A Change In Leadership
AIS has named a new Executive Director
Former Executive Director Jay Brasher and Board President Keith Buswell have announced that Mr. Brasher has officially stepped down as Executive Director. They have chosen to name Dr. Sylvia McMillan as his successor. Dr. McMillan has an impressive pedigree in education and non-profit work. She served as Assistant Director for 6 years before being named as Executive Director, a period during which she accomplished great things. Chiefest among her accomplishments was the establishment of AIS PREP, our successful STEM summer school targeting middle school students to give them the analytical skills that will help them in high school and into college. We now have 6 locations on 5 different reservations. Mr. Brasher will continue to serve on the Executive Board as the Fundraising Committee Chairman.
Dr. McMillan’s work in charity and education
Dr. McMillan’s journey in the non-profit world began when she was 19 years old. She moved to Israel on her own to work as a day laborer on a farm kibbutz. On a day trip to Jerusalem she met a woman who worked for Catholic Relief Services. This led her to working as her assistant providing prenatal education to women living in the nomadic Bedouin tribes in the West Bank. That inspired Dr. McMillan to get a MA in Middle East Studies with an emphasis in Rural Development.
This set her down a path that led to her becoming a volunteer for CHOICE Humanitarian and Habitat for Humanity, and eventually to become Director of Care for Life in Mozambique, Children of Ethiopia Education Fund in Ethiopia, Director of the School at Rising Star Outreach of India in Chennai, Director of Madison House Autism Foundation in D.C., and she also served as the principal for several schools, including Monument Valley High School on the Navajo Nation, before coming to AIS.
Goals for the future
Dr. McMillan’s main goal as she leads our organization into the future is to grow the AIS funding base. This must be done in order to provide opportunities for an even larger number of Native students. Contrary to popular thought on this topic, Native Americans do not all have full ride scholarships and free college. Many students simply don’t have the financial means for furthering their education. One strategy we have for accomplishing this is to make our organization look more like the people whom we serve. Dr. McMillan and the AIS staff and Executive Board are creating an all Native National Advisory board with representatives from a variety of tribes from different geographical locations across the country. We are also starting an Alumni board in order to create a community of AIS graduates who want to give back.
Mr. Brasher created a foundation for the future
As Dr. McMillan pursues greater funding for the organization, she recognizes the great foundation that Jay Brasher created during his tenure for these efforts. “Jay Brasher has been involved for over 30 years with AIS and brought his passion and business know how to the position of director. I’ve worked with many people through the years who are tasked with fundraising, but none better than Jay. He took AIS to a new level financially. This has allowed AIS to provide a significantly higher number of scholarships to college students and the creation of the STEM program.”
How you can help
AIS donors and supporters will play a vital role in helping AIS achieve these goals of expansion. “The best place to start in your support is to learn more about those who live around and among us. To truly know those from other cultures and circumstances allows us to be more informed and empathetic to the needs of others. Joining together we can all rise as one in understanding and love for our fellow human beings. There is always a need for financial donations to address the real-world challenge of paying tuition and providing educational programs. All donations go directly to student scholarships as our overhead is covered by our generous board members,” said Dr. McMillan.
“I am both honored and excited to take on the role of executive director at American Indian Services and to lead such a passionate, dedicated team of professionals. In the coming years, American Indian Services will continue to pursue its mission to provide scholarships and education programs for Native students. Helping one student at a time creates a brighter future for not only them but us all. Confucius once said, ‘Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.’ ”