations we could work with to help facilitate student success,” said Beaubrun, a business architect on the Commercial Business Solutions team. "We had a vision of collaborating with schools and community partners to help meet the needs of the children they served. We decided to dig deeper and fully understand the data of the positive and negative factors affecting a student’s life. Upon gaining that information, we curated the vision of creating a sustainable system of support to help underperforming areas within communities that were occupied predominately by people of color."
From these ideas and collaborations, the Rising Scholars program emerged. Rising Scholars is a partnership between Constellation and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Foundation & Alumni Association in which annually, five graduating high school seniors are selected to receive a four-year renewable $5,000 scholarship to an accredited college or university. Since the program’s inception in 2021, Rising Scholars has provided academic scholarships to 10 Poly graduates. The selection process involves a committee of both Constellation and Poly employees reviewing applications, and students being selected based upon their financial need and academic merit. In addition to earning the scholarship, winners also receive laptops, college sweatshirts and Constellation-branded items. Each scholarship recipient is also paired with a Constellation employee who serves as a mentor to provide guidance and support.
"When we created the Rising Scholars program, we did not want to only support students financially, but we also wanted to give them entry into the network of support Constellation and its employees can bring,” said Marie Rinkoski, senior manager, Clean Energy Policy. "We not only wanted the scholars to go to college, but we also want them to successfully complete college, so we decided to create a mentorship component to help students properly adjust and matriculate through their academic career.”
Students who are selected to be a part of the Rising Scholars program are given many tools to support them during their college experience. Supplemental benefits of the program include:
"Currently, Marie and I are working to strengthen and build pathways internally with various teams in Constellation,” Beaubrun said. "It is always a good thing when the company supports your ideas, particularly those that help us make a greater impact in the community.”
When asked what the driving factor for Beaubrun and Rinkoski to create a program for local high school students was, Rinkoski says the answer is simple.
"I live in Baltimore City, so I see the inequities in my community,” Rinkoski said. "Constellation and its employees have a lot to offer and I’m glad to have the chance to build a new way for us to connect with these students, support their education and support our community. I am fortunate to work for a company that laid out this opportunity to implement an initiative that supports my personal values and builds toward success for these students.”