W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program expands into Arizona

Above: Event host Carey Peña, General manager of Gainey Ranch Golf Club, Jim Murphy, Stacey Steele, Mike Steele and Creative director of Vermilion Events, David Twigger conduct a ribbon cutting dedicating a new clock tower at Gainey Ranch Golf Club. Business News | 16 Nov |

Michael Steele is the president, CEO and director of The Steele Family Foundation. He and his wife, Stacey Steele, who is the director of communications for the foundation, live in Scottsdale for part of the year and call Canada home for the remainder of the year. Together, they travel extensively in support of the foundation’s philanthropic endeavors. The W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program is one of those endeavors and it has recently expanded into Arizona.

A dinner at Gainey Ranch Golf Club on November 4 brought together influencers in the philanthropy space to get introduced to a scholarship program that benefits specific groups of students. Local organizations that are the recipients of The Steele Family Foundation’s generosity and are participating in the W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program were also in attendance that evening.


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Before the dinner commenced, Mike and Stacey Steele had their dinner guests join them on the golf course where they orchestrated a ribbon cutting and dedicated a gorgeous clock tower to the Gainey Ranch Golf Club community where they live. Back in the mid-80’s, Mike worked for Brikon Masonry and SIW International that built Gainey Ranch, The Scottsdale Princess and the Hyatt Regency. 

During the beautiful, seated dinner orchestrated by Vermillion Events and Design, The Mario Dozzo Foundation gave $3 million to The Steele Foundation to kick off the night’s festivities. That money is designated to help fund The W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program.

The W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program partners with schools and organizations that are connected to The Steele Family Foundation in efforts to find “stranded superstars” who only need the opportunity to be shown how to “fly” and blossom into productive global citizens. Once connected, students within that partnered organization formally apply for a scholarship and earn points up to a total of 100 that are then used to earn yearly scholarships, available for up to four years. Points are earned based on four pillars of accomplishment – academic grades (30 points), extracurricular school activities (30 points), non-formal educational experiences (30 points) and letters of reference and a final essay (10 points). Points earned convert to dollar amounts for college scholarships, and the dollar amounts vary on geographic needs.

Program director, Mike Miller and Chief development officer, Lyric Naquin, both of Scottsdale Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale accept a $100,000 jointly sponsored donation from Gainey Ranch Club Charities, The W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program and The Steele Family Foundation.

Local organizations Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers and Grace Sober Living each received $100,000 during the evening. Although Grace Sober Living, founded by Celebrity Fight Night’s founder Jimmy Walker doesn’t work directly with teens, Mike Steele vowed to make the W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program work so that men in Grace Sober Living programs have the opportunity to earn scholarships to better themselves and stay on the right path.

SOS Children’s Villages, International Student’s Foundation and the just keep livin Foundation were also recipients of $100,000 each from The Steele Family Foundation during the evening.

The just keep livin Foundation was founded by actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila Alves McConaughey. The nonprofit foundation empowers high school students by providing them tools to help them lead more active lives and make healthy choices that will give them a better future. Since teens involved in that nonprofit participate voluntarily, partnering with the W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program was a natural fit. Although Matthew McConaughey was unavailable to attend the Scottsdale dinner due to filming commitments, he did record a heartfelt video thanking The Steeles that played during dinner.

“…I do want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to you, Stacey and Mike and The Steele Family Foundation for the support that you’ve given and continue to give to our nonprofit – mine and Camila’s nonprofit organization – the just keep livin Foundation,” said Matthew McConaughey. “At just keep livin, we run fitness and wellness programs in Title 1 schools. Part of the idea from the inception of our curriculum is that we want to make sure that we’re incentive- based. So, when Stacey and Mike came to us to be your partner on the first application for the W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program in the United States, we saw a very easy and constructive synergy between our two organizations. Your ‘earn-to-learn’ approach is going to provide another layer to the way we can impact students and it’s going to be our very first scholarship program.”

The W.I.S.E. Scholarship Program is facilitated by The Steele Family Foundation, and the foundation is currently seeking other Arizona organizations to partner with to potentially offer scholarships through existing organizations. For additional information, visit thesteelefamilyfoundation.com/wise-scholarship-program/.

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