‘Empowering voices the world needs to hear’

By Michele Hujber

In her blog post on June 15, 2021, in which she announced awards going to 286 community-serving organizations, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott wrote, “The headline I would wish for this post is “286 Teams Empowering Voices the World Needs to Hear.”

Scott has awarded two rounds of billions of unrestricted grants to selected nonprofits, including community colleges: $2.7 billion was announced on June 15, 2021, and nearly $4.2 billion in December 2020.

Below are highlights of what four community colleges have done with their Mackenzie Scott grants to empower the voices of their students and communities.

New opportunities in the Big Apple

Eugenio María de Hostos Community College in the Bronx is in the poorest Congressional district in the United States, with a student population that is 98% nonwhite and predominantly Hispanic or Latino. The New York college’s mission is to serve the poor and address their community’s social, equity and fairness issues.

“(We deliver a) kind of education that transforms lives and communities,” said President Daisy Cocco De Filippis.

With the money provided by MacKenzie Scott, the college has launched eight President’s Initiatives for Student Success, College Growth. and Stakeholders’ Engagement.

The Families United in Education initiative targets prospective students from the same extended family. “Family” includes aunts, cousins, siblings and parents, as per the Latino understanding of “family.”

The Jobs on Campus initiative allows hiring students for up to 10 hours per week at $20 per hour. These jobs must be meaningful and located in professional settings. The participating students have faculty or staff mentors and attend workshops in math, finance management and how to succeed in college. They must also attend cultural events. Recently, the students saw “The Lion King” on Broadway, a first-time experience for many of them.

“Think of the joy of these students, from very young to more mature, getting on a subway to go see their first Broadway show,” said Cocco De Filippis. She notes that the college would not have been able to provide this experience for them were it not for Scott’s gift.

The Hostos Mentoring and Supporting Students Accepted in 2+2+2 Opportunities Program is helping students complete the two-year program at the college, transfer into a related program at selected four-year colleges, and then continue for two years in a master’s program.

Cocco De Filippis also moved $30 million into an endowment from which the college has access to only the interest. Thus, the endowment will last indefinitely into the future.

“We are so ever grateful to (MacKenzie Scott) for what she’s giving, the opportunities to both the professionals and the students to engage generously and open a world of possibilities,” Cocco De Filippis said. “She has given new life to a very deserving place with a talented and caring team.”

Serving its community

At Harper College outside of Chicago, 1,000 Ignite Scholars are reaping the benefits of Scott’s gift through the school’s Igniting Paths to Success Scholarship. Many of the full-time and part-time students are finishing their studies sooner than planned due to removing the financial barrier.

One thousand scholarships for students of all ages creates a positive ripple effect, said President Avis Proctor. For example, older students return to college to update their knowledge and skills, creating role models for other family members and neighbors.

Proctor wants to be able to offer this scale of opportunity every year. She created an endowment with $9 million from Scott, which is half of the total gift the college received.

Proctor understands the potential impact of the Ignite Scholarships first-hand. She received a full scholarship as an undergraduate and knows the effect that had on her career trajectory.

“Now,” she says, “I see that happening a thousand times over.”

Proctor observed that Scott indicated in her blog that “Generosity is generative. Sharing makes more.”

“And so instead of it just being a gift to the college, we thought it was important also to have an impact on the community,” Proctor said.

So, Harper has set aside $100,000 of $1 million for the first year of Community Innovation Fund awards. A single organization can receive up to $50,000 and apply again within five years for a renewal grant.

“We’re excited that not only will our students benefit and accelerate to completing their goals, but also our community will benefit also,” Proctor added.

There’s more to the story! Read the full article in CC Daily.

Michele Hujber

is a freelance writer for higher education institutions and related organizations.