Gregg Amore and Kasim Yarn Honored with New England Higher Education 2023 Excellence Awards

Secretary of State and Director of Veterans Affairs Recognized for their Advocacy for Students

Providence, RI – The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) honored Gregg M. Amore, Rhode Island Secretary of State and Kasim Yarn, the first Director of Veteran’s Affairs in Rhode Island, for their commitment to higher education access and affordability for Rhode Island’s current and future students.

Governor Dan McKee presented the awards along with Michael Thomas, president and CEO of NEBHE, on October 5 at The Graduate in Providence.

“On behalf of the State of Rhode Island, I congratulate Secretary Amore and Director Yarn for their dedication to expanding higher education access and increasing affordability for Rhode Island students. We look forward to continuing working with them to ensure Rhode Islanders of all ages and backgrounds have an equal opportunity to succeed,” said Governor Dan McKee.

Gregg Amore

Secretary Amore had a full career in education before becoming an elected official. He taught Advanced Placement U.S. History and U.S. Civics and Government courses at East Providence High School for 27 years, and in 2008 was recognized as the Rhode Island History Teacher of the Year by the Daughters of the American Revolution. He served as East Providence High School’s Close-Up and United States Senate Youth Program advisor for 15 years and was instrumental in the process to finance and build the new East Providence High School, which opened in September of 2021.

As member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives Amore chaired the House Finance Subcommittee on Education, was vice chair of the House Committee on Education and advanced the House of Representatives’ education agenda, which included education reform legislation related to curriculum and site-based management. Amore championed efforts to significantly increase English Language Learner categorical funding, school construction initiatives, the retention and recruitment of teachers of color, and making college more affordable for Rhode Islanders.

Kasim Yarn

Kasim Yarn saw the need for greater support for veterans as they entered or re-entered higher education, so he created RI VetCorps in partnership with AmeriCorps, placing a VetCorps Navigator at each of the state’s three public institutions – Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. RI VetCorps is a veteran peer-to-peer program that helps veterans, service members, and their families navigate higher education as students adjust from military life to college life and beyond.

The awards were given as part of the NEBHE Fall Board meeting which drew more than 70 higher education leaders, legislators, and state education officials from the six New England states to Providence to discuss equity in higher education and alignment of postsecondary education with workforce needs, particularly in the health professions.

“Secretary Amore and Kasim Yarn both embody the vision of NEBHE, which is that everyone in New England will have lifelong access to affordable, high-value postsecondary education,” said Michael Thomas, President and CEO of NEBHE. “Their work on behalf of Rhode Islanders has made that a reality for students of all ages and circumstances.”

About the New England Higher Education Excellence Awards

Since 2003, NEBHE has formally recognized people and groups with New England Higher Education Excellence Awards for their exceptional leadership on behalf of higher education and advancement of educational opportunity.
Past Excellence Awardees in Rhode Island include the Hon. Claiborne Pell, Former U. S. Senator, former Senator M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Rhode Island General Assembly, The Hon. Donald L. Carcieri, former Governor, the Hon. J. Joseph Garrahy, former Governor, Ronald K. Machtley, former President, Bryant University and the late Eleanor M. McMahon, former Commissioner of Higher Education for Rhode Island.

Rhode Island programs that have been honored include Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, Rhode Island Promise, Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center, The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, and the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority.

In 2010, Governor Dan McKee received the Excellence Award when he was mayor of the Town of Cumberland for leading a coalition of Rhode Island mayors and business and community leaders to reform the Ocean State’s public charter school law to allow for “mayoral academies,” regional public charter schools overseen by mayors.