Our mission is to transform the lives of accomplished high school students from low-income families by broadening their dreams and preparing them for college success. Minds Matter is a three year program that begins in students' sophomore year of high school. Minds Matter offers its students a combination of individualized mentor support and group instruction that provides students with the resources, information and guidance they need to gain admission to, enroll in and graduate from four-year colleges.
Leonel is a Junior who loves writing, books, and Simon & Garfunkel.
Q: What do you like best about Minds Matter?
Leonel: What I like best about Minds Matter is the support and the love from the volunteers and everyone who is a part of it. It's hard to get my mind around it sometimes: so many people who want us to be successful and, even though they have jobs and lives, they just volunteer. I don't know how they do it.
College prep, schoolwork, participating in clubs and volunteering through my school, plus my personal life, can be so overwhelming. But I'm really improving on my SAT work now. I feel much more confident than I did when I was a freshman. Back then, I thought the SAT was like a scary monster under my bed, and now I can challenge it.
Q: Where did you go for your summer program last year? What was the best part about it?
Leonel: Last summer I went to the Iowa Young Writers Studio. I spent two weeks in Iowa City just reading fiction, writing short stories for my classmates to read and approve, and seeing the city. You'll be surprised how modern and chic the city was! There were all these big buildings and stores. I expected corn fields and cows in the streets, but Iowa City is like a miniature New York, with so many people and so much diversity. We saw the house where Kurt Vonnegut lived when he wrote Slaughterhouse Five, we went to used bookstores and I bought so many books that my suitcase was heavy.
Q: What would you tell a freshman who was interested in applying for Minds Matter?
Leonel: I'd tell them that Minds Matter really does help you. Besides the SAT work, you mature and you meet new people. People don't always understand how great Minds Matter is. Minds Matter is here to prepare you for the real world.
Q: What's one song you have on repeat right now? Why?
Leonel: It's not just one song, to be honest: it's the top 20 hits of Simon and Garfunkel. One of my teachers asked me on Friday if I liked them and I said yes, and he gave me this CD. So from Friday afternoon to like 3 a.m. I just listened to Simon and Garfunkel. I couldn't get enough! Each song had different beats and rhythms and sounds, and it was so great.
Q: Where is your favorite place in NYC? Why?
Leonel: For me it would be Saint Nicholas Park, near my house (in Harlem). I know there are greater parks, I mean, I've been to Central Park, but I have a close connection to this one. I've been going there all my life, I've explored every corner. It's home to me. It's like nature right where I live.
Q: If you could have dinner with one famous person, who would it be and why?
Leonel: If I just had that one chance, it would be Harper Lee. I would want to talk to her about her life, because she just gave us this one book and then she let it go. I wouldn't want to ask her too many questions or make her feel uneasy, but I'd just like to ask her, What have you been doing for the last fifty years?And I would ask her, Do you feel that you're a mockingbird?