Jeff Bezos donates $33 million to fund college scholarships for Dreamers

Based on inputs by Shahid

Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, announced Friday that he is donating $33 million to a scholarship fund for young “dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

Bezos, who is the richest person in the world, and his wife, MacKenzie, will be donating the sum to TheDream.US, a scholarship program that has awarded more than 1,700 immigrants more than $19 million in financial assistance since it launched in 2014. The money will help fund 1,000 college scholarships and is the largest donation yet to a fund established by Donald E. Graham, the former publisher of The Post who sold the company to Bezos in 2013.

In a statement announcing the donation, Bezos cited the story of his adoptive father, who left Cuba as part of Operation Pedro Pan. “He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English,” Bezos said in a statement. “With a lot of grit and determination — and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware — my dad became an outstanding citizen, and he continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways. MacKenzie and I are honored to be able to help today’s Dreamers by funding these scholarships.”

The donation “is a shot in the arm for Dreamer students at a time when some are questioning whether they should be in the United States at all,” said Candy Marshall, president of TheDream.US. “We would invite anyone who questions the value of Dreamers to please come meet some of our students.”

The group previously has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Inter-American Development Bank, Patty Stonesifer and Michael Kinsley, among others.

Donations to higher education are a frequent way for the world’s wealthiest individuals to spread their wealth. Bill and Melinda Gates, through their Gates Foundation, have pledged $1 billion over 20 years to their Millennium Scholars program. Vedanta University in India is the recipient of the largest individual donation, a $1 billion endowment established by the Anil Agarwal Foundation, according to records kept by the Chronicle for Higher Education.

Nearly 3,000 students currently benefit from TheDream.us scholarships. The Bezos gift would raise that total by more than a third. Graham said the potential demand for scholarship aid is far larger, with tens of thousands of students graduating from high school every year who could be eligible for help from TheDream.us or programs like it.

Estefany Garcia, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso, is a recipient of a scholarship from TheDream.us. She said she cried when she learned she got the award. “It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she told reporters. “My hope is to put my degree to good use.”

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