An Interview with Alumni Annie Lai
By Briana Crider
Annie Lai, Minds Matter Alumni Class of 2013, is about to start her sophomore year of college at Portland State University, and she is even more excited than the day she started her sophomore year of high school and her first year in Minds Matter. Students spend every Saturday sophomore through senior year of high school dedicating their time and energy to getting accepted to a four year university or college and for Annie this was an incredibly busy, but totally worth it time of her life. We had the chance to catch up with Annie and wanted to find out what life has been like since she graduated Minds Matter.
Briana: How was your first year of college?
Annie: My first year of college was great! I really liked all of my classes, especially Chinese. I also enjoyed my first desk job doing a work study program with the sociology department. College is a drastic difference from high school and a completely different environment, but I love it more because my schedule is closer to the real world. I have had to learn how to manage my time, and I have way more responsibilities, but I enjoy the freedom to make those decisions.
B: What have you enjoyed so far? What have you been not so keen on?
A: Joining clubs on campus has made a large impact on my experience so far. It is a great way to make friends and expand your network greatly. I highly recommend participating in organizations on campus for all incoming students. I have also liked my professors and feel they are extremely helpful and nice, and respond quickly to my questions and emails. It’s great feeling the support from them as some of my classes are very challenging. The workload has been tough to manage, especially with holding an officer position in my club, but it’s just taking time to learn the balance.
B: Do you feel Minds Matter prepared you for college?
A: Yes. I think Minds Matter prepared me for college in that I felt more competent than my fellow peers in the financial areas around aid. The trickiest part has been dealing with personal financial management and realizing there are always hidden fees or things you didn’t think you needed to buy but you do. I also felt I was prepared for social situations and am not afraid to speak up in class or talk to new people. Minds Matter provided many opportunities to practice public speaking and that has been a huge help with my classes and social life in college so far.
B: Would you come back and mentor with Minds Matter after you graduate college?
A: Definitely! Minds Matter has helped me so much that I would love to give back to the program.
B: What advice would you give students currently in the Minds Matter program?
A: Ask any and all questions you have about college. Take this time to get the most out of this program, because once you are in college you have to figure everything out on your own. I would also advise choosing summer programs that you are truly interested and excited about. Do not choose one simply because others are going there, or because it’s the most well-known school name. This is your chance to try something new, get out of your comfort zone and learn to adjust to new situations. You will get the most out of your experience if you are excited about your school.
B: What advice would you give to Minds Matter seniors about to start their first year of college?
A: Everything costs money in college. Summer classes were more expensive. Honors classes are more expensive. Food is always around and is expensive. Online homework classes and kits and books and everything you didn’t think you needed but do are expensive. Be wise about your money and spending, but realize you will be broke. It’s college.
B: How do you plan to use your life to positively impact other people?
A: There are many ways for a person to positively impact other people. For me, I want to share my experiences with other people. I want to give others, who ask, advice that may benefit them. I want to help the community out through the clubs that I am in. I just want to do little things such as these so that I can help people because I know how stressful and scary it is for a person to face these things alone. No one should ever feel like they have to face these issues alone, be it school, work, or life in general because they aren’t alone. And that’s why I want to share my experiences with everyone and give my advice to everyone. Future-wise, I definitely want to volunteer. I know that one person can never leave a big impact on everyone around me, but if I can help even one person, that is enough for me.
Annie is currently a pre-med student at Portland State University and an officer on the Hong Kong Association. She is also the first in her family to attend college, and her younger sister hopes to follow in her footsteps by applying to the Minds Matter Program this year.
It’s incredibly inspiring to watch Minds Matter students grow during their time in the program, but it’s even more phenomenal to hear about their development in college. We are so proud of all our students and cannot wait to catch up with more alumni around the U.S.
An Interview with Elwin Aragorn, First Minds Matter Alumni to Return as a Volunteer
By Briana Crider
At first glance he’s quiet, unassuming, and—much to my astonishment at nine in the morning—does not want a cup of coffee from the bakery where our interview is set. However, after a few minutes of polite banter, and once I sip my coffee (without which I cannot function), we are ready to dive in to the questions.
