VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota was among 10 colleges and universities nationwide to receive a $1 million gift as part of TikTok’s Health Heroes initiative launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gift from the global social media company is intended to support health care-related scholarships benefitting enrolled tribal members and other students, as well as programming to study and promote health and wellbeing in impoverished or marginalized South Dakota communities. TikTok, which has U.S. headquarters in Culver City, California, has roughly 100 million active month users in the U.S. alone.
“The University of South Dakota is home to the state’s only medical school and only comprehensive school of health sciences, and our students are among the most skilled, compassionate and capable. They are tomorrow’s leaders in health care,” USD President Sheila K. Gestring said. “This scholarship enables us to better support Native American students, students from underrepresented communities and students with financial need as they pursue academic excellence and become our future health heroes.”
This announcement comes as the university prepares for its third annual giving day, Unite for USD, Feb. 18-19, 2021.
“At the core of #UniteforUSD is community, and TikTok’s participation in the giving day will serve as an inspiration for the entire Coyote community to show their pride and join in to support USD,” said Steve Brown, USD Foundation president and chief executive officer.
In addition to inspiring current health sciences and medical students to care for underserved populations and ensuring they offer culturally competent care, USD is focused on cultivating an interest in health care among diverse populations. The university offers numerous opportunities for K-12 Native American students to explore a wide range of health care career options and discover new pathways to earning a postsecondary education.
Among the opportunities for K-12 students are the Native American Healthcare Scholars Program (NAHSP), Indians into Medicine (INMED) program, Pine Ridge Scrubs Camp, Healthcare Careers Summer Camp and the He Sapa Health Careers Summer Camp.
USD is also committed to providing extensive support, mentoring, career development and educational opportunities for students from marginalized communities, particularly Native American students.
For example, the USD Institute of American Indian Studies provides educational and research opportunities to students, faculty and staff interested in the history, culture and language of the nine federally recognized tribes in South Dakota. The institute increases access and support to Native American undergraduate and graduate students by offering $80,000 in scholarships, cultural workshops and connections to tribal communities.
USD’s Native American Cultural Center (NACC) provides a culturally relevant space for Native American students and others interested in Native American cultures. Students enjoy the homelike environment and study space at the NACC and full kitchen, computer lab and lounge. The NACC also houses Native Student Services (NSS), which provides student support services and culturally relevant programming throughout the year, such as cultural gatherings, leadership development, academic support and student organizations.
“Health care workers are the heroes of the global pandemic, and deserving heroes within the TikTok community. The TikTok Health Heroes Relief Fund was created to support their efforts and we are honored to be able to continue our commitment to the healthcare community,” said Belinda Frazier, head of culture and diversity, TikTok North America. “We believe the next generation of health heroes should be reflective of the world around us and we are proud to support medical and health education programs that serve Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students."