Johnson Scholarship Foundation gift guides students toward business degree

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After two years of successful collaboration, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation has committed to a significant investment increase in Northern Arizona University and its goal to educate Native American students and build economically viable tribal communities.

Northern Arizona University alumni talk about the importance of support from Johnson Scholarship Foundation. Click here for a transcript of the video.

Since 2010, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation has donated more than $150,000 in scholarship support to NAU’s Native American students who seek an undergraduate degree in business and are interested in entrepreneurship. The foundation recently upped the ante, committing nearly $670,000 in matching funds over the next five years toward a $2.6 million endowment for student scholarships and education programs.

“For many recipients of scholarships, achieving the dream of an NAU degree would be impossible if not for the generosity of donors,” said Craig Van Slyke, dean of The W.A. Franke College of Business. “The funding provided by the Johnson Scholarship Foundation not only helps individual students, it enables them to help their communities.”

The latest gift from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation will allow NAU to implement an educational program that reaches into Arizona’s high schools to nurture future business leaders. NAU’s Center for American Indian Economic Development is working to establish entrepreneurship clubs in three Arizona high schools to host monthly training sessions that will provide students with business skills and spark interest in the career field.

“We want to start students thinking about the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur and give them a head start on thinking like a business person,” Van Slyke said. “Financial literacy is a problem among many young people, and it’s a valuable skill that our graduates can take back to share with their communities.”

For NAU students like Sariah Faith, support from donors like the Johnson Scholarship Foundation make the difference between building skills as a young entrepreneur and giving up on the dream of a degree. Faith earned her bachelor’s degree in computer information systems last month and plans to return to the Hualapai Reservation to start a business.

“Knowing I had scholarships to support me throughout my educational career kept me from constantly worrying about finances,” Faith said. “It allowed me to live, go through school and raise my son without putting my education on the side.”

The program also will provide scholarships to high school students to attend the university’s Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Program in Flagstaff. More than 20 high school students from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community completed the program last year, and the Johnson Scholarship Foundation provided six scholarships. The program is set to expand and extend invitations to students from additional tribal communities this year.