By Kaily Nash
Although a college education often seems like the expected next step after high school, that is not always the reality for students who come from low-income families. Through no fault of their own, these students have not been given the proper resources or support to be able to move forward with their education, even though they may have the desire and qualifications to do so.
Minds Matter Boston, the local chapter of a national non-profit organization that helps low-income students, is giving teens who show the initiative to succeed and broaden their horizons the opportunity to heighten their chances of continuing their education. The organization's goal is "to equip underprivileged high school students with the tools to gain acceptance to a four-year university and navigate the financial aid process," according to their website.
Since the first Minds Matter chapter was founded in New York City in 1991, the organization has continued to grow at a rapid pace. In 2009, to help raise money to support their programs, the Boston chapter began hosting the Minds Matter Spring Soiree. This year's fourth annual event will take place on Saturday, April 14, at 9 p.m. at the Cyclorama, with 100 percent of the net proceeds going directly to Minds Matter programs.
"This event has been an amazing experience for me," said Thayer Surette, a Minds Matter mentor and one of five young professionals behind this year's event. She and the rest of the committee -- Melody Dai, Andrew Hedin, Dan Hung, and Nathan Ott, who are all mentors also -- have been working tirelessly to attract sponsors, secure vendors, and raise awareness for what they believe is one of the city's most worthy causes.
"Besides seeing these kids on a weekly basis, this is another way to tangibly be doing something to help them," Surette said. This year's Soiree will feature complementary food and drinks from local businesses and liquor sponsors -- everyone from Legal Sea Foods, Blue Ribbon BBQ, and Kickass Cupcakes to Ketel One, Privateer Rum, and Idle Hands Craft Ales -- auctions, and, of course, a DJ and dancing. Those with VIP tickets will also receive free transportation the night of the event, courtesy of Uber.
In 2010, the Soiree raised $40,000 for Minds Matter, the committee said; that amount doubled to $80,000 last year. This year, Minds Matter hopes to raise $100,000 from the event -- but, on top of that, they hope the Soiree helps spread the word about the organization's mission.
"This Soiree is not just about raising money," Ott said. "It just as importantly acts as a platform to raise awareness about Minds Matter and is the single-most important event for mentor recruitment."
Minds Matter welcomes low-income high school sophomores and juniors with a GPA of 3.0 or above as mentees. Each participant receives two mentors -- one of the program's 120 college-educated young professionals -- and meets with them each Saturday from October through May. Mentors help their students with everything from SAT prep, to applying for summer programs, to financial aid. The organization also offers writing workshops and career panels.
"Minds Matter could have very well been one of the best things that ever happened to me," said Hedin's mentee, Tracy. "I believe that I would not have ever been able to be accepted to my dream school, MIT, without their guidance and support in helping me through SATs and educating me about the college application process."
Tickets for the Minds Matter Spring Soiree are $100 for general admission and $130 for VIP until March 31. Prices increase to $130 and $160, respectively, on April 1, and $160 and $200, respectively, at the door. You must be 21 or older to attend.
Photo of Minds Matter Spring Soiree committee members (L to R) Dai, Hedin, Hung, Surette, and Ott (bottom) courtesy of Kaily Nash
About Kaily -- Kaily is president of K Group, a Boston-based event branding company. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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