I’m talking about our first Minds Matter Alumni returning volunteer, Elwin Aragorn. The youngest of three brothers and the first to attend college, Elwin has made his way back to where it all began. Returning as a tutor for Minds Matter of Portland seemed like a “no-brainer” when approached by our executive team. Elwin was part of the Minds Matter program as a student at Marshall High School and then went on to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Portland. After only a few minutes of chatting I realize Elwin is full of inspiration, wit, and intelligence. With his engineering background and a job working with metal testing at IMR, he is the perfect candidate to work as a math tutor with the MM program.
Home life proved to be a large factor in Elwin’s college conversation—a conversation that never happened. Although his parents had both attended college, they did not play a role in helping Elwin navigate his personal college future. Elwin turned to Minds Matter where he found a great support system and opportunity to develop a new network with a priority focus on college. He enjoyed spending Saturdays with his friends and mentors, some of whom he still keeps in contact.
We touched base with one of Elwin’s mentors, Ben Gilbert, to get some insight from the mentor’s perspective. Ben was most intrigued by how committed the students were to the program. “There are very few teenagers who are willing to get up early on a Saturday morning and spend all day in a classroom with tutors and mentors who are pushing them to learn and live outside their comfort zone.” In developing his relationship with Elwin, Ben talked about how they are both fairly introverted and took some time to get comfortable with each other. However, after some effort, they developed a great relationship, and Ben even gained some insight into his own life experiences by being part of this interaction.
One of Ben’s proudest moments was watching Elwin navigate a group conversation—something Elwin found slightly discomforting—and come out surprising everyone with not only his intelligence, but his unique point of view. During one of MM Executive Director Graham Covington’s many group discussions, he raised a question about a very odd historical fact, and no one seemed to know the answer. Graham was “champing at the bit,” as Ben put it, to illustrate why everyone should know this fact. After a few moments of silence, Elwin quietly chimed in with the correct answer and cited his source from a video game. This definitely threw Graham for a loop as it wasn’t the traditional learning approach, but needless to say, it was a winning moment for Elwin. And for Ben it was a good reminder that mentors have as much to learn as the mentees in the program. Even with the substantial time commitment, Ben still recommends that others volunteer with Minds Matter because it’s a good program with a positive impact on many lives. “The more time I spent with Elwin, the more I enjoyed the experience and was able to appreciate him and the process.”
While enrolled in Minds Matter, Elwin was able to go to summer programs in his sophomore and junior years where he experienced first hand what college would be like. In his sophomore year he attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, for an architecture program. This was somewhat nerve-wracking as it was his first time flying, that he could remember, and his first time across the country. Elwin spent his next summer at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, studying engineering for two weeks. During his time at the UoI he made a friend who ended up not only attending the same college as Elwin, but is now Elwin’s close friend and roommate.
Elwin feels like he “was here yesterday” when he talks about developing relationships with the students now as a tutor. He has had a lot of fun in the first few weeks of the school year getting to know the students and figuring out the tutoring rotation schedules. For Elwin, Minds Matter was more than just focusing on the steps for college admission, but the chance to understand what’s going on in the world, and develop soft skills that are just as important. “Life isn’t all about standardized tests.” They are essential, but not the complete pieces of the puzzle.
Elwin plans to positively impact others during his life by continuing to volunteer. He enjoys volunteering, because it’s “awesome and fun,” to put it lightly! He also hopes to make a difference using his degree and career path to ensure accountability in the products companies make. He currently works for a company that tests the “biology” of the metals by looking at their cells, (and way more high-tech words and concepts I don’t feel qualified to discuss). Basically he’s a wizard with understanding metals, their composition, and whether they meet specific standards. He also hopes to one day focus his educational background into renewable energy generation. Degrees in STEM areas are a large focus of the MM program, and with our present example we hope to continue enticing our students into this incredibly interesting world.
