By Maria Saporta
Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is investing $8 million to support Achieve Atlanta’s efforts to help Atlanta Public School students access post-secondary education.
Tina Fernandez, executive director of Achieve Atlanta, said the gift came out of the blue.
“The process of giving is pretty amazing,” said Fernandez, adding that there is no application process. “Sometime back I got a call from a group of folks representing an anonymous donor. We didn’t hear back for a long time.”
Then while Fernandez was doing the Camino de Santiago — a famous pilgrimage in Spain — with her two children, she got a call from a representative of MacKenzie Scott.
“They had done their research, and MacKenzie Scott had decided to gift us with an $8 million grant. It was totally unexpected,” Fernandez said. “It’s an unrestricted gift, which is almost unheard of.”
The gift from Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, represents the largest single grant Achieve Atlanta has received other than ongoing support from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, part of the Robert W. Woodruff family of foundations. Scott has given away billions of dollars to a myriad of organizations in the past several years.
Fernandez said the one-time gift is a “great reaffirmation” of Achieve Atlanta’s efforts to help graduates of APS attend and graduate from college. The Whitehead Foundation covers the scholarships of all the students, about half of Achieve Atlanta.
“It takes close to $15 million a year to provide our services,” said Fernandez, who has been executive director since Achieve Atlanta was launched in 2015. “The work that we do has significant impact on thousands of students every year. We have been very fortunate the Whitehead Foundation has made an ongoing commitment.”
Achieve Atlanta has been “laser-focused” on its vision of making Atlanta city a where race and income no longer predict post-secondary success and upward mobility.
Thanks to the Whitehead Foundation and other donors, more than 15,000 APS high school students and nearly 4,500 Achieve Atlanta Scholars have attended college at more than 300 higher education institutions around the country. Achieve Atlanta also has guided students to free, confidential, short-term counseling, provided hundreds of emergency grants and supported graduates’ transitions to the workforce.
To look at Achieve Atlanta’s successes, read its new impact report.