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MMXLII Attends Minds Matter 3rd Annual Fundraiser – MMXLII

MMXLII Attends Minds Matter 3rd Annual Fundraiser

Last Thursday, we had the pleasure of attending the Minds Matter of Los Angeles 3rd Annual Fundraising Benefit. We recently featured an essay from one of MMLA’s students, so it was great to see the faces of the students and staff who are part of this outstanding organization.
At the event, we were able to meet the first graduates of the program, which was a huge deal for the organization. MMLA helps students from low-income families by broadening their dreams and preparing them for success in college.
Hit the jump to read thoughts about this wonderful program from some of MMLA’s students, mentors and the LA Chapter President.

Tina Admans speaking with guests

Tina Admans [Program Director]

“It’s an academic tutoring program … Students join in their sophomore year and we attract the best students in school where access to resources or standardized test prep are not available…”

“Sometimes it’s self-selecting, and then we also have great relationships with high school counselors, so they know us now. They say listen, not only do these students have the academics but also the emotional maturity because for the students, there’s a 5 ½ hours commitment on Saturday, so that’s 6 days of school for three years. It’s not for the faint of heart. Students really need to know that they want to go to college and they have to commit themselves.”

“Most of the students come from low economic situations and also not great family situations, so believing in themselves, learning to trust others and keeping themselves open to different opportunities is not something that comes easy. We really noticed that in their sophomore year, it takes a while for students to bond with their mentors and really have the kind of trust that allows them to open up and really reach their goals. Some of it is just the fact that we are dealing with teenagers. They are very mature and intelligent but sometimes they just flip out, and want to be teenagers. And in a lot of their neighborhoods, you don’t need to go far to see bad choices, so trying to keep them grounded when sometimes it’s not exactly cool is tough. MMLA is different from other college access programs because we bring the kids together so there is a whole community of students that really care about their education and want to push themselves so they don’t feel like the odd man out anymore. This is home for them. This is family for them. And they really rely on that bond…”
On securing mentors: “We reach out to a lot of alumni groups, do a full background check and watch to make sure the connection works. The mentors commit for one year, and we see if it works. Success for us is having the mentors stay with the kids [throughout the program]. A lot of mentors have been with kids from day 1. It gives them a support network that they are not used to having. They are great. They’re the heart and soul of the organization.”

“The need is huge. Last year we had 54 applications from students for 14 slots. This year it will probably be double that. It’s about finding a really good source of volunteers and where to [place] people.”

“We don’t want to recreate what they experience in their classroom, [so we bring them] on USC’s campus, which puts them in the mindset that yes, I can go to college in Downtown LA…”

From L-R: Rachel Morris [mentor], Zoe [student], Zoe’s Mother

Rachel Morris: Mentor [mentor for 3 years]

“We’ve all been through college and we have all been in the position [of saying] ‘if I had known then what I know now I would have done x,y,z’ but it’s their journey to learn what they should have learned and that’s ok. If you look back, you could have gone in a straight line, but what’s enriching is the journey and just being supportive and being a thought partner [is what’s important]…”

“We have a wonderful program director and this is no small task. This is running a business. It’s a capital-intensive program, coupled with the fact that we are dealing with people’s lives. Every week we see these people. We are very close to these kids personally, emotionally. Our lives are really intertwined. We meet every Saturday 2 to 3 hours a week.”

“A lot of our program is based around test prep. That’s a commitment. Standardized tests are a challenge and when these kids go to a four-year college it can be a shock to kids [from] low-income [families]. It’s a shock for anyone, let alone someone who doesn’t really know what to expect, so it’s great to introduce them gradually. Not only are they going to get into a better four-year college, they go in confident. We’ve instilled a lot of confidence, study skills and networking skills. If they weren’t [in the program] they wouldn’t reach for the schools that they are reaching for and they wouldn’t have the confidence going in that they have.”

Zoe’s Mother

“I think it gives [students] a hand up instead of a hand out. They are academically ready and they want a chance to thrive and grow. They wouldn’t be able to do this without a program like MMLA.”

Helen Vaquero [Left]

Helen Vaquero [student]

“It helped me a lot. Sophomore year. It was just [learning] the basics with Math and English, but [it] helped us with our skills. [During] summer programs, they would help us structure our [college] essays [and with] the way we write.”

“They just push us to think outside the box. Out of state colleges and stuff like that.”

“It’s very important [to think outside the box]. We want to do something that not a lot of people from our community do. That’s [what I consider] outside the box, you know. Not everyone from my community goes to a summer program so that’s something that the program provides for students like us.”

“I gave [the program] a chance and when I got accepted, I was like oh-my-God these people want the best for us! It was a feeling that I wasn’t used; everyone wants to take care of us and they want the best for us.”

“I’m the type of person [that] if I set my mind on something I will do it. Minds Matter helps us [do it]. My goal is to go to college but without Minds Matter I would have felt lost…”

Tarik Ross; MMXLII Community Organizer [Left] and Andy Luu, student [Right]

Andy Luu [student]

“I thought of the program as really prestigious, seeing as only 12 get in from the whole LA chapter. With all the schools in LA, I had low expectations when I applied. But I was notified that I was accepted. I was shocked [on] one [hand] and I really was excited [on the other] because I saw the door that open and the opportunities that lied ahead.”

“Tina, our President, said we meet every Saturday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., it’s basically another school day. The curriculum, critical thinking, math, leadership … it can be a challenge but I like to think of it as just another extra curricular that helps you become a better person.”

“My Asian parents are pretty hovering [but] the drive pretty much comes from what I want to be. I see myself as very independent and driven to succeed [in] the goals that I set for myself. I try to hold high standards for myself.”

“I’m not the most naturally gifted or talented student in the world. I just have the drive and the inner feeling that I can do something that I set my [mind] to. With the help of Minds Matter, I know I can get there.”

“The only real challenge is challenging yourself. Challenging yourself is another means of improving yourself and gaining experience. Minds Matter gives us the opportunity to challenge ourselves.”

MMXLII is grateful to have been invited to attend the event last week and meet many diverse, colorful and wonderful people in the process.

Minds Matter is an incredible program and we encourage everyone to get involved somehow someway. To volunteer as a mentor, donate to the program and stay updated on MMLA’s activities, visit them here.

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