Indigenous Mesa Community College students are beneficiaries of a $150,000 grant from Bank of America awarded through the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation as part of the bank’s overall efforts to advance economic opportunity and racial equality.
The grant makes emergency funding available to MCC students for the spring and fall 2021 semesters, allows for the development of virtual programming to inform and interact with students online, and provides educational stipends for university transfers, according to a release.
“The economic needs in tribal communities continue to be a challenge that we, as a society, need to address,” Benito Almanza, Arizona president for Bank of America, said in the release. “These challenges have been further exacerbated by the coronavirus, and there is an urgent need to invest in tribal education, as well as native-owned small businesses and health care - to help mitigate some of the enormous economic and health risks these communities currently face and open doors to greater racial equality and economic opportunity.”
Many indigenous students are still reeling from job loss in their family, death and illness of loved ones and social unrest. To help, $60,000 is dedicated to providing emergency funding to support up to 120 students — $500 each per semester. Funds may be used for necessities such as food, transportation, technology needs and textbooks.
Marina J. Notah, a Navajo tribal member, received support to complete this semester.
“Upon receiving the news that I was receiving support, I was ecstatic because it meant that my internet bill would be covered for the rest of the semester. I am one step closer to becoming a marine biologist,” Notah said in the release.
Zoe Irwin, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, received support to enroll in classes for the fall semester.
“Thanks to the Bank of America grant I am able to continue to move forward in working towards my Speech-Language Pathology degree,” Irwin said.
An MCC American Indian Institute virtual program is being developed for indigenous students with $36,000 of the funds. The program will help students stay engaged with their studies, connect to each other and the campus community through online events and activities supporting college success.
“Bank of America’s commitment and dedication to supporting the needs of indigenous MCC students is making a direct and transformational impact on their ability to complete their educational journeys,” Jim Larney, MCC American Indian Institute director, said in the release. “We know in working with our students even prior to the pandemic, that their basic needs are often not met and that transferring to a university to earn a higher degree is often hindered because of the lack of financial resources.”
Indigenous students make up 3.4% of the MCC student body. This additional funding means that indigenous students completing an associate’s degree at MCC in 2021 may be eligible to receive $2,000 to continue their studies at a university.
The initiative is one of the many ways MCC is able to fulfill its strategic priorities and values of diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, it addresses the MCCCD strategic commitments to build a thriving community through access and student success, and to be a driving force for economic and workforce development in Arizona, the release states.
“In this time of great pivots, we all are navigating through challenges with innovation and creativity,” Christos Chronis, MCC chief development officer, said in the release. “Bank of America has been an outstanding partner, investing in the lives of indigenous students so they can grow, learn, and thrive. We are truly appreciative of their support and partnership.”
To participate, students must be affiliated with an indigenous tribe, enrolled in at least three credit hours at MCC, pursuing a certificate or degree, and have a minimum of a 2.0 GPA (on a 4.0 scale). Students receiving emergency funding are required to attend a minimum of three AII-hosted workshops or become an active member in an MCC student club such as the Inter-Tribal Student Organization, or the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
Learn more about the American Indian Institute at MCC at mesacc.edu/students/american-indian-institute.