There is one role in Minds Matter that takes someone with a broad knowledge of and experience with the collegiate education system, a wealth of contacts at major universities throughout the country, a passion for helping students, and the patience of a saint – the Director of Mentees.
When Roberta and Matt Cohen, who helped found Minds Matter Portland, decided to phase out of this role, there was great potential for distress to spread throughout the organization. These two individuals had been with the team since its inception and had become such an integral part of the organization that it was difficult to envision how someone could replace them. Who could they find to fill these huge shoes?
Matt and Roberta shaped the role of Director of Mentees. Finding the right students for the Minds Matter program is not an easy task; making sure the students are ready for Minds Matter is the most difficult part. The Cohens established relationships with local-area high school counselors, who help get the word out to eligible freshman. The Cohens then conduct information sessions at each high school, field questions and collect applications.
There often are twice as many applicants as there are spots in the program, so Matt and Roberta reviewed the applications, interviewed the students, talked to their parents, and accepted the 15 or so students every year whom they thought would best benefit from Minds Matter. When a student faltered in their academic or home life, Matt and Roberta often were the ones stepping in, making contact with the school or parents to help the student get back on track. And they presided over the Graduation ceremony every spring for the students who they had recruited three years earlier.
Replacing the Cohens’ institutional knowledge appeared to be a daunting task. Luckily, Minds Matter had a perfect fit already working in the ranks. Jessica Marlitt, a college counselor, quickly stepped forward and expressed interest in taking on this large and intricate role. When the leadership team dug further into her background, they realized that her education, work experience, and passion made her the perfect woman to continue Matt and Roberta’s legacy of excellence in the position.
Jessica, along with Jen Allen, actually shares the role. Jen focuses on the current students as they transition into Minds Matter and serves as the liaison between the organization and school counselors. Jessica’s main focus is future student recruitment through connections with local high schools, college, and other student support programs.
Jessica began her college experience at Hofstra University, and transferred to Boston University after her first year. She spent her junior year in Grenoble, France at the Universite de Grenoble and graduated from Boston University with a BA in International Relations. After working in Boston for a year, she turned her sights to graduate school, earning her Masters in Public Policy and Administration from Columbia University.
After making her way to Oregon, she became the Director of Upper School Activities and Programs at Catlin Gable. Here, Kate Grant, one of Minds Matter’s college counselors and a fellow Catlin Gable employee, told her about the virtues of working with Minds Matter. In April 2011, Jessica began shadowing Kate during Saturday sessions, eventually becoming a co-college counselor for four Minds Matter seniors during the 2012-2013 school year. From that point forward, she was hooked. “I am smitten with Minds Matter,” she said. “This organization amazes me, and I wanted to engage more deeply with it.”
She had already committed to becoming a full-time college counselor with the program for this year when the opportunity to expand her role and take on the Co-Director of Mentees position. She jumped at the opportunity and has found that her roles have become unbelievably rewarding. “Getting to know the seniors and helping them navigate the college admissions process is most rewarding. Often nervous and intimidated at the year’s start, the seniors inevitably rise to the college application challenge and gain tremendous understandings of themselves, the process, and the many avenues for success in the future.”
While the school year is still young, Jessica’s touch has been noticed by many people involved with the organization. Wayne Wischmann, Minds Matter Program Director, works directly with Jessica on the recruitment of student. He recently said, “Jessica is a warm, caring individual who, like all of our volunteers, tirelessly gives her time to improve the lives of our students.”
Jessica has big plans for attracting quality students to the program moving forward, but right now, her main focus is to carry on Matt and Roberta’s legacy with the program. “It’s daunting following in Roberta and Matt’s footsteps, as they are pillars of the program, but I hope to maintain the wonderful connections that they have developed with area schools,” she said. “I really like people of all ages and am eager to spread the word about Minds Matter, while hopefully reaching many potential new mentees.”
With Jessica’s enthusiasm for the program and drive to be successful, there is no question that she will make Matt, Roberta, and this entire organization proud.
Minds Matter senior Sokleap began her summer program experience staying in a building deep in the forest of Nicaragua and uncomfortably wondering what exactly the next two weeks would bring. By the time she left the largest country in Central America, she had shadowed doctors in an emergency room, pharmacists in three clinics and helped 60 Nicaraguan families get clean water directly to their homes. She left more passionate, determined and knowledgeable than ever before.
