Billionaire MacKenzie Scott gives Junior Achievement USA nearly $39M

Junior Achievement USA has received the largest single gift in its 103-year history, courtesy of billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The Colorado-based national education nonprofit that prepares students for adulthood by teaching them financial literacy, career skills and business ownership training announced the $38.8 million on Tuesday.

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Jack E. Kosakowski, Junior Achievement USA’s president and CEO, called the unrestricted donation “a huge, pleasant surprise” that has raised morale throughout the organization.

According to The Associated Press, Junior Achievement USA will receive $10 million, while 26 local Junior Achievement operations will split $28.8 million based on evaluations by Scott and her team.

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Globally, the organization serves more than 12.5 million students spanning 115 countries.

Jan Murfield, Junior Achievement of Dallas CEO and president, told The Dallas Morning News that the $1.2 million her organization is slated to receive will fund expansion of its virtual programming that has seen a dramatic increase in demand. Specifically, the Dallas operation will invest in staff, programs and new initiatives, she said.

“We greatly appreciate the generosity of MacKenzie Scott for this amazing gift to our organization,” Murfield said in a statement, adding, “We see this investment as recognition of the passion and commitment of the business leaders, educators, volunteers and other partners who support Junior Achievement in our community.”

According to a news release, Junior Achievement of Dallas served more than 113,000 of Dallas’ 1 million school-age students, nearly 80% of whom are considered economically disadvantaged, between 2021 and 2022, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Meanwhile, St. Paul, Minnesota-based Junior Achievement North will receive $1.9 million to enhance services for some 80,000 students in Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin, the Star Tribune reported.

“It was a moment of jaw-drop, just so much emotion … that she would recognize the work that we’re doing in the community and make such a generous investment in our students and our work,” CEO Sara Dziuk told the newspaper.

Scott, an author and the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated nearly $12 billion to myriad causes since 2019.

According to Forbes, Scott has a net worth of roughly $42 billion and has signed the Giving Pledge, a vow from many billionaires to donate more than half their wealth.

“Communities with a habit of removing obstacles for different subsets of people tend to get better for everyone,” Scott wrote in a March blog post.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.