All posts by Prama Verma

A peek into virtual Minds Matter

Minds Matter’s Senior Program began on September 12 and Junior Program just kicked off on October 17. We caught up with current senior Stephanie to hear how the transition to virtual session was like last spring, and what she’s most looking forward to this year.

Q: It’s your final year of Minds Matter! What has the past month been like?
Stephanie:
It has been going well. It’s pretty hectic with college applications and all the deadlines but otherwise pretty good.

Q: What was adjusting to virtual Minds Matter last spring like?
Stephanie:
It was very weird since typically we are a very group-focused team. We would have discussions and speak out of turn and add on to each other’s thoughts, but with Zoom it’s different and we can’t speak as freely as we typically would. It happened near the end of the year so we also didn’t have a lot of time to get used to it and are doing so now.

Q: Did anyone on your team try to do anything to make things special when session went virtual?
Stephanie:
My mentors and I kept meeting throughout the summer on Wednesdays to catchup and make sure no one was feeling overwhelmed. It was really nice to keep up with them since COVID made the college process so strange and took away a lot of experiences we would have had. We were already pretty close-knit triad, but even more so now. I think because Zoom feels less personal, talking to them frequently over the summer was really special and I feel even more comfortable sharing with them now.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this year?
Stephanie
: I am excited to get into college and that whole experience, but not so much about the application part! I am grateful for any and all help I will get with my college applications and supplemental materials.

Q: Do you have an idea of where you want to go to school and what you may want to study?
Stephanie:
Right now, I am looking at Middlebury and Brown; those are the top two choices. I currently want to double major in Sociology and Environmental Studies but we’ll see what the future holds. 

Q: What is your favorite Minds Matter experience?
Stephanie:
I liked the scavenger hunt we did as a team in Grand Central. My triad didn’t win but another mentor gave me his medal since that was why I was trying so hard to win. It was a fun team game and was refreshing to spend time somewhere that wasn’t a classroom. I also crave social interaction so maybe that’s why that stands out so much, but I loved it.

Q: Minds Matter is…
Stephanie: Minds Matter is a solid support system. I am really grateful for the sense of community it has given me and I know that without Minds Matter I would not feel as prepared for the future as I do. Even though there is trepidation on my end, I am confident that things will be okay!

Permira Summer Scholars

For the past four years, Permira’s New York office has hosted Permira Summer Scholars, a 4-day program designed to introduce high school students to finance and related careers. This program is currently open to Minds Matter and Opportunity Network students.

Along with moving the 2020 program to a virtual format, Permira also increased the scale of the program, taking 20 Minds Matter students versus 8 in 2019, and involved colleagues from its Menlo Park, NJ office.

Sean Spatz has been a Minds Matter volunteer since 2017 and spearheaded this year’s program. He explained that although only 4 days long, the appeal of the Scholars program is that it gives rising high school seniors real insights into a host of careers right at the time that they are deciding where to apply to college and what to study. He said that the heavy emphasis on networking and developing relationships is also especially impactful, as most Permira employees who take part in the program hope to maintain relationships with the students as they progress through college and career.

Labib, Minds Matter senior, who participated in the program this summer, agrees with Sean’s assessment. He told us:

“I was originally worried about what opportunities I would have to pursue my passion for Wall Street and finance during the summer of COVID because all my other summer programs got canceled. I was so glad that Permira decided to give us a virtual internship! I had the chance to hear from people in finance, consulting, and more while working on a private equity-based project. I learned that private equity firms buy and sell other companies. They buy companies that have the potential to do better financially and competitively and sell them once they’ve reached that status. At Permira, our task was to determine whether Permira should invest in the well-known mattress company, Casper. In small groups, we assessed the company’s threats, weaknesses, opportunities, and strengths, under the instruction of a Permira employee who served as our mentor. We concluded to not buy Casper and presented our findings to a group of Permira employees. The presentation was the best part of the experience because because it was the culmination of all our hard work. Permira Summer Scholars was such a fun and memorable experience. It encouraged me to keep pursuing finance and I know I’m going to be interviewing with Permira for a job in the future!”

Permira hopes to build on the success of the virtual program and expand its reach to other regions, hopefully leveraging the Minds Matter network to reach new students in its goal of having 100 participants next summer.

Thank you, Permira, for bringing this wonderful opportunity to our students!

Advice from an NBCUniversal Intern

Waisze, MM ’17, is a senior at Columbia University and completed an internship with NBCUniversal’s Corporate Social Responsibility department over the summer. We caught up with her to learn about her experience, and what advice she’d give to future NBCU interns.

Minds Matter is also proud to have been partnering with NBCU CSR since 2019 to bring a four-day Media Fellowship to ~40 current Minds Matter students.

Q: How did you hear about this internship?
Waisze:
I saw it posted on Minds Matter Connect, Minds Matter’s new social media platform for alumni across MM chapters nationwide.

Q: What made you want to apply to the internship?
Waisze:
I have always been curious about the media industry because it’s a relevant industry with relatable content. As an engineering student, I don’t gain as much exposure in marketing and communications as much as I would like to. So, when I first heard about NBCUniversal’s internship opportunity with the Corporate Social Responsibility team, I knew I would gain experience in partnerships, marketing, communications, and the nonprofit world. This was also an opportunity to learn how corporations give back to the community.

Q: What kinds of projects did you work on?
Waisze:
We worked on a lot of projects ranging from analyzing charitable giving to planning volunteer events for a season. The most exciting project I worked on this summer was our new initiative called Summer of Service. This was a virtual volunteering effort, created in the hopes of increasing employee engagement and giving back. We were in touch with many of our nonprofit partners, and collaborated with them to host events that benefited their causes. 

Q: What was the coolest part of the experience?
Waisze:
Getting to know my team, the pages (recent graduates doing rotations through various departments at NBCU), and the other interns. The CSR team is small, so I was able to work closely and bond with my manager and the rest of the team. In addition, since this internship is virtual, I was able to chat with interns and professionals from different locations and teams. I learned a lot from them, all while having lots of fun!

Q: Tell us something you learned
Waisze: I learned how to effectively engage with our nonprofit partners and understand the works behind creating a successful communications plan. I also have a better understanding of NBCUniversal’s structure and the media industry as a whole. 

Q: What advice would you give to another Minds Matter alum thinking of doing the same internship?
Waisze:
Be curious and do reach out to people to learn more! The internship will end sooner than you think, so make the most of it.

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 was 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 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.

COVID-19 Program Update

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

PROGRAM UPDATE: COVID-19

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

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 carly@mindsmatternyc.org.

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 prama@mindsmatternyc.org. 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 farther and wrote holiday cards for each 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 colin@mindsmatternyc.org!

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.