Local heroes of 2012

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  April 11, 2012

But reducing Kugler's work to a series of bureaucratic victories doesn't do it justice. The youth program is about relationship-building, as Radtke told me. It's about seeing the potential in a troubled kid and working, working, working to harvest it.

On a recent tour, I met a young man who said the program "took my poetry out my system" and put it on paper. In the computer studio two other young men, Bryan Norato and Juan Batista, were building a 3D model of Norato's head so they could drop him into a video game they were developing.

Emani Ikoe, 22, an energetic young woman whose story nearly burst out of her, told me of an abusive relationship that left her infected with HIV. The staff at AS220 was there for her when she needed them, she said. She was, when we spoke, working on a stop animation film about her HIV medication.

The program's offerings, which also include beatmaking and darkroom photography, are built to attract the sort of kids it targets. But there are real-world skills baked in as well: transitional employment at AS220's restaurant Foo[D], work skills 101: "No, you can't call your girlfriend when you're on the job," and training for IC3 computer certification, which demonstrates core computer competencies.

That combination of emotional support and hands-on skills has meant triumph for plenty of the kids whose pictures hang on Kugler's wall. But as we settled back into her modest office after the tour, she told me of a young woman she met at the Training School a year ago who hasn't been so lucky.

The kid's dad is a paraplegic, her mother has a substance abuse problem. She has essentially raised her nine-year old sister, Kugler told me. But she's whip-smart, put together in so many ways, concerned about her family. And after she got out of the Training School, and began working as a studio assistant at AS220, she seemed headed in the right direction.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, she was out with a friend who jumped someone. Now, she's back at the Training School for a year. And she's dispirited. "You're sitting right on the edge with them," Kugler said of her charges, "and it's heart-breaking."

But she's staying in touch with this young woman. Working with her. Encouraging her. Keeping at it. That's what Anne Kugler does.

VOICE OF THE LEFT Plain at the State House.


Rhode Island may be one of the bluest states in America. But pick up the editorial page of the Providence Journal or turn on news and talk radio station WPRO and you wouldn't know it.

Indeed, with a few notable exceptions — Journal columnist Bob Kerr, Rhode Island Public Radio commentator Scott MacKay, and, from time to time, this pinko publication — the voice of Ocean State media alternates between an outraged conservatism and a bland centrism.

Enter Bob Plain, 38, the left's newest happy warrior: floppy hair, easy grin, and no small amount of determination.

In late February, Plain launched an energetic bid to revive rifuture.org, a seven-year old liberal blog that fell on hard times when its previous owner dedicated himself to graduate school.

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  Topics: News Features , Brown University, AS220, Jeremy Radtke
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