Contact: Dina Horwedel, Director of Public Education, American Indian College Fund, 303-426-8900, dhorwedel@collegefund.org

Grant from Bezos Family Foundation Will Support Faculty Development, Family Engagement, and Develop a Community of Practice at 10 Tribal Colleges

Denver, Colo.—October 6, 2021– The American Indian College Fund’s Indigenous Early Childhood Education program is poised to continue its work at tribal colleges and universities over the next four years thanks to a $5,315,000 grant from the Bezos Family Foundation. By educating students, training faculty, creating early childhood education programs at tribal colleges and universities, and involving parents and community in the education of young people, the College Fund hopes to grow the number of Native children and families it reaches, new early childhood curriculum created, and train even more early childhood educators. Early childhood education has been shown to promote education access, persistence, completion, and career readiness in students, and the College Fund’s holistic program steeped in culture and language strengthens Native communities.

The College Fund has built a four-pronged program to work with 10 tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) through:

  • family engagement to empower parents to advocate for their children and themselves as they interact with education institutions.
  • storytelling to engage diverse audiences and connect program participants to a movement to strengthen the Native teacher pipeline, change the narrative about Native communities to focus on their rich knowledge and traditions, and inspire the next generation of Native teaching professionals.
  • establishing a community of practice for early childhood educators that creates and strengthens TCUs’ early childhood education pathways that are rooted in community knowledge.
  • increasing education success by strengthening degree program creation and enhancement, creating pathways to bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, connecting strong paths to bachelor’s degrees, supporting internship practicums, and increasing TCUs’ ability to support student recruitment, transfers, retention, and college completion.
  • developing College Fund capacity through child development education, allowing it to expand its expertise to better administer early childhood education programs with TCUs, grow education opportunities for children, and strengthen Native nations.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “The College Fund is pleased that our relationship with the Bezos Family Foundation blossomed into this investment in our children and their families. As Indigenous people, we have traditional knowledge about how to raise and teach children that helps us to be better citizens of our Tribal Nations and of American society. We are looking forward to building on that knowledge and on the dreams of our families and Tribal Colleges and Universities for even better social and educational experiences for our children.”

“The Bezos Family Foundation is proud to support American Indian College Fund’s work to expand access to high-quality, culturally-grounded early childhood preparation pathways within Tribal Colleges and Universities,” said Mike Bezos, Vice-President and co-Founder of the Bezos Family Foundation. “We know from the science that positive interactions between young children and the adults in their lives is a powerful way to support healthy development, and we are confident that American Indian College Fund’s work will help support the preparation of Indigenous educators and strengthen Native communities.”

The College Fund will be working with TCUs this fall to award funding for the first year in the four-year program. The College Fund will build upon its early childhood education program success, which has reached more than 5,000 children, 3,900 families, and 2,700 teachers at TCUs across Indian Country. In addition, the College Fund has committed to raise an additional six million dollars to offer the programming to 25 other TCUs.

The Bezos Family Foundation is an independent, nonprofit private Foundation founded by Mike and Jackie Bezos, who along with their family serve as the Foundation’s directors. Since 2001, the Foundation has partnered with remarkable organizations and individuals to transform how we prepare young people from birth through high school to pursue their own path for success and meaningfully contribute to society. In addition to grantmaking, the Foundation runs four in-house programs: Bezos Scholars Program, Mind in the Making, Students Rebuild, and Vroom. For more information, please visit: www.bezosfamilyfoundation.org

The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 32 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $15.5 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2020-21. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $259 million in scholarships, program, and community support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit www.collegefund.org. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information, please visit www.collegefund.org.

Journalists—The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. On second reference, please use the College Fund.

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