RIC helped prepare Rep. Maria Cimini for a life in public service

Maria Cimini
In both politics and profession, state Rep. Maria Cimini is steeped in public service. The 34-year-old Democrat from Providence’s District 7 was sworn into office on Jan. 4, one of 22 new members of Rhode Island’s House of Representatives. She is on House committees for Health, Education and Welfare and Environment & Natural Resources.

This lifelong Rhode Islander has served the community through neighborhood volunteer activities, political activism and as a social worker.

Her involvement in community activities was inspired by the example of her parents. Her mother instilled in her a belief in the democratic process and her father took her door-to-door in support of City Council candidates when she was a youngster.

Cimini earned an undergraduate degree from RIC in political science in 2002 and master’s in social work in 2005, with a focus on organizing and policy.

Since 2004, she has coordinated the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Outreach Project through the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America. SNAP, a government assistance program formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, provides nutritional assistance to low-income households.

“Right now there are thousands of Rhode Islanders who are eligible for SNAP, but they do not receive the benefits for a variety of reasons,” Cimini said.” My job is to find those people, help them to apply for benefits, and to help them to maneuver through the bureaucracy that is to help them get a public benefit.

She oversees a media campaign and helps create educational materials for SNAP. She also provides training for social service agencies, and supervises a staff of outreach workers who go into the community to help people apply for benefits.

Cimini’s RIC education has undoubtedly impacted her personal and professional life. She is still close friends with classmates from both her undergrad and graduate days, some of whom she describes as “professional allies and sounding boards” for various issues.

She notes that she and four of her friends from graduate school have been going to dinner once a month for the past five years to provide professional support for one another.

She also mentors social work interns from RIC. “I really love giving students who are learning in the classroom, a real-world kind of experience to see how what they learn in the classroom relates to what professional life is like,” she said.

Cimini added: “The whole picture from my undergrad work from studying politics, as well as being in the political science club, debate team, and student government, all of that really trained me to be a very competent public servant, to be able to communicate with people and understand peoples backgrounds, beliefs and expectations in government.”

Those qualities will certainly keep her in good stead as she begins a new career in elective office.