A hardscrabble childhood didn’t harden Erika Torres-Hernandez (Chippewa-Cree). But it did sharpen her resolve to achieve her goals and give back to her tribal community. A recipient of the Toyota Tribal College Scholarship, Torres-Hernandez studies math at Stone Child College on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in Montana. Upon graduating from SCC, she plans to complete a baccalaureate degree in teacher education and then return to the reservation to teach high school. “All of my life I’ve loved math and helping people learn new concepts,” she says.
To aid Torres-Hernandez and other Native American students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Toyota Motor Sales, Inc. is donating $1 million to the American Indian College Fund. Four hundred thousand dollars of this gift will be earmarked for Toyota’s tribal college scholarship program through 2018. In addition to these scholarships, Toyota’s donation includes $250,000 in unrestricted funds to the College Fund, $150,000 in-kind gifts, and $200,000 to fund environmental sustainability programs at TCUs.
The resurgence of interest among Native American students in the environmental sustainability and science fields dovetails with Toyota’s philanthropic goals that focus on education, safety, and the environment. “We consider it a great privilege to celebrate the American Indian College Fund’s 25th anniversary with this gift. Their ongoing work is critical not only in the Native American community, but for all of us who value diversity of thought and culture in our communities,” says Michael Rouse, Toyota vice president of diversity, philanthropy, and community affairs.
Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the College Fund remarked, “We are pleased to expand our partnership with Toyota in support of the education of our students. Tribal colleges address the dismal reality that only about 1% of Native American people get to go to college. Because of the support of Toyota, we are able to provide access to college to dozens of students.” Crazy Bull went on to state, “This is an amazing and welcome commemoration of the College Fund’s 25th anniversary and directs us down the path of even more educational success for the next 25 years.”