Victor Capellan ’92, M.S. ’96, has been a strong and effective advocate for Providence’s Hispanic community.
A Latino Leader
By Laura NelsonPhotos By Nora Lewis
Victor Capellan ’92, M.S. ’96, was back in Rhode Island on February 8 to receive the Alumni Association’s Achievement Award for Community Service. Even though he has taken a new job in the New City School Department, he remains a strong and effective advocate for the Hispanic community in Providence.
Capellan was formerly the facilitator of student registration with the Providence School Department and served as executive director of the Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy. He is a member of the boards of the Dominican American National Roundtable, Rhode Island Hospital, and the Providence Public Library, and is chair of the Rhode Island Housing Mortgage and Finance Corporation. He has also held leadership positions with Progreso Latino and at URI’s Center for Leadership Development. In all his activities, he strives to provide more opportunities for those in need, particularly minorities.
What motivates his tireless commitment to community service? According to Capellan, it stems from his childhood experiences. When he and his family moved to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in the early 1980s, they received help and support from the Providence community. Says Capellan, “This country has given me so much, I want to make sure that I give back. I want to help provide others with the same kind of opportunities that I got.”
His choices of organizations to serve often have personal roots. For example, his decision to join the Providence Public Library board comes from the central role that institution played in his life, as he explained in the trade publication Shelf Life.
“When I came to Rhode Island from the Dominican Republic at the age of 12, I faced many of the same challenges that we see people who are new to our community facing today. Far and away the biggest hurdle was learning the language here. For me, the library was the key to closing this gap. My brother and I used to go to the South Providence Branch Library every day to hang out and also pick up the extra help we needed to get ahead.”
Capellan wants everyone to get the kind of help he did. When he was studying for his undergraduate degree in political science, he was involved in many student organizations, including the URI Student Senate and the Latin American Student Association. When he returned to URI in 1994 to pursue his Master’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, he took on even more, serving as residential manager of the Multicultural Center, coordinator of the Student Leadership program, and mentor in the Talent Development program.
Capellan’s diverse activities have made him well connected in the state, and he admits that he has political aspirations. He has run twice for the Rhode Island House, narrowly missing both times (by 13 votes in 1996 and by 20 votes in 1998). Despite losing, he made a big impact. He has been named one of ten up-and-coming political figures in Rhode Island Monthly magazine, and Charles Bakst, the political columnist for The Providence Journal, described him as “a key player in the state Hispanic community.”
Whether New York City or in Rhode Island, Victor Capellan is clearly someone to watch.
Laura Nelson is a public relations writer for several high-tech companies. She and her family recently returned to Kingston after living in Spain for a year.