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MacKenzie Scott Donates $10 Million To National Latino Educational Nonprofit

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. 

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“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. 

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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.

Hurricane

An Oyster Bar In Florida Pulls $14,000 Off Their Walls For Hurricane Dorian Relief

It’s been about a month since Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, and more southern states. These parts of the world are still recovering and have been left in complete disarray by the hurricane that only grew bigger and bigger before touching land. The storm reached a category 5 level, the highest it could be, making it one of 5 hurricanes to reach that level of severity within the past four hurricane seasons. Climate change and rising ocean temperatures are only further fueling the hurricanes; warm water temperatures add energy to the storms causing them to grow at substantial rates. 

Wind speeds reached up to 225 miles per hour, and sustained that intensity for 24 hours in the Bahamas, making it the most powerful and prolonged hurricane to hit the Atlantic, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists in the USA (USCUSA). A majority of the Bahama Islands is 15 feet above sea level, Dorian was a storm that reached up to 23 feet above sea level, leaving a majority of the island completely submerged and destroyed, 60% of the island, to be more specific, was left underwater after the hurricane finally passed, also according to the USCUSA. 

Now, four weeks after the tragic hurricane, the Bahamas are recovering, but at an extremely slow rate. Hundreds of people are still missing, most are presumed dead. Most of the island is still left without electricity or running water of any kind, and heavy machinery used to clear debris in only just arriving. Many parts of the island remain abandoned from the people who were able to flee the island before the storm and while aid teams and clean up crews are starting to work on the island more heavily, the recovery process is reminding many of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, a storm their still recovering from.

An oyster bar in Florida, surprisingly, saw the devastation in their state first hand, and when they heard about the lack of financial backing for recovery teams all throughout the areas affected by Dorian, they knew something had to be done. The Oyster Bar is located in Siesta Keys, and over the years the bar has kept a novelty tradition alive that just might help the recovery process for the storm speed up. 

The Siesta Key Oyster Bar has become a huge tourist attraction for its very creative decorating style. The staff encourages every customer who comes in to write or draw on a dollar bill and attach it to the walls and/or ceiling. In fact, the bar has been open for about 16 years, making its entire design aesthetic at this point nothing but colorful dollar bills hanging from every angle, at least that was the aesthetic. 

After the owners saw the devastation that its state, and more importantly the Bahamas, has endured they knew they had to do something to help move the recovery process along. So the entire staff spent the whole past month removing all the beautifully decorated bills, which were heavily secured using a staple gun, so removal had to be a delicate process to avoid ripping. 

Once word got out to Siesta Key locals on what the bar was doing, hundreds of patrons began coming into the bar and giving in $5’s, $20’s, even $100 bills. This week, the owner finally went to the bank to count up what they’ve collected, and to their surprise the total reached $14,000. According to ABC News, “Jill Pedigo, Beth Owen-Cipielewski and their husbands would take money off the walls and donate some of it to local charities. Hale said they once gave it to a safe house for battered women.” This time, they wrapped up the bills, placed them in a bin, and went straight to the Red Cross Foundation, most likely one of the most unique donations they’ve ever received. 

“After we saw the videos and everything that came out of the Bahamas, it was unreal, and we all thought, what better reason to pay it forward? Honestly, I’m shocked, and I think the staff is shocked, I don’t think we ever expected it to amount [to] that much. Knowing it was such a lump sum of that magnitude is overwhelming.” Siesta Key Oyster Bar’s general manager Kristin Hale told ABC News.