All posts by Prama Verma

Meet a Minds Matter Student

Avaneque was the 2019 Brilliant Minds Benefit student speaker and is a member of Princeton University’s Class of 2024.

Q: What have you learned from your time with Minds Matter?

Avaneque: I have learned the importance of seizing every opportunity. Minds Matter made it possible for me to learn about different industries and take advantage of unique opportunities.

 Q: What has been your favorite Minds Matter moment?

Avaneque: In junior year Writing & Critical Thinking, we did a program-wide activity to shoot a commercial. It was helping to build our persuasive-writing skills, but was also so wonderful to participate in something silly and fun with our entire class.

 Q: How has the Minds Matter impacted you?

Avaneque: Minds Matter was a space where I felt unconditionally welcomed. I wasn’t expected to be anything other than my authentic self. I’m going to hold that feeling with me in every space I walk into.

Q: Where are you going to college and what are you hoping to study?

Avaneque: I am going to Princeton University to study Political Science. I am working towards becoming a civil rights attorney!

Q: What are you most looking forward to in college?

Avaneque: I’m most looking forward to choosing my classes. I’m excited for the independence to dive into coursework that I’m passionate about, and pass over some subjects that were required in high school.

Support students like Avaneque. Donate today!

COVID-19 Program Update

Find out how Minds Matter has adapted in light of current circumstances.


Minds Matter has adapted due to COVID-19. You can find information on those changes here. Have a question you don’t see? Email

Is Minds Matter still sending juniors to summer programs?
For the safety of our students, we’ve followed the lead of our university partners and canceled summer programs this year. While disappointing, we are looking for other ways to make sure students have productive summers that help them prepare for college.

Will the Academic & Leadership Development Academy for sophomores take place in July? 
ALDA will take place, but in an altered format. More information to come.

Is Minds Matter still accepting new student applications for the Class of 2023?
Yes, Minds Matter is still accepting student applications. In light of current circumstances, the application deadline has been extended to October 8, 2020. Interviews will take place in November 2020, and decisions will be made in December 2020. We will hold onto all applications that were received in the spring for consideration in the fall.

Can I apply to be a volunteer at this time? 
Yes, volunteer applications for the 2020-21 academic year are now open. All volunteer interviews will be conducted over the phone for the foreseeable future. Please note, due to COVID-19 related delays to our program, most new volunteers will start in January 2021.

What has changed for the 2020-21 program year?
Because we have extended the student application deadline, Sophomore Program will begin in January 2021. Junior and Senior Programs will resume as scheduled in October and September, respectively.

I’m an alumna/us of Minds Matter. Will I still get my stipend?
Yes, alumni may complete their surveys to request stipends. However, due to COVID-19, we will not be mailing stipends until the office has reopened. We will keep careful records of all stipend requests and get them out as soon as we can. 

Will Career Incubator still take place?
We are currently facilitating resume review and interview prep sessions between alumni and volunteers. Interested in getting your company involved? Email Carly at

How can I help students at this time?
The college Class of 2020 is graduating during a difficult time. Have job or internship opportunities at your company? Email Prama at Or, consider making a donation so that Minds Matter can continue to provide services. 

Sending Care to Minds Matter Alumni with Birchbox

Birchbox and Minds Matter employees
assembling care packages!

This past fall, Minds Matter partnered with the beauty and grooming subscription service, Birchbox, to send special care packages to our alumni in their first year of college!

Minds Matter started sending care packages back in 2016, timing delivery right before finals to give our students a boost during one of the more stressful times at college.  In the past, we’ve partnered with companies like Goldman Sachs and Xandr to help with the care packages and were thrilled when Gabby Giovanniello, a Birchbox director and Sophomore Writing & Critical Thinking Advisor, connected us with Birchbox for this year’s project! 

