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Billionaire MacKenzie Scott donates $10 million to Excelencia in Education. Photo: Getty Images
Billionaire MacKenzie Scott donates $10 million to Excelencia in Education. Photo: Getty Images

Mackenzie Scott gives $10 million to org supporting Latino students in higher ed

The donation is part of the $8.5 billion she’s given away in less than a year to organizations across the country.

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MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, is currently on a donation spree, giving away chunks of her fortune to multiple different organizations and communities that she describes as being “underfunded and overlooked.”

In July 2020, she announced she would be giving away $1.7 billion, and then $4.2 billion in December. In less than a year, Scott has given away about $8.5 billion. 

Her model of giving is direct with no strings attached. The money goes straight to the organizations selected by a team of advisors

In a Medium post she wrote this week, the billionaire explained her reasoning for her philanthropic decisions. 

“People struggling with inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating. This is equally — perhaps especially — true when their work is funded by wealth. 

“Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate wealth present obstacles to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions to us all,” Scott wrote in her opening paragraphs. 

She acknowledged the benefits of funding cultural institutions, education and community engagement, stressing that over 700 million people still live in poverty. 

“Sharing makes more,” Scott wrote. 

She finished the post by quoting the iconic Persian poet, Rumi.

“A Candle never Loses any of its Light while Lighting up another candle.” 

She then listed all of the donations she donated to so far, including Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburg Fund, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Asian American Federation, and Ballet Hispánico. 

Scott’s latest donation is  $10 million to a Latino educational nonprofit called Excelencia in Education, which is the largest sum the organization has received since it was founded 17 years ago. 

Deborah Santiago, Excelencia’s co-founder and CEO, told NBC News that seeing this validation for their community was “very powerful, after years of hard work.” 

Scott’s foundation chose this organization because of its “strong leadership teams and results.”

Excelencia works to accelerate Latino student success within higher education to address the U.S economy’s need for a better educated workforce and enhanced civic leadership. 

While college enrollment among Latino students has been rising over the past decade, they still lag significantly in college completion. 

According to 2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 22% of Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 39% of the general population. 

Some of the barriers Latino young adults are still facing include high tuition costs, a limited knowledge about higher education, and the struggle of balancing work, school and family. 

Excelencia has implemented a “Seal of Excelencia” designation that it offers to colleges and universities whose specific programs show a measurable increase in Latino graduation rates. 

Many of these schools touted by the nonprofit also received funding from Scott, including El Paso Community College, Florida International University, Long Beach City College, University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Santiago told NBC News that she was not expecting a $10 million grant, describing the donation as “invigorating.” 

“To say, here's $10 million, you pick what you want to do with it, no strings attached, no reports required, allows us to do many things we see our community wants and needs to be able to do that," she said.

After Santiago and co-founder Sarita Brown congratulated each other, they talked about how to “double this down,” hoping that this large investment will “bring attention to other potential funders.”

With the help of Scott’s donation, Excelencia in Education hopes to boost its analysis on how schools can increase Latino graduation rates, so that Latino Americans can continue making invaluable contributions to the workforce and leadership of this country. 

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