Elwin’s advice for students considering the program is very simple and to the point: just do it. His advice for people considering volunteering with Minds Matter is also very simple: just do it. “When you actually make that jump you realize how enjoyable volunteering is, and even if you don’t think you’re making an impact, you are.”
Having Elwin come back to Minds Matter to sit on the other side of the table is a great achievement for the program. We are exceedingly thankful to have him on board, and hope more Alumni will follow in his footsteps. Elwin is living proof of how this program truly changes the course of our students’ lives by providing them a safe and supportive environment to realize that college is an option.
By Briana Crider
Most high school students wouldn’t dream of spending their summer taking abnormal psychology from a top rated university, but nothing is too challenging for one of our incredible students at Minds Matter of Portland. Karina Paul, a Junior Mentee from Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School (commonly known as “HeLa High”), spent part of her summer at the picturesque Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Not only did she immerse herself in the complex world of abnormal psychology, she also connected into the law field by diving into the psychological aspects of why people commit crimes.
“I absolutely loved the experience!” Karina told me. During the program, she made new friends with the same interests and curiosity in learning, and the extracurricular activities proved to be just as insightful and fun as the compelling topics discussed in the classroom. She visited a multitude of places on field trips, including hospitals, courts, detention centers, and even the SWAT department. Students also had the opportunity to visit the downtown Inner Harbor and take a trip to D.C. “I honestly didn’t want to leave,” Karina said. “JHU is a beautiful campus, and something in the air about Baltimore made me feel like I truly belong there.”
For Karina, it wasn’t all fun. There were some minor frustrating moments when faced with the English language barrier coupled with complex vocabulary used by her professor, Dr. Raifman. Despite these struggles, she still found the positive in this situation and even complemented her professor. “Dr. Raifman was a very outgoing man, he definitely had a sense of humor.” On the last day, after a tough exam, Karina spent the night dancing with friends and even participated in the belly-dancing portion of a talent show.
My favorite part of Minds Matter is watching the students grow not only academically, but also personally—in their confidence and ability to seek opportunities in the world around them. Karina is just one of many high-achieving students in the Minds Matter program, and she is embracing these experiences with open arms. I have no doubt she will graduate from the program and continue on to a successful future in her college career and beyond. Promoting the idea that money is not a barrier to college access is the reason I volunteer with this organization. These students are incredibly dynamic and eager to work hard at achieving their dreams. I am grateful to be part of that journey.
By Briana Crider
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin
Minds Matter of Portland is committed to maintaining our model of ensuring every dollar donated to the program goes directly to fulfilling our mission objectives. We believe education and helping our students get to college is the best investment of our time, energy, and money. Our organization is run by an all-volunteer staff with no overhead costs for outrageous executive salaries and administration. Putting our money where our minds are is what we do. It’s all for the students.
We also pride ourselves on transparency. Below is a chart showing where we invested our money for FY 2013. Seventy-six percent of our donated funds go directly to the summer programs our students attend after their sophomore and junior years. The second largest expense area is food. We provide lunch for our students every Saturday with the generous help from local community businesses that offer us substantial discounts to ensure we keep these kids fueled for a full day of learning.
The numbers don’t lie. Low-income is one of the largest factors influencing whether students attend or even contemplate applying for college. In the High School Benchmark study of 2014, completed by the National Student Clearinghouse, income levels remained a more important indicator versus other demographics and location in whether students immediately enroll in college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012 only 50.9% of low-income high school graduates were enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges and universities, whereas high-income students were enrolled at an 80.7% rate.
The college conversation is not the “norm” in poor socioeconomic households. These students are not immersed in an environment that can support and provide them guidance, as many of our students are the first generation to even consider college. Our job is to empower and support them on their journey toward making college a reality. They are high-achieving, dedicated, and eager, with bright futures ahead.
We are investing in closing the achievement gap that separates economically disadvantaged students and students from minority groups from students with higher income levels. We devote ourselves to dismantling the idea that money equals success. With the help of our volunteers, donors, and community supporters we are illuminating the path to college and guiding our students forward. Help us by investing in the future of these students and giving back high interest rates worth more than words can describe.