In late November, Minds Matter joined the Birchbox team at its NYC office and assembled beauty and wellness care packages for the students – from makeup and skincare products, umbrellas, and retractable water bottles.  The Birchbox team also went a step further and wrote happy holiday card for every student, wishing them good luck on their upcoming exams.

Gabby said, “Building care packages for Minds Matter alumni was a great way to bring staffers together during the holiday season to spread some cheer. We had such a fun time partnering with the Minds Matter employees hand-picking beauty & grooming products for these students that we hope signified a reminder to them to pause and take time to remember to care for themselves during the holidays and finals. It was such a joy to be able to repurpose samples into something that hopefully brought a smile to their faces!”

Thank you, Birchbox, for supporting our students this fall! 

Interested in involving your company in our care package program? Let us know at!

Reflections on Triad Reveal Day

by Dylan Andres

November 2016 – I’m a 22-year-old, fresh out of college and living in New York City. I’m working at one of the largest financial services firms in the world. I am in a position many dream of and have every reason to feel confident, but on this Saturday morning, I am feeling particularly insecure.

“Does she think I’m cool?” “What should I say?” “Can she tell that I’m nervous?” No, I’m not on a first date – the nerves ahead of meeting a potential romantic partner are far easier to handle. It is my first year as a mentor for Minds Matter, and I’m sitting across from Fatima, a 15-year-old student and the source of my anxiety. She has just learned that I will be one of her mentors for the next three years. 

Dylan and co-mentor, Ela, with newly matched mentee, Fatima.

She does not look happy about it (I offer the image the right as evidence). I do my best to break down the walls. I ask her about school, her family, what kind of music she likes – anything in the hopes of establishing some common ground. Like a comic after a few poor jokes, I feel myself losing this audience of one.

I ask her if she likes movies and her face lights up! She tells me about what she’s seen recently and how she has dreams of becoming an actress. We exchange thoughts on movies we had both watched, and share recommendations. I breathe an internal sigh of relief.

Session comes to an end, and we say our goodbyes for the week. I leave completely unsure of how the next three years are going to go. I still have doubts that Fatima is happy to have me as a mentor, but, as a self-described cinephile, I am excited that we share a common interest. 

November 23, 2019 – I’m in my fourth year volunteering for Minds Matter and first as a Team Leader. Today is the day students learn who their mentors will be for the next three years, and I am thrilled.

After our team completes a short activity to reveal the triads (perhaps unsurprisingly, the theme of the activity was famous TV and movie trios), mentors and students begin getting to know each other. It’s a familiar scene, but this time, I’m an observer, keenly watching how everyone is getting along.

I put a lot of thought into matching students and mentors, so I am ecstatic to overhear laughter coming from several of the triads. Other triads, not unexpectedly, are quieter. I recognize the looks on the mentors’ faces – scrambling to touch on any topic that might get their student to open up. I chuckle to myself, not only because I know the feeling, but because I know what lies ahead over the next three years.

Today, Fatima is a freshman at Hunter College. She’s studying biology but is also interested in business (that prestigious financial services firm I mentioned? She did an internship there… at the age of 18). She continues to work extremely hard, but still finds time for the occasional movie or TV show.

In our three years together, Fatima and I grew very close. In a lot of ways, she reminded me of myself in high school. She increasingly leaned on me for advice, and, by the time she graduated, I think she might have even been happy that I was her mentor (I offer a second image as evidence).

Dylan, Kavita, Fatima, and her family at Minds Matter graduation.

I am proud to have played a small part in getting Fatima to where she is, but the greatest reward of being her mentor was simply being able to watch her grow into a thoughtful, articulate and confident young woman. In a lot of ways, she was the star of her own movie, and I was just lucky to be in the audience.

As I wrap up the team’s session, I see students and mentors say their goodbyes and leave with the same mix of excitement and uncertainty I felt three years ago. But me? I am only excited, because I know this is the beginning of an amazing journey for my nine students and their mentors. Today was just the opening scene, and I am, once again, feeling lucky to be in the audience.