General Mills Foundation
One goal at General Mills is to be among the most socially responsible food companies in the world. The company continually sets targets for bettering the nutritional profile of its foods and keeps addressing social and environmental challenges. It also makes annual financial contributions from pretax profits to philanthropic and charitable causes, donating $118 million in fiscal year 2011, amounting to more than $2 million each week. For the third time in four years, General Mills was among the top 10 in Corporate Responsibility magazine’s “100 Best Corporate Citizens.” It was ranked No. 2 in 2009 and No. 3 in 2010. The ranking is regarded as the top corporate responsibility rating based on publicly available information.
General Mills enjoyed other prestigious top rankings in 2010, including being named to Fortune Magazine’s list of the top 50 of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and to its list of “100 Best Companies to Work For;” as well as being selected by The Ethisphere Institute as dedicated to the advancement of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption, and sustainability as one of the “world’s most ethical companies” for the third year in a row.
Ercia (Shinnecock Indian Nation)
School: Institute of American Indian Arts
Major: Indigenous Liberal Studies
Some people may face a few obstacles to attend college. They might not get accepted to a few schools, or maybe they have to work while going to school. I’ve faced hardship and struggle since my first memories came to pass as an innocent little girl. The pressure to make something out of myself was present ever since I found out my mom was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease called lupus. At the tender age of eight years old I was forced to cope with the fact my mom wouldn’t be able to take care of me anymore and my dad wasn’t ever going to be able to support me.
As Mom’s lupus progressed, so did the years. The little money we had dwindled over the years. My mom and I were now alone with my father out of the picture. The struggle remained as I was a teenager in high school, wondering how I was going to get money for lunch for the day, school supplies, pay my fees for field trips, or even afford to go to the prom.
At 15 years old, I had no choice but to start working part-time jobs to provide for myself what other kids were given freely. I continued the employee/student life until my senior year in high school, when I discovered that my mother was moving half-way across the country to live the rest of her life in happiness with the man of her dreams. I was now forced to become an independent woman sooner than I ever imagined.
I contemplated staying in Miami and putting down roots in my hometown, but I couldn’t stop wondering about my culture and family on my reservation. Since I had no home to call my own in Miami and no family to live with, I decided to move to New York to become be a part of my tribal community. While living in New York I wanted to see what opportunities were available for me to obtain a great education. After countless weeks of searching for schools that had a dance program, I ended up stumbling across Long Island University, where I went to school for about two years. Due to lack of scholarships for Native Americans in my tribe and the high tuition, I couldn’t finish. I returned to Miami with a fire burning in my soul to finish school. On April 29, 2011 I graduated from Miami-Dade College with honors with an associate’s degree.
Unfortunately, a few days after I graduated I was evicted from the efficiency apartment I shared with my father. I was now homeless and desperately tried to find any place to stay. After a long search, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with my partner at his mother’s house. I fell into a deep depression. I felt unable to move forward in my life because I was so worried about my basic survival. One day I received word that my partner’s mother was moving to New Mexico, and since I had nowhere else to go, I researched the opportunities available there.
I found an amazing school called the Institute of American Indian Arts (Editor’s note: Ayala has a 4.0 grade point average there). I am currently studying to complete my bachelor’s in the Indigenous liberal studies program and I am also interning at Dancing Earth, which is an Indigenous contemporary dance company.
Dance is my fire in life. I cannot see myself doing anything else that could fill my heart up with such raw emotions that seem to transport me to another world. My goal is to own a dance studio that embraces the knowledge of my culture infused with a mix of dances from around the world.
By the age of 21 I realized my true path in life and have learned what takes some people a lifetime to learn. I am currently still pushing through many of life’s speed bumps, but I am happy knowing that I will overcome each and every one of them. I know that this scholarship will lead me toward being even more of the strong, passionate, Native American woman that I am today.
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