Want a way to give back and get a tax deduction? You can contribute your appreciated stock to Minds Matter and receive a charitable tax deduction based on the market value.*
For more information, please contact John Longfield at 503-833-5260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Additional rules and regulations apply to charitable donations for tax purposes.
The 2014-2015 school year has begun with 48 high-achieving students from 14 different high schools in the Portland Metro area. Minds Matter of Portland is marching forward in another year of filling an important role of offering educational opportunities to kids from underprivileged backgrounds. This year we are excited to have a new sophomore starting class of eighteen students—up from our previous limit of fifteen. Our hope is to register twenty incoming sophomores for the 2015-2016 school year—another step toward our goal of reaching a total enrollment of sixty kids per year.
Minds Matter of Portland continues to accomplish our vision of 100% acceptance rates into 4-year colleges and universities with little to no financial debt. The 2014 school year ended with us sending 15 kids to colleges across the nation. From Pacific Lutheran University all the way to Union College in New York, our alumni are taking over the nation with their dynamic and intelligent minds. This year will be no different as we work hard to send another group of seniors off to college.
The students have had a busy year so far working tirelessly on SAT/ACT prep, college essays and applications, while finding the time to maintain their grades and social lives in high school. Our students receive tutoring, mentoring, and college counseling with the ultimate focus on “the road to college.” In the coming months our sophomores and juniors will continue their search for the perfect pre-college summer program, while our seniors push to finalize applications and prepare for financial aid and scholarship searches in the Spring. One of our favorite days coming up in December is our annual “Reindeer Games,” a day filled with team-building games, laughs, and lots of fun! This is a chance for all our volunteers and students to work together, get to know each other across all class levels, and a great reward for the hard work they have been putting in so far this year.
We cannot reach these goals without the support of over 100 volunteers who devote 26 Saturdays every school year to the development of these kids! We are also immensely grateful for the generous support we receive from grants, corporate and individual donors. The community plays a large role as well, with the Self-Enhancement Institute offering us the use of their facilities, and local businesses such as Qdoba, Elephants Deli, and Panda Express granting us discounts so we can fuel our students every week. Minds Matter of Portland has a simple goal of getting students to college, and we appreciate all the support along the way.
Melissa Munson, a senior at Lincoln High School, has earned the 2014 Minds Matter Portland annual scholarship. The scholarship, funded by a private foundation, is awarded to a graduating student in the Minds Matter Portland program that has demonstrated outstanding scholarship, leadership, citizenship and sportsmanship. Melissa will receive $12,000 ($3,000 per year) towards the cost of attendance at Pacific Lutheran University. In addition, Melissa 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 100% volunteer organization that works with high-achieving, low-income students to prepare them for college success. Melissa is an amazing 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 to study law at Georgetown University and Spanish at the Academia-Buenos Aires in Argentina. I am confident she will be a superstar student at PLU.”
In addition to her school work, Melissa has been on Lincoln’s Mock Trial team for four years and has advanced to the State competition twice. She has also been the co-president of the Peer Mediation program at Lincoln, working with Resolutions Northwest, West Sylvan Middle School and the Multnomah County Youth Commission to help spread peer mediation programs across Portland Public Schools. Melissa has also worked with the theatre department by house managing four shows. As well as being involved in her school, Melissa has worked at Liebowitz & Associates, a criminal defense law firm in downtown Portland, for the last three years. She plans to study business and finance while continuing to learn Spanish in the honors program at PLU. Melissa aspires to be a practicing lawyer in Portland.
To endow a scholarship for Minds Matter Portland and help other amazing students like Melissa graduate from college with less debt, contact email@example.com.
Minds Matter alumna Angie Jimenez (Forest Grove High School ’10) graduated May 24 from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in Hispanic Studies. PLU profiled her for their Graduate Voices series.
Graduate overcomes tight budgets, ice storms and bureaucracy to pursue her dreams
By Barbara Clements, Content Development Director,
PLU Marketing & Communication
Angie Jimenez ’14 was white-knuckling it in her car as she navigated the icy streets into Portland one Saturday to get to her Minds Matter tutoring session.
