August 9, 2020

AIGC receives $20M donation

Fifty years.
It’s the amount of time the American Indian Graduate Center has been in existence.
During its journey, the Albuquerque-based nonprofit has helped 16,000 students from over 500 tribes across the United States by providing scholarships. The funds range from $250 to $30,000 annually.
As of 2019, the American Indian Graduate Center has contributed to over 2,000 law degrees, 1,700 postgraduate degrees, and 450 medical degrees for Native students.
The center also offers support through campus resources and other services.
On July 28, American Indian Graduate Center learned of a $20 million donation from MacKenzie Scott – formerly MacKenzie Bezos.
The philanthropist has donated $1.7 billion to 116 organizations throughout the United States.
“(I have) a conviction that people who have experience with inequities are the ones best equipped to design solutions,” Scott says in a statement.
The $20 million donation is unrestricted, which gives ample opportunities to the center.
“This gift is truly transformative,” says Angelique Albert, AIGC executive director. “Receiving the call, it took me back. I wasn’t expecting a gift this large. It was so surreal. What do you say at a time when we are all struggling. A gift this size, will not only allow us to grow the number of scholars, we will get to envision new programs and services.”
An annual operating budget for the center is about $20 million.
Albert says with the donation being unrestricted, there’s the opportunity to dream big with growth and finding more systemic ways to help the students.
The donation is also the largest gift the center has received from an individual.
“(Scott) is looking to the leadership of nonprofits because we are the closest to the issues and offer the most effective way for the students,” Albert says. “What that means is that she’s empowering us to do what we feel is best.”
Albert says Scott’s philanthropic vision is to address the racial inequities and pervasive social issues.
This in turn will help better access to higher education and improving student success rates.
“Education is the tool to empower communities,” Albert says. “The students move back to their communities after getting educated. This leads to some of the systemic changes.”
Albert says the historic relationship between Native Americans and educational systems in the United States is traumatic and oppressive.
The first interactions many Native societies had with Western education was through the forced placement of Native children into residential boarding schools that operated under the directive, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The last of the schools in this violent system was closed as recently as 1973.
Albert points out that the resilience of Native culture has allowed Native people to survive that trauma and understand the importance of education in today’s world, knowing that it is a vital key to individual success and tool for community empowerment.
“We’re not just providing scholarships, we’re breaking cycles of oppression with the power of education,” Albert says. “I’m proud to lead an organization that is built to create the next generation of Native American leaders. By empowering our students with everything they need to succeed in higher education, we hope to provide better opportunities for generations to come.”
AIGC was also gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year before the pandemic hit.
It will be scheduled at a later time, Albert says.
“Once the pandemic started, we started an emergency fund for students to have access to technology,” she says. “Some of the students started initiatives that reached out to the elders. This gift goes a long way to bridge the many inequities.”