Then again, Sokleap is used to adjusting to new environments. She was born in Cambodia and moved to the United States when she was eight years old. Since then, she’s strived to find ways to better herself and her chances for success. Sokleap, who is currently a senior at Century High School in Hillsboro, is the first generation of her family to go to college.
“Minds Matter has helped open my eyes to the many possibilities in life,” she said.
Sokleap credits her experience in Nicaragua for developing real-world skills and assuring her she’s on the right career path. She found joy in folding gauze for doctors and counting pills for pharmacists. She even learned how to request certain prescription medications from the government. With those experiences, Sokleap knows she’s better equipped for college and other academic opportunities.
It also reinforced her desire to give back.
“I now want to contribute to my community in the future by volunteering as a pharmacist in underserved populations in the United States and in developing countries, such as South Africa, Cambodia and Nicaragua.”
Sokleap will never forget the faces of the families she already helped.
“The youngest daughter of one family saw me, and her face lit up,” Sokleap said. “This trip changed my view on life. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to see and experience things I would need to wait years to experience on my own.”
None of it would be possible without her weekly meetings with tutors, counselors and mentors at Minds Matter.
“I am inspired by them because they give so much of their time to me and make me realize how work can really impact someone’s life,” Sokleap said. “It motivates me to keep on dreaming, working toward my goals and giving back to my community.”
Minds Matter Portland is recruiting mentors and tutors for the 2013-14 school year. Interested? Email us or learn more about Minds Matter at the following information session(s):
The Standard Volunteer Expo in Pioneer Square
Friday, September 13 11a.m.-2 p..m.
Look for Minds Matter at Table 109 – current and former volunteers will be there to tell you about their experience with Minds Matter.
Back to School with Minds Matter
Thursday, September 19 5:30-7 p.m.
The Waypost Tavern
3120 N. Williams, Portland
Just south of Fremont St.
Minds Matter is looking forward to welcoming students and mentors, both new and returning, for the 2013-14 school year.
New Mentees Only: Orientation
Mentors: College Application Orientation
Mentees & College Counselors: College Applications
12:30-2:30:Mentee and Mentors: Summer Program DebriefPlanning the Semester
Mentees: Diagnostic Testing
Mentees & College Counselors: College Applications
12:30-2:30:Mentee and Mentors:College Applications
Amara Andre, a senior at Jesuit High School, has been named the first winner of the Minds Matter Portland annual scholarship. The scholarship, funded by a private foundation, is awarded to a graduating student in the Minds Matter Portland program who has demonstrated outstanding commitment and performance in the combined areas of: leadership, scholarship, citizenship and sportsmanship. Amara will receive $12,000 ($3,000 per year) towards the cost of attendance at Seattle University. In addition, Amara also earned a $3,000 grant in her honor to the Portland chapter of Minds Matter.
Graham Covington, Executive Director of non-profit Minds Matter Portland, explained, “We are a 100% volunteer organization that works with high-achieving, low-income students to prepare them for college success. Amara is a shining example of the students we serve. She gave up her Saturdays for three years because she is committed to graduating from college and giving back to her community. Through Minds Matter she attended summer programs at Lake Forest College and Boston University. I am confident she will be a standout student at Seattle University.”
In addition to her school work, Amara has been a leader in school and church choirs, as well as an actor and director within the Jesuit High School drama department. She explained her career aspirations in her scholarship essay: “I want to teach not only because I love sharing my wisdom with others, but also because I love the way a child’s face lights up when he understands something. The lack of income a teacher makes does not scare me as I know being a teacher means more than the amount of money in a paycheck. To me, becoming a teacher means becoming a servant for the future. Becoming a teacher means nurturing the minds of the great thinkers, artists, and leaders of tomorrow who will all come from a classroom.”
To endow a scholarship for Minds Matter Portland and help other amazing students like Amara graduate from college with less debt, contact email@example.com
The Oregonian‘s North Portland beat reporter Casey Parks recently profiled Minds Matter Senior and Gates Millennium Scholar Angeleesha Frierson. You can read the text below.
Angeleesha Frierson, Gates Millennium Scholar, will graduate from North Portland nonprofit ‘Minds Matter’
Angeleesha Frierson hasn’t had time to think about what she’ll do with her Saturdays. The 17-year-old has given them up the last three years of high school.
