Monday, May 18, 2009

Dan Wieden, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Wieden+Kennedy, Presented with CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award

The CLIO Awards are one of the world’s most recognized international advertising and design competitions honoring creative excellence and innovation in the industry. As the president and CEO of the Fund, I was proud to watch as Dan Wieden, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), the American Indian College Fund's pro bono ad agency, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award on May 13 during the 50th Anniversary CLIO Awards in Las Vegas.

The CLIO Lifetime Achievement Award is one of the highest, most prestigious honors in the advertising industry and recognizes the outstanding and ongoing contribution of an individual who leads the industry forward.

We at the Fund are delighted that the industry has recognized Dan Wieden’s achievement. We have been honored and humbled to work with him over the years to further the cause of American Indian education. The Fund is one of Wieden+Kennedy’s pro bono clients, and Dan personally works on the campaigns, including the new Think Indian campaign, alongside co-founding partner David Kennedy. Their dedication and vision have led to national recognition of the Fund’s mission to provide college scholarships for American Indian students.

Dan has won several honors, including: Inc. magazine’s “America’s 25 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs”; Time magazine’s “World’s 50 Cyber Elite”; and Advertising Age’s “100 Ad People of the 20th Century.” He is also the founder of Caldera, a nonprofit arts education organization and camp for at-risk youth located in Sisters, Oregon. Dan embodies the American Indian values of creativity, imagination, and giving back to the community. Congratulations, Dan!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why I Work at the American Indian College Fund

Non-Native American Indian College Fund staffer Dina Horwedel, Public Education Director, shares why she is passionate about the Fund's mission.

In Italy there is saying, la dolce vita, which means “the sweet life.” For Italians this means food, friendship, laughter, and love. But in 1900, my Italian great-grandfather, who was 19 years old, stepped on board the Stella Bruz and headed for America in search of the sweet life that had eluded him in Calabria, Italy, which had been his home for his 19 years.

Growing up in poverty, my great-grandfather had never attended school, never learned to read or write in his own language, and labored as a “dirt farmer” in the parched soil of southern Italy. With no future in sight, he set out for America for a better life for himself and his family.
My grandfather migrated west to Ohio after passing through Ellis Island, and settled in Ohio, where he met another Italian, married, and raised a family through the Great Depression.

Although he had a job working as a laborer on the railroad, things were tight with seven children.
Although he never learned to read or write, my grandfather was wise. He used to tell me as a little girl, “Go to school, don’t be a dumba-bell like me!” And so, I did. While in school I learned that I loved telling stories, just like my great-grandpa, but with the gift of an education, I could write those stories down on paper. From an early age I started writing stories, newspaper articles, and books. When I was in third grade a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I responded, “an author.”

I graduated from high school and became the first person in my family to earn a college degree, and then first person to go on and graduate from law school. To this day I earn my living through my writing. My husband, in a nod to my ancestry and my passion for storytelling, gave me a handcrafted pen from Florence, called La Dolce Vita. Because of my grandfather’s sacrifice in coming to America, I am able to have the sweet life. I often joke that I am “living la dolce vita in the land of Velveeta.”

To my great-grandfather, America was a land of promise and opportunity. He passed on six months shy of 100 years old in 1987. I think my grandfather would have been surprised if not shocked to learn that for the original Americans, America was not a place of opportunity.

Many American Indians live in poverty. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, nearly 26% percent of all American Indians and Alaska Natives live below the poverty line, contrasted with a national poverty rate of 12.4%. The gap is even larger for people living on reservations with limited economic opportunities, with 51% of the population living below the poverty line. And even though the nation’s poverty rate dropped from 11.8% in 1999 to 11.3 % in 2000 (the lowest in 21 years), American Indian’s and Alaska Native’s poverty rate did not drop.

In addition, the educational opportunities my great-grandfather my great-grandfather urged me to take advantage of are scarce amongst American Indian populations. In 2000, the proportion of people aged 25 and over who had completed high school or more education comprised 11 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population.

It isn’t just my great-grandfather that would have been shocked: it wasn’t until law school, when I was studying Indian law, when I learned about the political, social, health, economic, and educational inequities that American Indians have endured for centuries. I think about how lucky I am to have had a wise great-grandfather that wanted a better life for me, and I know the grandmothers and grandfathers of American Indians want and wanted the same, but the circumstances were much different.

That is why I am proud to work for the American Indian College Fund. I am not American Indian, although I am native in that I was born in this country because of my great-grandfather. My personal mission is to have my work help American Indians get a piece of la dolce vita—the sweet life—that education brings and that every person deserves, so that they, too can share and preserve their stories.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Congratulations to 2009 Graduates

A heartfelt congratulations to all of our TCU graduates from all of us at the American Indian College Fund. You have worked hard for this day, and you and your families have reason to be proud. But your journey is just beginning. As you travel your life's path, we wish you happiness, good fortune, and the ability to remember to be true to yourself, your Indian values, and your life's calling.