Photo courtesy of the
American Indian College Fund
DENVER, Colo. Jeff Wilke, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon,
and his wife Liesl Wilke, have been supporters of the College Fund
for more than 20 years. Now, the Wilke Family Foundation has given
the American Indian College Fund's The TCU Computer Science Initiative
a $1 million grant to promote opportunities for American Indian
students pursuing careers in computer science.
"We are thrilled to see this initiative taking shape and moving
forward so that it can deeply impact Native communities. The demand
for computer science in many fields of work and study accelerates
every year," Jeff and Liesl Wilke said. "We hope to help meet the
needs of Native communities to flourish in the digital age, whether
that means access to more jobs or the ability to program health
care applications for a reservation or to preserve language, impact
safety, or improve communication among community members according
to their unique needs and desires. The opportunities are massive
and very exciting."
To the College Fund's staff the timing of the grant could not be
better. The outbreak of COVID-19 hit Native communities harder than
others. The pandemic underscored the ways in which technology keeps
communities connected and allows people to continue their work and
educationbut also highlighted the digital divide impacting
"We are so appreciative, on behalf of Native students and their
families, of The Wilke Family Foundation and its willingness to
invest in our communities. We know that computer science education
is foundational to many aspects of modern life everything
from databases to mapping our lands to creating technology resources
that improve our quality of life. This investment helps create a
thriving indigenous future," said Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and
CEO of the American Indian College Fund.
The TCU Computer Science Initiative will address the TCUs' (tribal
colleges and universities) urgent need to create or expand computer
science programs to meet the needs of Native communities, including
improved education quality and opportunities, social and economic
development, better managed health care systems, and career opportunities.
The initiative will begin by bringing qualified computer science
faculty to the TCUs to increase, improve and expand computer science
programming in Native communities.
The College Fund will facilitate a selection process to choose
four TCUs which can support hiring computer science faculty and
program development. Each TCU will receive $250,000 over a four-year
period to include the costs of faculty salary and benefits, professional
development, coursework integration and other costs.
|About The Author
Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder,
publisher and editor of Native News Online. He can be reached