of the largest charities in the country specifically offers scholarships
to just about every major minority group in the country except
Native Americans. In defending the decision, officials at the
Ronald McDonald House Charities said they offer assistance to
those children who are a priority.
Smelcer is an Ahtna Athabaskan Indian and Tribal Grants Administrator
in Anchorage, Alaska. His daughter, Zora, is a sophomore in high
school. In September, father and daughter were waiting for an order
of cheeseburgers at an Anchorage McDonalds and Smelcer, reading
information about Ronald McDonald House Charities, noticed that
the organization offers race-specific scholarships to African American,
Asian American and Hispanic American students. The charity's literature
stated they "offer scholarships to students from disadvantaged communities
who face limited access to education and career opportunities."
wondered why Native Americans are not included in the list. According
to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income of
the average American Indian home is only $26,000, compared to $37,000
for African Americans. Only 2.1% of Native American high school
students attend college.
Smelcer began to write letters to the charity, quoting figures like
the one above, and asking for a change in policy.
American Indian income is 30-40% less than the U.S. average," stated
one correspondence. "Your policy, while not illegal, is entirely
unethical. To award scholarships to three of the four national,
protected minority groups, to purposely discriminate against one
group (possibly on the basis of misinformation and personal prejudice)
months later, Smelcer finally received several responses from the
charity. Both spelled his name wrong. Ronald McDonald House Charities
Director Susan Kerr said the exclusion of Native American children
was not a mistake.
just like lots of folks these days, must prioritize our dollars
available for grants and programs," Kerr wrote. "At this time, the
chapters participating in the scholarship programs feel we have
the scholarships that fit the majority of their constituents' needs
said Native students are welcome to apply for grants under a "general
scholarship". She did not return a phone call from the Native American
Times seeking comment.
We must prioritize how we spend the dollars we have for scholarships,"
wrote Ronald McDonald House Charities official Debbie Stone. " When
we look at the data related to need for assistance nationally, Native
Americans do appear on the list. However, students of African American,
Hispanic and Asian heritage still need a tremendous level of assistance."
said the whole situation has left him frustrated and wondering if
the myth that "all Indian students go to college for free" has permeated
the charity's management. He is also disappointed for Zora, who
hopes to someday become a doctor.
I'm just a father and looking for chances to get a scholarship for
my daughter. It angered me that her favorite restaurant her whole
life would not give her a chance."