Stepping Up: Warwick teacher helps match college students with rooms for rent

WARWICK – Marie Cavanaugh knows firsthand the struggles of teaching through a computer screen.

The kind of electronics classes the engineer-turned-educator teaches through STRAC Institute, a Providence-based vocational school, are particularly difficult to replicate in distance learning- hands-on labs showing college-aged students how to work with power generators and multimeters are just not the same over Zoom. The longtime Warwick resident is looking forward to returning to the classroom come the fall.

But for many of her out-of-state students to attend in-person classes, they need to find a place to live, first. And this feat has become increasingly difficult as colleges and universities across the state limit occupancy of their dorms.

Fueled by her desire to teach in-person as well as a longstanding dedication to giving back to her community, Cavanaugh has launched a social media campaign to help match college students seeking housing with homeowners with rooms for rent. Since first putting out the call to students and hosts through her community Facebook page, “2nd Chance for Warwick” in early July, Cavanaugh said she’s received multiple inquiries from students and hosts. Her matchmaking plan was temporarily derailed when she was hospitalized with pneumonia – an especially frightening experience since many of her symptoms matched that of COVID -19 – but since returning home, Cavanugh has renewed her dedication to outreach and screening of landlord/renter connections. 

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“I really feel for the students,” she said, referencing a story about one student who was traveling back and forth from Martha’s Vineyard to attend classes at New England Institute of Technology. “I couldn’t imagine going back to college and having nowhere to live.”

Students looking for housing and homeowners looking to rent rooms can get in touch with Cavanaugh through her community Facebook page.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at

Providence Business News is spotlighting nonprofits, companies and workers stepping up to challenges presented by the spread of the new coronavirus.

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