Announcing the Honorees: 2024 Inspiring Leaders Awards Luncheon

LRI is proud to celebrate and recognize alumni and community members that have contributed to nearly 40 years of our organization’s development and success.

Leadership Rhode Island’s signature annual luncheon, the 2024 Inspiring Leaders Awards Luncheon, will be held on Wednesday, March 22nd from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Providence Marriott Hotel, located at 1 Orms Street in Providence.

Since 1981, Leadership Rhode Island has engaged and connected people through shared experiences that positively transform individuals, organizations and communities. This year, we’re proud to celebrate and recognize alumni and community members that have contributed to nearly 40 years of our organization’s development and success.


LRI Volunteer Award  – Sterling Clinton-Spellman (2019 Omicron II)


The LRI Volunteer Award recognizes outstanding volunteer

contributions to Leadership Rhode Island including committee

work, board service, fundraising, or program assistance.


Since graduating from the Core Program in 2019, Sterling has been a shining star in service of LRI’s mission and vision. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Sterling was a Program Co-Chair and played a significant role in ensuring an engaging experience as we switched to a virtual setting. She was also a crucial part of LRI’s Strategic Planning process,which defined the key focus domains for the next four years. Sterling has recently been a Facilitator for this year’s relaunching of Bread & Salt Dinners helping to create bridges to solutions and connections between LRI alum over meaningful conversation. Moreover, she is an enthusiastic LRI Strengths Coach, dedicated to Clifton Strengths, and is always eager to assist the LRI community and beyond.

Outside of her work with LRI, Sterling’s contributions to the community include, Speaker, Author, Success Alchemist & Consultant, Mentor, and Youth Advocate. Her mission is weaving together the worlds of business brilliance and personal transformation. She owns POLISHEDbySterling, a personal and professional training and development company and POLISHED GEMS INC. a nonprofit, that empowers and enhances the holistic well-being of Women and Girls of color through Personal Development, Mentorship, Travel, and Social Entrepreneurship.

Alongside her husband Chef Russ, she co-owns Incred-A-Bowl, a multicultural food company and social enterprise serving delicious and healthy food with bold flavors. Their Fresh Start program creates employment opportunities for individuals often excluded from the workforce, disrupting the traditional hiring process, providing equal opportunities for all.

Sterling’s unwavering dedication, both within LRI and in her broader community initiatives, exemplifies a commitment to fostering positive change, creating opportunities, and empowering individuals to thrive.


Community Service Award  – Ernie Almonte (1988 Theta)


The Community Service Award recognizes an outstanding individual in our state whose extraordinary vision, commitment and leadership have made a significant impact upon our community.


The seeds were planted for Ernie’s commitment to public service back in 1988 when he participated in LRI’s core program. He graduated, he says, determined to be a better member of the greater community and with a sense that positive change happens when people of different colors, perspectives, and cultures seek solutions together. Ernie currently serves as the Executive Director of the RI League of Cities and Towns where he advocates for the diverse interests of 39 municipalities, and oversees training and leadership development programs for local tax collectors and public safety workers to public works employees and town clerks. He is also serving his first year as Chair of the RI Convention Center Authority board, as a director for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of RI, and as the Army Reserve Ambassador for Rhode Island, a recent appointment by the Secretary of the Army.

His varied career includes six years as national partner of RSM US, a global accounting and consulting firm, a year as chief of staff to Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, and a brief stop at the state Department of Health. He has also served as national chairman of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and national president of the Association of Government Accountants. I think it’s safe to say, that Ernie is one of the busiest “retired” people we know.



Emerging Leader Award – Francesca Raoelison (2022 CLRI)


The Emerging Leader Award recognizes an outstanding young

person whose vision, dedication, and leadership qualities have inspired others to take action to create community change in RI. 


Originally from Madagascar, Francesca Raoelison, a 2022 CLRI graduate says she’s on a mission to break the cycle of emotional abuse worldwide and has been passionately leading the way ever since. Francesca is the founder and executive director of Omena, a non-profit organization that focuses on increasing emotional abuse awareness by empowering youth and children with the social-emotional learning tools they need to stand up against abuse. Her personal experience as a survivor inspired her to launch the venture. She is an Echoing Green Fellow, a TEDx speaker, an educator, and a Forbes 30 Under 30 scholar. Her work has been featured by MTV and The Boston Globe and supported by UNICEF. Francesca is a graduate of Brown University, where she served as a Social Entrepreneurship teaching assistant and was a Social Innovation Fellow. She is also a mentor at the Clinton Global Initiative University and currently serves as the DEI Program Manager at the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) where she leads programs to reduce disparities in our mental healthcare system, eliminate stigma, and increase access to treatment in underserved communities.