Paola Fernandez joined the Economic Progress Institute Board in October 2018.

A native of Argentina, Paola was raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Inspired by her own experiences, she made it her purpose to work in spaces that help lift communities and increase access and opportunities for families to prosper. With over 20 years’ experience in community development, her career has been centered on social issues and spans across grant making, community development, outcomes and performance management, advocacy, and coalition building.

She is currently the Senior Vice President, Community Development Officer at Centreville Bank. Paola is responsible for developing the bank’s long-term philanthropic program, serving Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut. She has successfully built and leveraged relationships directing multimillion dollar investments from the bank’s Charitable Foundation.

A champion for diversity, equity and inclusion, Paola serves as co-founder of Bank Forward, a newly created statewide initiative in Rhode Island. Bank Forward’s mission is to empower low- and moderate-income individuals who may have felt that a career in banking was out of reach, and to support individuals interested in starting or advancing a career in the banking industry. The initiative focuses on community partnerships, outreach and engagement strategies, financial literacy, workforce development, and shared best practices among financial institutions in Rhode Island.

Paola is an active volunteer on various community boards and currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, United Way of Rhode Island Board of directors, Champlin Foundation Distribution Committee, Rhode Island Grantmakers Council, the Economic Progress Institute, and United Way of Central and NE Connecticut Advisory Board.

She is a recipient of the American Bankers Association 2023 George Bailey Distinguished Service Award, a recipient of the Dr. Morris J.W. Gaebe Profile in Excellence Award from Junior Achievement of Rhode Island and the Extraordinary Woman in Community Development Award by the Women’s Development Institute of Rhode Island.

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