While other kids shot hoops or went to the mall, Frierson studied.
This week, for the first time since she enrolled in the Saturday college-preparatory program Minds Matter, Frierson won’t have anywhere to be. She and 13 other students on Saturday graduated from the nonprofit program, which aims to send underprivileged high school students to college.
But before she plans anything fun, Frierson has something bigger to decide. Where will she go to college?
More than half a dozen schools have accepted her. And money doesn’t matter — Frierson won aGates Millennium Scholarship, which means Bill Gates’ foundation is paying for her to go anywhere she chooses. If only she could choose.
“I got it down to five schools now,” the Jefferson High School senior announced on Facebook earlier this spring. By April, she had scratched Seattle Pacific University, Mills College and the University of Oregon from her list. It was Spelman College or Howard University, she said.
By her teachers’ and family’s account, Frierson is bright, kind and focused. She writes poetry and played center on the school basketball team. She’s quiet, but she has led Jefferson’s student government and its sustainability club.
Still, success was not the most obvious path for her. She has always struggled with procrastination. Her family had no connections to offer her. And when Frierson was in junior high, her mother was incarcerated. Frierson spent weekends taking two buses and one long sidewalk to visit her mother at the Inverness Jail in far Northeast Portland.
Her mother was out by the time Frierson reached high school, but Frierson didn’t want to fill her Saturdays with any kind of trouble, so she signed up for Minds Matters.
Volunteers run the seven-year-old Portland chapter of Minds Matter. Students apply their freshman year and spend Saturdays of their sophomore, junior and senior years at Self Enhancement, Inc. working toward that goal.
Students and mentors read The New York Times together, analyzing current events. A tutor guides them through improving writing and test-taking skills. Their junior year, the students study together for the ACT and SAT. With mentors’ help, they write college application essays and apply for scholarships.
Because most of the students are the first in their family to attend college, they often don’t have anyone to guide them through the college and scholarship application processes. The program pairs students with one mentor and one tutor, a Portland-area professional who knows how to maneuver in the higher education system. Together, they tackle FAFSA and deadlines.
The program also offered Frierson a chance to spent each summer preparing for a career in law. One summer, she went to the University of Chicago, where she attended a law and advocacy conference and participated in mock trials. The next summer, she headed to the University of California at Berkeley, where she spent a month taking college classes.
All of this looked good on those college applications, and by February of her senior year several had offered her large scholarships. And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offered her the biggest scholarship of all — a full ride to any school in the country, with the possibility of free graduate school, too.
About 54,000 apply for the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, and 1,000 win one. This year 20 of those were from Oregon, and two of those were Minds Matters students: Frierson and Kevin Truong of Benson High School.
With one day left to tell the colleges — she may be a scholar, but she’s still a procrastinator — Frierson made a decision. In the fall, she’ll move to Washington, D.C., to attend historically black private school Howard University.
Until then, she has a summer’s worth of Saturdays to spend any way she wants.
Minds Matter Portland has two Gates Millennium Scholars in the 2013 graduating class. Congratulations to Kevin Truong of Benson High School and Angeleesha Frierson of Jefferson High School!
Of 54,000 students that apply for the Gates Millennium Scholarship, 2,000 are selected as finalists, and 1,000 receive it. Oregon has 20 recipients total.
The Oregonian recently profiled Angeleesha.
The Walker Family Foundation has established a scholarship program for a Minds Matter senior who meets certain criteria. Read on to find out who qualifies.
Purpose of Scholarship:
To award an educational scholarship annually to a graduating Minds Matter Portland senior who has
demonstrated the traits listed in the Grantee Profile.
Amount of Scholarship:
The scholarship is $3,000 per year, for up to four years (a maximum total of $12,000 per student)
if the recipient/grantee maintains eligibility.
Amount of Earned Grant:
In addition to the scholarship, the recipient of the award will have also simultaneously earned for
Minds Matter – Portland Chapter a single year Grant from the Walker Family Foundation in the amount of $3,000.
Number of Scholarships:
One scholarship will be awarded per year.
The Scholarship will go to the student who demonstrated the highest level of merit in the
combined areas of Leadership, Scholarship, Citizenship, and Sportsmanship while enrolled in Minds Matter – Portland Chapter.
