Letter to Our Stakeholders, Spring 2021


Dear Stakeholders:

As first quarter of 2021 closes, this time of year is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking here at Minds Matter. Right now, our high school seniors across the country await in hopeful anticipation for those final college decisions. It’s a three-year journey on which we have walked with them. In the meantime, let’s share our insights and thank YOU for making it all possible.

First the Students

  • Minds Matter students have already committed to amazing institutions for the Class of 2025 – including University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Middlebury College, Johns Hopkins University, and New York University to name a few.
  • However, the vast majority of our students weigh college choices well into the spring as they fully consider key factors like financial aid packages, university offerings, and distance from home.
  • This summer, our students can once again access extra academics through our continued partnership with Coursera and through university pre-college programs now mostly delivered online due to COVID-19.
  • In July, Minds Matter National will host its first National Virtual Summer Externship Program bringing together college and high school students from across the country, with technology and startup CEOs. Our goal for this inaugural program is to expose students and young alumni to real world business problems, emerging technologies and tomorrow’s careers – building on the success of our local Career Incubator and Fellows programs.

Trends We Watch

  • Applying to college is already a challenging process; TIME highlighted just how much harder it has been this year. Which just confirms to us why our mentoring and guidance work truly matters.
  • Test optional and test blind admissions, a trend that’s slowly been gaining momentum for years, has finally taken hold in 2020-21 and might just might be here to stay. As a result, applications at top colleges jumped significantly this year.
  • The country’s largest university system – University of California – actually suspended use of the SAT and ACT altogether as an admission criteria and is moving to test blind by 2023.
  • The proliferation of admissions programming — from virtual college tours to Zoom student panels – greatly expanded accessibility as our students can now experience many more colleges and universities from the convenience of home.
  • Overall, we view such trends as moves in the right direction towards leveling the playing field yet there is still much work to be done. Students from lower-SES continue to face extraordinary challenges and disparities when compared to higher income peers – especially those noted in this NYT opinion piece or this article on learning setbacks. We follow Raj Chetty’s work out of Harvard University as his team continues to quantify disparities like in this paper on intergenerational economic mobility.

Congratulations Alumni!

  • Kudos to MM NYC alum Ebonye Gussine Wilkins, CEO of Inclusive Media Solutions and a Johns Hopkins/CUNY grad, who was recognized for her thought leadership by Cutter Technology Business Journal which named her article, “Inclusion in the Workplace: Are We Doing Enough?a Top 5 Intriguing Article for 2020.
  • Congratulations to MMLA alum Toshe Ayo Ariyo, Co-Founder of UInclude and UPenn grad, the winner of the 2020 National Next Level Competition held at USC and covered in Fortune here.
  • Shout out for MM Cleveland alum David Boone, Harvard grad and former Microsoft engineer, for securing seed funding and a coveted NYC accelerator spot for his edtech startup, BlendED (you may recall David’s 2012 “Homeless to Harvard” story which made national headlines).
  • And Yale-educated Professor Arthur Tinoco for winning yet another National Science Foundation grant for his metals-based cancer research.

Staff Shout-Outs

  • MM NYC’s Executive Director Erika Halstead was recently selected to join the inaugural Pinkerton Foundation’s Advanced Leadership Network as one of 15 outstanding leaders working with NYC youth.
  • MM Cleveland Executive Director Sara Elaqad was named by Crain’s Business Report as a Notable Immigrant Leader and here are Cleveland’s local TV news spotlights on MMC both pre- and post-COVID.
  • Welcome Lupe Meyers as our new National Programs Associate!

Strong Finances Help Expand Impact

  • Did you see? Minds Matter unveiled a new Mission Statement to better reflect how our work has evolved over the last several years. And it highlights our successful 100% to college track record across our 14 cities and regions.
  • Minds Matter collectively raised over $5.0 million, up over 14% year over year — our highest yearly total ever! The additional support occurred despite tough economic challenges facing too many and our move from in-person fundraising events to solely virtual events due to COVID. Thanks to those who contribute financially to our work.
  • In 2020, Minds Matter Boston announced an exciting $300,000 transformational grant from Wellington Management Management funding a 75% increase in students served. Congrats Team Boston!
  • The creativity in raising funds never ceases to amaze us! MM Colorado CEO Savinay Chandrasekhar recently drove across Colorado in their Minds Over Miles campaign to fund its expansion into Aurora, Colorado. And MM of Los Angeles also received a private grant to expand its work regionally into low-income communities of Orange County.
  • Here’s just some upcoming spring events you can join from anywhere: New York’s April 3.0 Mile Challenge, San Francisco’s Mentors Matter Event on April 7th, and Chicago’s Steps for the Students 5K/10 Virtual Run in early May. Find all our chapters here!

Use of Funds 

Looking ahead, additional funds additional funds we’ll raise will allow us to focus on goals like:

  • Growth: Expand chapters in current and new cities; hire full-time programming staff; goal of scaling total students served by 2-3x
  • New Programs and Leadership: Hire a National Executive Director to maximize programming and to meet increased operational needs; expand internship opportunities; forge more critical corporate partnerships and collaborative grant opportunities; introduce racial equity and identity curriculum
  • Technology: Fund alumni/student platforms to enhance community support and delivery services; Provide more chapter technology and subscription tools

Our Gratitude Corner

  • Thank you GoPro for sponsoring last week’s Family Feud $10,000 City Challenge between MM Portland and Chicago. The event raised over $19,000 for these two all-volunteer chapters and all the student participants went home with GoPros.
  • Special thanks to long-time supporter Gershon Distenfeld, Alliance Bernstein Managing Director and 2020 World Series of Poker Finalist who donated 100% of his tournament winnings to Minds Matter and three other nonprofits.
  • In case you missed it, watch our Super Fun Book Talk where NYT best-selling author Jeff Hobbs discusses his latest book, Show Them You’re Good featuring a Minds Matter student whose graduating from Yale this spring (Go Carlos!). Thanks Jeff for shining a spotlight on Minds Matter.
  • And huge thanks to our 2,500+ volunteers who make our work both transformative and cost-effective. Happy National Volunteers Month.

Have an idea or suggestion? We’re all ears; please reach out to us at leanne@mindsmatter.org.

Thank you for your continued support of Minds Matter,
Ashish Shah and Leanne Huebner
National Board Co-Chairs





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