Mackenzie Scott donates $2.5M to South Carolina education nonprofit

Billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott has donated $2.5 million to Communities in Schools of South Carolina, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting students through social and emotional programs.

The donation is part of $133.5 million that Scott is donating to the nonprofit’s national office. Scott chose 40 out of the 110 Communities in Schools affiliates to receive individual donations.

Last year, Communities in Schools merged its three chapters in North Charleston, Greenville and Columbia into one centralized office on Turnbull Avenue in North Charleston, allowing it to reach more students with its programs. Scott’s donation, which is the largest the South Carolina chapter has ever received, will support the nonprofit’s efforts to further expand its services and influence throughout the state, CEO and President Jamie Cooper said.

“We took a big risk merging the three affiliates into one and to have something like this pop up on our radar and have someone identify South Carolina as a part of their philanthropic portfolio really affirms the work that we’re doing,” Cooper said.

The nonprofit supports students by placing trained adults called site coordinators into schools. The site coordinators guide students to graduation by connecting them to noneducation-related community services such as food, housing and health care.

The South Carolina chapter operates in 34 schools, serving around 20,000 students. In 2020-21, 99.7 percent of the students enrolled in the nonprofit’s programs remained in school and 97 percent of seniors graduated or earned their GED.

Cooper said the donation will be used to help the organization strengthen its existing programs, deepen its impact in communities and grow into more rural areas. That means investing in the nonprofit’s data, research and systems while developing more relationships with state lawmakers, teachers and school leaders. Most of all, Cooper said the donation has made everyone at the nonprofit excited about what’s to come.

“It just strengthens the resolve of each person … to keep pushing forward and being able to continue serving those families across the state,” Cooper said.

The donation is not the first of its kind for Scott. The philanthropist, the ex-wife of billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated funds to charities at a rapid rate since their divorce in 2019. She’s donated more than $8 billion to organizations dedicated to combating inequity, the climate crisis, education issues and more, according to her blog Medium, where she published information about donations; Scott has since stopped publishing her donations on the blog.

Cooper said Scott’s approach to philanthropy shows her dedication to improving the world around her.

“She wants to identify solid, good, nonprofits and organizations that are doing the work in their field,” Cooper said. “It seems to be more about the work than the donor itself.”

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