Grantees must be/become enrolled in a qualified and accredited higher educational organization
and make satisfactory progress toward completion of a degree. Scholarship funds may only be used for educational purposes, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for educational courses. Grantees may not be related to Walker Family Foundation trustees or Selection Committee members.
At least 3 representatives chosen by Minds Matter – Portland Chapter, and one representative of
the Walker Family Foundation shall serve on the selection committee.
Grantees would be selected and informed in their senior year. Funding for scholarship grants and the grant to Minds Matter – Portland Chapter would be in time for fall tuition payments.
Complete a MMMSA Application Form on-line by the deadline listed.
Manage a Scholarship Program with WizeHive
About three and half years ago, Wayne Wischmann first walked into a Minds Matter Portland Saturday Session and began his three-year journey as a mentor. After his mentee graduated last spring and headed off to college, Wayne briefly considered taking a year off and figuring out where he would best fit in to Minds Matter when he came back. Minds Matter Portland, however, had different plans for Wayne. Wayne inquired about what other roles he might take on where support was needed, and before he knew it, Wayne was anointed the Program Director!
As Wayne jumped into this new role, he found he was able to make an impact beyond the class of 45 or so mentees and mentors he had brought fun, energy, deep thoughts and levity to over the previous three years of his involvement.
When you ask around Minds Matter, “What does Wayne bring to Minds Matter?” you get a lot of responses. You get words and phrases like “laconic”, “strong but flexible”, “cool under fire”, “student-centered”, “true team player”, and “omni-present”.
Wayne’s dedication to really knowing and understanding Minds Matter inside and out has been noted, and he can be seen and heard through the entire organization with his focus on being available and of use; he was even found busy judging at the first annual “reindeer games” when mentees transformed themselves into human snowmen this past December. What versatility! Wayne has already managed to bring heart and backbone to most parts of Minds Matter, with a generous and caring nature that shows up each Saturday wearing work clothes.
What keeps Wayne doing all that he does, and how did we find him? Wayne first heard about Minds Matter Portland from a friend of his from graduate school who encouraged him to look into becoming a mentor. Her instincts were right, and after looking into the program, Wayne found that he “connected with the concept and principles of the program”. Wayne says he stays involved because he is inspired by our mentees, and the fact that they come every Saturday for over four hours because they want to be there. He appreciates that they are willing to put in the extra time to improve their path in life, and the fact that this organization can take kids who want to be there, and provide them with that chance and direction. Earlier in his volunteering, Wayne says the words of another mentor stuck in his head, that the motivation to be involved with Minds Matter comes from “…wanting to see the rest of the story for each mentee”. Wayne, who holds his Associate’s Degree at High-Tech Institute (University of Montana), and his Bachelor’s in Business Management and a Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Technical Management (University of Phoenix), is making sure that our students continue to have direction and opportunities and can continue to have support in opening those doors to their future educational goals.
So what does Wayne wish for and expect from Minds Matter? He says he can sum that up in one word. Growth. Wayne has his sights set on supporting MM to grow in many directions, from the curriculum and experience offered to mentees, to the number of potential mentees that we can get the word out to. And then once the word is out, making sure that the growth is there in the infrastructure, so that the number of spaces we can provide to those potential mentors can be larger, and supported by enough volunteer mentors and fundraising efforts. As those of us who volunteer with Wayne have found, Wayne is “… willing to take on tasks of any measure…” and does not shy away from a challenge.
So Wayne, good luck and thank you as you start achieving this goal. Students, mentors, mentees, and volunteers alike are lucky to have Wayne helping steer this ship, and if Wayne’s favorite thing about Minds Matter is that the kids want to put in the extra time…it might just be Minds Matter’s favorite thing about Wayne is that he is consistently willing to put in the extra time himself. Wayne and Minds Matter Portland might just be a pretty good fit for each other.
Some very generous community businesses are supplying Minds Matter with tasty brainfood on a budget. Organizing lunch for 50 very hunger high schoolers every Saturday, it is safe to say, is one of the biggest challenges for Minds Matter volunteers.
As any parent knows, it can be tough to please a hungry but discerning audience of teenagers. Minds Matter is grateful for the local businesses that have provided a wide array of fresh and delicious lunches this year.
Noodles & Co in the Pearl District, our newest lunch partner, donates about 30% of the food we order and provides free bread.