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Minds Matter Continues its Unprecedented Success with a New Mission Statement

Core of 100% successful program stays the same with new clarity and refinement of purpose

November 30, 2020
New York, NY

Since its inception in 1991, Minds Matter has been dedicated to transforming the lives of accomplished high school students from low-income families by broadening their dreams and preparing them for college success.

The results of that work are clear: in 29 years of existence, 100% of Minds Matter graduates nationwide have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities.

That work has struck a chord and fulfilled a need across the country, and in doing so Minds Matter has organically spread from a few students in New York City to hundreds of students across 14 major cities nationwide. With thousands of volunteers supporting these students, Minds Matter’s impact is dramatic and marked. Its core programming is the key: college access has repeatedly been shown as one of the most powerful levers to break free of the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Along with the nationwide expansion came a desire in Minds Matter leadership to reference and honor the fundamental motivation of its students, the level of investment that tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers and supporters have made in those students, and the life-long benefits that accrue for the students in whom we invest. 

Which is why, after 29 successful years, all 14 Minds Matter chapters and the national office unanimously decided to update the mission statement to reflect these and other important elements as the program embarks on its fourth decade of success. The organization is excited to announce that it has refined its mission statement to reflect the benefits of the research-based, deeply-impactful Minds Matter program nationwide.

The revised mission statement reads:

Minds Matter connects driven and determined students from low-income families with the people, preparation, and possibilities to succeed in college, create their future, and change the world.

Sara Elaqad, Chair of the Minds Matter Chapter Leadership Council, reflects that “This updated mission maintains the important and persistent focus of our work, while also bringing to the forefront the innate skills and impact multiple stakeholders bring together to promote equitable access to higher education and a lifetime of opportunity for our students nationwide.”

Ashish Shah, Co-Chair of the Minds Matter National Board of Directors, shares that “this new mission showcases the energy and research-based best practices that our 14 chapters share as well as highlighting the dedication of our students. This new mission statement describes our work—and all that Minds Matter has to offer—in a more meaningful way.”

“The focus on people, preparation, and possibilities showcases the resources we bring to bear to provide unprecedented successes for our students. In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide conversation around systemic inequity, it’s clear that our mission is critical,” says Shah. “At the end of the day, this new mission statement unifies the work across our 14 chapters. Our community is strong, and our work continues.”

About Minds Matter

Minds Matter connects driven and determined students from low-income families with the people, preparation, and possibilities to succeed in college, create their futures, and change the world.

Through a highly selective and rigorous 3-year academic mentoring program, Minds Matter students accomplish the extraordinary: 100% of Minds Matter program graduates are accepted into a four-year college and more than 70% of them attend the nation’s selective colleges. Powered by over 2,000 volunteers nationwide, Minds Matter chapters are located in 14 cities across the country. The national office of Minds Matter is located in New York City.

For more information about Minds Matter, please contact Minds Matter’s Chapter Leadership Council Chair, Sara Elaqad, at sara@mindsmattercleveland.org.

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 nationwide 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.

Black Lives Matter: A statement from Shelley

George Floyd’s death rattled me to my very core. I feel ashamed to admit that over time, I have grown to be desensitized to the constant slaying of people who look like me or my friends. No one says their names. Their last moments become viral and indecently public. Our brains learn to process the heartbreak faster every time. Soon, we are disappointed by our complacency to view these killings as normal.

To make matters worse, the response of the media and the vague coverage of losses like these make the general public believe that these murders are justified. On many front pages in the past, the victim’s integrity and innocence have been scrutinized to the point where people forget the real crime. Instead of striving for justice, our leaders put on a distracting display of bureaucracy that results in no real change.

This time, there is an air of uncontrollable anger and frustration because George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. I find myself sitting at home, trying to process how we let the world get this horrific. Personally, this tragedy has uncovered harmful ideologies within my culture. I am Dominican and have spent time discovering my identity and learning about my black ancestry. This, however, is something that many Dominicans refuse to accept about themselves. Due to some of our lighter complexions, many Dominicans are privileged enough to acknowledge this injustice and carry on with their lives as if they are untouchable. Being woefully ignorant is not acceptable; before we can begin to demand for our world to be better, we must acknowledge what is wrong with it. Engaging in these kinds of dialogues with the people I love most has been draining and rewarding. The national outcry of George Floyd’s murder has forced us to confront the monster that has been haunting our country: police brutality.

The reality is that this is something we should all educate ourselves on. The police were founded on the principle to protect and this mission has failed. Although I have never feared for my safety when in close proximity to the police, a world where that is a concern is not a just world in my eyes. COVID-19 has forced me to stay home, even when my mind and soul yearn to march alongside so many other activists and passionate members of our community. Although I feel hopeless at times, social media and the power of our devices have connected me to so many people and causes I can help.

Although our current reality feels disheartening, I am so excited to lead our world into a better place. Being a millennial has been a roller coaster of an experience: I was born in the aftermath of 9/11, a student while school shootings were rampant, and just one of many activists in the making as we worry about the countless social issues our world is plagued by. Above all, we will demand more of our leaders and we know exactly how. To everyone reading this, please understand the weight and value of your vote if you are able to exercise this right. With a vote, you can decide who will advocate for our lives. If voting isn’t possible for you, campaigning and encouraging everyone else around you is just as important. This is not an isolated incident. We will be demanding much more from our politicians and leaders because we know the world cannot continue to be this way.

Black Lives Matter: A statement from Mariam A

The brutal murders of innocent souls, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and countless others, prove to show how wrecked “our” America is.

