Mentoring for Success

CFM Associate Beth Slater just completed a successful year as a volunteer with Minds Matter of Portland, Inc., a start-up nonprofit academic mentoring program.

The focus is college preparation for Portland-area high school students who are high-achievers, but whose families are at an economic disadvantage. Most of the 90 students' families make less than $23,000 a year, and most of the students will be the first in their family to attend college.

"Minds Matter provides the guidance and extra support the students need to succeed," Beth says. "They get help with college applications and financial aid, SAT preparation and grammar - and they even get swimming lessons."

Every Saturday, Beth and her mentee, Franklin High School sophomore AnnaJoy, spend two hours in a classroom with 15 other high school sophomores and their mentors. The group reads and discusses articles from the New York Times, then works on the students' leadership and public speaking skills.

The students – sophomores, juniors and seniors – meet at the large, modern Self Enhancement, Inc. building in North Portland every Saturday during the school year. They receive two hours of tutoring, test prep or help with college applications before lunch, and they meet with their mentors - each student has two - in the afternoon.

"These students knock my socks off each week," says Beth. "They're mature far beyond their age, bright and eager to learn. They're the kind of student I didn't want to be in a college class with because they always outperform!"

During the summer, each student attends an academic program on a college campus. Minds Matter foots the bill for air travel and whatever tuition isn't covered through financial aid. Beth's mentee AnnaJoy will attend Georgetown's high school mock trial program for four weeks in June.

In addition to mentoring on Saturday, Beth serves as the director of communications for the organization. The organization doesn't have a single paid staff person. The mentors, support staff and director all volunteer their time to help these students. There are five other Minds Matter programs in the United States: New York City, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago and Denver.

This year, Minds Matter staged its third annual Jazz Soiree and fundraiser at Jimmy Mak's in the Pearl District. More than 200 people attended and raised almost $30,000 for Minds Matter.

Beth will continue to mentor AnnaJoy through her junior and senior years.