It was mandatory that she attend every … single … session if she were to stay in the program, which tutors and supports disadvantaged high-school youth and prepares them to enter top-notch colleges.
But the glasslike surface was too much, and her car ended up in a ditch. Still determined, she convinced the program mentor, who came to pick her up, to bring her back to classes, only to find out they’d been canceled due to the weather.
“It’s that kind of commitment which marks these graduates,” said Dale Benson, a member of PLU’s Board of Regents who, along with his wife, Jolita, sponsored Jimenez in the Minds Matter program and assisted in the financing of her college education. The Bensons became involved in Minds Matter through a friend at their church. The Bensons were impressed by the program and decided to help out.
In a rare downtime slot the week before graduation, Jimenez said that as she walks across the stage on May 24, becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree— in her case, Hispanic Studies—she will be grateful for all the support that made her journey possible: from the Bensons, her Minds Matter tutors, the Karl Stumo family, her PLU professors and her parents, who arrived in the U.S. as undocumented workers 15 years ago.
Don’t miss the deadline! All Minds Matter Portland application materials are due Friday, June 6.
Take advantage of our on-line application to avoid any potential mailing problems. Look for the bold, dark blue links about half-way down the “Students” page. Questions? Please contact Jessica Marlitt, Recruitment Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minds Matter sophomore mentee Karina Paul was awarded First Place in the Henrietta Lacks Heritage Group’s Black History Month Essay Contest in January.
Coincidentally, Karina is a Sophomore at Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School in Vancouver, Washington. “HeLa High,” as it is commonly known, “offers students a full high school curriculum with a focus on medical careers,” according to its website.
Karina’s winning essay is posted in full below:
Dear Henrietta Lacks,
I first found out about you in eighth grade and at that moment, it has been a year since my family immigrated to the United States. School board shared information about a new high school building in our district; eight graders were eligible to apply. Being at the age of twelve, I didn’t understand the importance of all. My dream of childhood was to become a doctor, and my mother encouraged me to apply and get a head start on my career. HeLa High School focused its attention on the medical principles and science. Through the inaugural lottery, I was one of the students who got accepted and by September of 2013 would start my studying at the new place. In the summer of that year, I desired to learn history of why my school name, and what was so special about it. A book displayed in the public library by Rebecca Skloot, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” let me start and was my top priority on the reading list. Knowing now the story of your life, my soul was grieving to tell you the truth about how many lives on this earth you have impacted.
I’m very sorry that you’ve developed cancer. It is unfair, and life is unfair at times. During your medical treatments, doctors exported cancer cells without your consent. They thought like many others too, they would die. However, one of the doctor’s assistant working in the lab, couldn’t believe her eyes when saw them taking up all the space in the vitro (in a test tube); even today, they live outside of your body. Medical doctors figured out a solution to them quickly; and soon cancer cells would take their place in the medical research. Cells were tested on reaction of viruses, nuclear weapons, and mated with other living organisms. That led to development of vaccines against diseases that many used to die from, generic drugs and medicine up to the point of where it is today. Your cells, were also transported to other parts of the continents, and were put in used there too.
And even though you died, your cells are doing their job by impacting people’s lives up to this day. Many were treated diseases including cancer with the help of a piece of you. Vaccines that we get today were generated through the medical research performed on your cells. Your name is still, not very popular and yet many might not even recognize you. However, because of you we are where we are today. I’m glad that I know what some of my peers don’t even think about nor have a clue. Once I reach my dream of becoming a doctor, I will take care of rewarding your family personally. Also, I’m more than proud going to school under your logo.
Thank you for everything!
Karina Paul, sophomore at HeLa High School
What: 8th Annual Minds Matter Jazz Soiree
Featuring After Six
When: Tuesday, May 6th, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Music Starts at 6:01 p.m.
Where: Jimmy Mak’s Jazz Club
221 NW 10th Ave, Portland
(between Davis and Everett)