White privilege has always been a tool for white or white passing individuals to get a head start in society, but now it is a matter of life or death. I am disturbed by the videos surfacing on Instagram, but they are necessary to bring awareness; crazy that we need video evidence of murder to join the fight. The fight for equality, for acceptance, for lives is essential now. We live in 2020 in America, a place where third world countries look up to, how do we still treat those who look different than ourselves any different? Black families do not deserve this. America is built on systematic racism: the oppressed do the work, but the oppressors get the credit. Inequality and oppression towards Black individuals have infected every aspect of their lives: healthcare, education, incarceration, and the right to live and feel safe.

From the first day we enter school we are forced to repeat “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” To this day, I am not sure who “all” is. Does “all” refer to the people wearing MAGA hats? Does “all” refer to the men in blue?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” That is why the protests and riots that are occurring right now are important. Enough is enough.

The fight has been left to Black groups, but it should not be solely on them. Even if you think racism does not affect you, you should still join the fight. Solidarity, uniting with other groups for justice, is essential. As an Arab-American, I hope that my fellow brothers and sisters use their Arab privilege to support our Black brothers and sisters. Arab-Americans have appropriated Black vernacular and clothing to fit in, yet they are silent. Silence hurts the fight. Your silence means you support the opposite side. I beg my fellow Arabs, please use your position, your voice, and your power because Black lives matter.

Black people are put into this box when they are born, and they cannot leave the box. Then, they have children that replace them in the box. White people, all American people honestly, help build this box to be thicker and harder to get out of. Saying “not all cops are bad,” “not all white people hate Black people,” “all lives matter,” and “I don’t see color” does not help the situation. Undermining the fight will only further the gap to solidarity, respect, and change. Understand that when someone says “F*ck the police” they are attacking the crooked system that is anti-Black, anti-POC, and anti-poor. I read somewhere that as long as police exist, Black and indigenous groups of people will be continuously targeted.

The Constitution grants us our First Amendment right: free speech, assembly, petition, and press. I urge you, all of you, to use your voice and speak up. The system is f*cked up and has taken away too much from Black Americans. The system needs change, so please educate yourself and those around you, speak up, and join the fight. The future depends on it. Families depend on it.

We are the Legacy: A Black Lives Matter Statement from Jonathan

“I can’t breathe, man.”

At this point, your heart is racing, so many questions running through your head. Wondering:

What the hell is going on??

A 46-year-old African-American man, reported to the cops for buying cigarettes with a counterfeit bill in Minneapolis.

You don’t know who this man is, but you wonder why this has made the headlines—why you are seeing daunting pictures and hashtags erupting on social media platforms around the world.

“Please.”

The video continues to play as we watch the struggle of the African American man in the hands of these cops… watching as they treat George Floyd in the most inhuman degradation possible.

“I can’t breathe.”

Lump starts forming and blood starts to churn to the eyes of the millions of people around the world including you and me. The angles all change, as we are presented with the view from 17-year-old Darnell Fraiser recording the ticking bomb of truth.

“Please, the knee in my neck—I can’t breathe sh*t.”

Vulgar language and the utmost rage erupts, tears start to come down to even the eyes of those who swore to never cry—watching as this white police officer whose name gives the most upmost pain to mention keeps his knee and the weight of his body on George Floyd neck.

George Perry Floyd.

A human being…just like the 7.5 billion people who open their eyes by the grace of God….a man who bleeds cherry-red color blood…the same as you and me. 

“I can’t breathe.”

Watching as in 8 minutes and 46 seconds his precious life was stolen from him…to the disbelief of witness to this murder…to the disbelief of the nation…to then the disbelief of the world.

“Police brutality.” This phrase ringing in the ears of many—a phrase that has been echoed around the black community—the pain and emotions screaming and scraping the air. Millions of people who know about these injustices…know about the horror…know how inhuman and how long this has been going.

And then it snaps.

Literally it snaps. The floodgates of Heaven that have been kept quiet—little water currents flowing through the cracks and crevices just erupts, and the world is taken by surprise.

Streams of people fill the pavement within hours of this event—nothing holding anyone back. The whole police force taking by surprise—trying to control the truth but it’s just too much. The truth has overwhelmed them.

The truth has overwhelmed the whole world.

So many people around the world—all different backgrounds—come together. There was no holding back, watching as history was being written with every breath that screamed the pain and injustices of the world.

“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.”
“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.”
“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.”

Cops trying to maintain order knowing this was a truth their “weapons” or “powers” can’t hide any more… streets being filled every inch with people with signs-vocalizing the truth… in the midst of it, there is those select handful…those criminals…secretly enjoying this as they lick their greedy lips and prey there selfish fantasies and desires into these stores and business—among them in which many innocent people have dedicated their lives to.

It’s a nightmare—you keep waving your hand in front of your face but it’s a reality you can’t escape.

But you know what you need to do. They tried hiding the power—the voice that we as a community of young people of color have. You see it around you. You see through the fake media outlets and you know the truth—we all know it.

As I sit behind my computer, writing this at 4:00 am in the morning, I can’t help to look out to the quiet of the sky and smile, just knowing.

Knowing around the world George Floyd’s name is ringing—shaking the world to its core.

Knowing that as long as we continue to fight and contribute to this change, we are ensuring a bright future—a long-needed change that just can’t be kept quiet.

Knowing that George Perry Floyd is looking down on us—breathing and smiling.

We are the future. We are the legacy. We Matter.

Black Lives Matter: A statement from Anndy

Every Latinx person needs to stand in solidarity with the Black community more than ever. Both communities face oppression in the United States since we share some of the same struggles, but it is during these times where we must support our Black neighbors and friends from a system that is supposed to protect them.

To my Latinx community, it is your responsibility to inform and stop the anti-blackness in your family and to take action, because the silence you create feeds the flames to the oppressors.