In high school I founded Lakota Children’s Enrichment (LCE), a small nonprofit that provided coats, boots and books to children on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota Nation. Today, Lakota Children’s Enrichment provides thousands of Lakota youth with opportunities for expression in arts, sports, and literacy and also provides leadership and mentorship training.
When I joined TIA in my sophomore year, I wanted to take Lakota Children’s Enrichment to the next level. By the end of that year I planned, funded, and ran a pilot sleep-away camp, and raised enough money to bring along an enthusiastic team of Colgate students and representatives experienced in running Native culture camps.
In my junior year, the TIA team helped me hone a 3-minute pitch, and encouraged me to implement programs to expand LCE’s impact. LCE’s online presence continued to gather momentum and later that year I was awarded the grand prize in Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women Contest. I earned a $20,000 prize, which I donated to LCE.
The week after the Glamour award, TIA mentors invited me to a closed Q and A session with Sir Richard Branson. When Richard called on me, I gave a one minute pitch, used an oversized Glamour check as a prop, and asked if he knew a philanthropist who might be willing to match my own donation to LCE. Richard offered to match, on condition that a Colgate alum who was in the audience also match my donation. Within a few weeks LCE received over $60,000, which in turn, allowed us to expand our programs and scope.
The year since graduation has been a period of exciting growth. We formed a youth advisory board of Lakota teens who have proposed great ideas of their own– and LCE is turning those ideas into action! We produce youth summits that engage youth in service and challenge them to think critically about their future. Our mini-grant program helped fund a college tour for high school students, a math camp and we’ve collected over 18,000 books for schools and community organizations.
Last year, participation in our annual Writing and Spoken word contest grew by 200%, and we welcomed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams onboard as a judge, along with a host of other impressive authors and poets including Colgate’s own Professor Peter Balakian.
On Saturday September 13, LCE held its’ inaugural fundraiser at Westerleigh, a private residence in Greenwich, CT. Our hosts covered all costs to ensure that all money raised went to LCE. Honored guests included Nobel Laureate Jody Williams and the CEO of Steiner Sports, Brandon Steiner — and Professor Balakian spoke at the event!
Nobel Laureate Williams said, ”I [am part of the LCE movement] because I think it is of fundamental importance. I’ve traveled to 75 countries in the world in my lifetime, and the degree of poverty and neglect in Pine Ridge is really horrifying. And the fact that … Maggie Dunne decided to do something about it, [to] work with the young people to help them understand that what they think and what they say matters, is very impressive to me… and I am glad that I am [involved].”
My work has continued to receive national recognition. I was named a 2014 Ariane de Rothschild Fellow, a 2014 Cordes Fellow, a “Next Generation Leader” by the Women in the World Foundation, a “Woman of Achievement” by Tri-Delta, and I accepted a position on the Leadership Council of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution.
When I look back at the journey, I am thankful for the generosity of the Colgate community and I am reminded of the importance of the Thought into Action Entrepreneurship Institute.
Brad Keywell of the Wall Street Journal’s Accelerator Blog said about the hiring process: “Too often people … focus on the tasks they have completed for their managers or the skills they picked up at business school. However, great entrepreneurs aren’t marked by their MBAs… they have a knack for identifying opportunity and turning ideas into reality.”
Taking risks is the essence of entrepreneurism and TIA mentors encouraged me to persevere, to treat everyone as a potential employer and– if it feels right — ignore the critics and plow ahead politely, but fearlessly. It’s okay to fail as long as you think big, put forth your best effort, and learn from your mistakes.
If you’ve got a dream but you’re not sure what to do with it, then get onboard with TIA.
To contribute toward our LCE campaign, click HERE. To watch a video of our call to action, click below.
Maggie is a 2013 magna cum laude graduate of Colgate, where she earned Excellence and Honors in Native American Studies, minored in Religion, and received the highest award for a graduating senior, the Colgate Alumni Corporation’s 1819 award. She also received a Voice of Conscience Award, the Dean’s Award for Community Service, was named a Dana Scholar, a Cobb Scholar, and received many other awards. Maggie is founder and president of Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc. and has worked in the Pine Ridge community for almost seven years building partnerships across the reservation with schools, community organizations, a youth advisory board, and parent volunteers. LCE engages a global VolunTEAM, which participates in projects to support youth on Pine Ridge.