Excelencia in Education is a prominent national nonprofit in America that measures how successful colleges and universities are in accepting, educating, and graduating Latino students. Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has made a historic donation to the nonprofit, giving them a $10 million grant.
This grant marks the largest sum the organization has received since its founding 17 years ago. Deborah Santiago, the co-founder and CEO of Excelencia, spoke on this historic donation to the media this week.
“It was very powerful, after years of hard work, to see this validation in our community. That was powerful.”
In the US, college enrollment among Latino students has actually been on the rise within the past decade. However, the issue lies in systemic issues that prevent this particular demographic from actually completing their education and receiving a college degree. 22% of all Latino adults have earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 39% of the general population.
Some of the specific barriers that Excelencia works to combat in the US’s educational system include high tuition costs, limited knowledge of college in general, and trying to balance work, family, and education all at once.
A number of colleges that Excelencia has worked closely with in the past have also received some 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 said she was “not expecting a $10 million grant when I got an email on a late Friday afternoon asking when I was available to speak over the phone about something important. The donation is invigorating, we’re a small nonprofit and it is not easy to get resources, much less unrestricted resources,” Santiago said.
“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.”
Santiago said she hopes the $10 million “will bring attention to other potential funders — we really want to get the kind of investment that’s going to serve our community.”
Scott has recently made around $2.7 billion worth of charitable donations as a part of her philanthropic journey that she’s been on since divorcing the world’s richest man. Her current net worth is valued at $53 billion; $8 billion of which she’s already donated this year alone.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.