In August 2010, I moved to Los Angeles after spending five years in San Francisco. With this move, I left behind many of my closest friends and a community in which I had become comfortably apart of. This transition was a big change for me in that I did not have anything drawing me to Los Angeles except the desire for change.
Shortly after my arrival, I was introduced to Minds Matter of Los Angeles through a college classmate and friend, April Bain. For this who aren’t aware, Minds Matter is an academic, mentoring (not-profit, 100% volunteer based) organization that provides high school students from low-income families with intensive, dedicated support in key areas that can make the difference between a rigorous college education being a dream and a reality. I quickly fell in love with the mission of the organization and attended MM’s Gala in the spring of 2011. After one too many drinks and a silent auction winning bid for 4 tickets to a live viewing of the Jimmy Kimmel show, I was introduced to the president of the organization, Tina Admans. After meeting Tina, I knew this was an organization I needed to get involved with.
After a few back and forth conversations during the next few weeks, Tina requested that I take on the role of Director of Fundraising/Development. As I was relatively new to the LA Community and young in my career, I had many concerns about taking on such an important role. While I knew what a challenge it would be, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make an impact in something so worth wild. As expected, the first year was a tremendous challenge and very stressful. I knew that while growing our organization was very important, retaining the existing support was just as necessary. I organized the first annual appreciation dinner for those individuals/corporations who had a big financial impact on MM’s first year. While the event was well received, it did not have the effect I was anticipating as many of our initial supporters were not sharing our story with their network and the community. I spent many a nights lying in bed trying to figure out how to share our story. I approached many organizations with passionate appeals to support MM but I continuously met resistance for one reason or another. It’s amazing how even when we are successful in our small steps, we feel as though we are failing when we aren’t able to achieve our big goals in a timely fashion. I continuously have to remind myself this is a marathon and not a sprint.
In order to go back to the roots of why I joined the organization, I decided to spend time on Saturdays tutoring our students in math and proctoring prep SAT exams. Working with the students lit a fire in me and I knew that I needed to find more opportunities to continue with that type of involvement. While I continue to act in my director role on the executive team, I am also now the Junior Team Lead. Almost every Saturday throughout the school year, I lead an afternoon session with our juniors around leadership and WGOIT (What’s Going on in the World). Being a part of the growth of these students gives me so much joy and I know that what we are doing with MM in Los Angeles will make a difference.
In the new year, more volunteers joined our MM family on the executive team and together we began to formulate a more concrete structure to our marketing/fundraising initiatives. At the end of the day, we were able to almost double the amount of funds we raised from year 1 to year 2. This year, we hope to double last year’s. Our Board has also almost doubled in size, and the new members have shown a commitment to raising public awareness and fundraising. In addition to our 3rd annual Gala this spring, we held our first annual Halloween Fundraiser this year. We hope to hold some form of celebrity fundraiser in the late spring/early summer. We have over 120 volunteers and support 45 students. While the journey has been tough and will certainly continue to be for years to come, we are beginning to hit our stride as an organization and I so very glad to have found my new family in Los Angeles.
After graduating with an MBA from UCLA Anderson, I was looking for a way to spend my newfound free time while making a positive impact. I feel lucky to get involved in an initiative as worthwhile as Minds Matter. These teens are incredible; we get to work with the cream of the crop. They are more respectful than many adults, very bright, passionate, and achieve so much despite not having many or any advantages. I'm so happy to have my mentee and co-mentor in my life. Honestly when things are not going so well, I try to think of my blessings, and these two people and Minds Matter are among those that easily come to mind. It has been so fulfilling already and I know it will get even better.
Minds Matter of Los Angeles is making a life changing contribution to the lives of academically achieving high school students from low-income families in our community. Rarely do we see the kind of support that this dedicated group of volunteers offer to their students. The results are outstanding, with significant improvement in the student's academic results. This organization makes the difference between a rewarding college education being a dream and becoming a reality.