Black people all over America are tired. Tired of the constant fighting for our lives. Tired of the constant fighting for our rights. The same rights that are given to every American.
George Floyd was a Black man trying to survive in this unjust system. But couldn’t, and lost his life to the same system that oppresses Black and Brown people daily. This system is unjust, the policing system is corrupt and Black people live in constant fear. The police have shown time and time again that the system is inherently racist and America is sick of it. We all demand change and we demand it now.
So, stand in solidarity with black lives matter and the protesters. Continue to push against the system because if we the people don’t reform the system, no one will.
The uproar of injustices against black people and protests, unfortunately, does not surprise me. This issue has been ongoing for too long and that angers me. Although it does not bring me joy to see violent protests and individuals angry, I understand that it is necessary especially since rioting is a part of this country’s history. But, I don’t want the purpose of the protests to get miscued by individuals who aren’t actually supporters and using this time as a chance to loot for their own personal gains. I ask everyone to focus on the facts and to use whatever social platform they have to share those facts.
In my opinion, the issues regarding police brutality and the murder of black people partly lie in the leadership of the police department and the police commissioners. The solution to that, I believe, is in voting and for everyone to care more about who is in power within the local elections. On a smaller scheme, I also believe that there are countless ways to show your support: from re-posting informative posts to donating to organizations to signing petitions to physically going out and protesting. Hence, don’t feel guilty for not having the means to do one of those forms of support as long as you feel that you’re helping in some way.
I know that black people are strong and we will continue to fight for what’s right. I appreciate the non-black individuals that are authentically using their platforms to share meaningful support and messages as well. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything seen on social media, as I myself have, so don’t be afraid to take mental breaks when necessary. Please remember to stay safe and look out for each other.
Here is a quote by James Baldwin that resonated with me during this time: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
I am proud of all I have accomplished; this fall I will be on my way to pursue higher education at an accredited university and I am honored to be recognized as the winner of the Minds Matter Achievement Scholarship for the Class of 2020. But no amount of education, no amount of praise, money, or honor can keep me safe from the harsh reality: I am what America hates. A strong, educated, young Black woman.
And no one can refute this statement. Black people are dying at the hands of racist police officers and white supremacists all the time. And not a single thing has been done about it. There has been no change. So often I am left to wonder, am I next? My family? My friends? Because for a long time now I have known that ‘freedom and justice for all’ does not apply to the Black community.
The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have left me in literal tears as I grieved not only their deaths but countless others including those we don’t know about, but have happened. I am frustrated, sad, scared and confused. But most of all, I am tired. Tired of these murders that could be prevented. Tired of the injustice. Tired of the lack of representation. Tired of the lack of education and the carelessness that comes from so many.
As I write this statement that reaches all of those who support Minds Matter, I want you to know that I am just one of many Black students that you are supporting. I want you to know, especially if you are non-black, that police brutality is real, Black Lives Matter, racism in this country is systematic, and as a result of this, many of you benefit from your own privileges. I want you to know that your silence, neutrality, and indifference will do nothing but allow for these things to continue to take place. I understand that for many of you this is unfamiliar, these are things you never had to think about or talk about, but that in itself is a problem. It is not the job of your Black peers, friends, coworkers, or employers to educate you on racism. There are thousands of resources at your disposal to educate yourselves on these matters whether it be books or movies. There is no excuse to not know and to not share what you know. I have linked here and here documents that list out thousands of resources to check out as well as be shared among friends and family.
As you continue to support Minds Matter and its students, know that we are passionate, goal driven, and ready to conquer whatever the world brings. We are resilient and strong. I ask that you continue to be compassionate and open minded, and that you continue to be supportive especially during these times. Lastly, I ask, to use your privilege to be a supportive ally.
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.
Minds Matter has adapted due to COVID-19. You can find information on those changes here. Have a question you don’t see? Email email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com. Or, consider making a donation so that Minds Matter can continue to provide services.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
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.
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).
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.
Colin is a 12 year veteran of Minds Matter, having started as a mentor in 2007, later as a Team Leader, and as a College Advisor for the last 5 years, now serving as Director of College Advising. He will be honored at this Thursday’s Brilliant Minds Benefit.
Q: How did you first get involved in Minds Matter?
Colin: My wife and I were looking for a volunteer opportunity to do together on the weekends. We came across Minds Matter on Idealist.org and decided to give it a try.
Q: Have your reasons for being involved evolved over time?
Colin: Yes, over time, both of us (my wife and I) have become very invested in the mission. We’ve gotten to know the college access landscape well and found a place in it where we can do something really important. We also really enjoyed the work itself— it was really fun to come in on Saturdays and work with Minds Matter students.
Q: Where did you go to college, and what did you study?
Colin: I went to Bowdoin College and studied music and sociology.
Q: How did college impact your life?
Colin: College felt like a blank slate; it was a chance to go and do what I wanted to do (even though I had no idea what I wanted to do). Early on, a professor told me that one of the best things you can do in college is take classes by the best, most interesting professors, regardless of subject. I took that advice and ran with it.
By taking courses that interested me, instead of what I thought I “should”, I let doors open that I never knew existed. This approach to life has been very rewarding and exciting. The nature of a liberal arts college and education has been implanted now in my brain—I always want to be doing many different things and thinking about the world in a variety of ways. This is when I feel most healthy and happy.
Q: Did you feel prepared for college?
Colin: I felt academically prepared for college, but less so in other ways. I went to a large public high school that had one college counselor for a class of 400 students (not dissimilar from the ratio of many of our students’ schools). There was definitely a college going culture [in Ithaca], but less overall guidance about finding a best-fit college. I also wasn’t prepared for the cultural differences with wealthier students, students from boarding schools, or similar..
Q: Why is it important to you to help our students get into college?
Colin: College graduates have greater socio-economic opportunity, yet this credential is not evenly accessible for all students—some students are just not going to college, and those who are, often struggle or feel they don’t belong. I want to help open up opportunities for others, and see college as a critical first step.
Q: What recommendations do you have for new volunteers?
Colin: Show up. Make it a priority every week. Take it seriously and that’s when you’ll get the most reward out of it. I also recommend investing time in getting to understand the mission of the organization. In this day and age, providing more opportunity is such an important cause, and if you don’t engage with that “why” you can feel lost in why you’re doing this. The bigger picture is the main focus—it’s all about creating opportunity.