WHO WE ARE

Our Mission

Minds Matter connects driven and determined students from low-income families with the people, preparation and possibilities

to succeed in college, create their future and change the world.

Who We Are and How We Are Making a Difference

Minds Matter DC is a strong, passionate group of individuals dedicated to providing extra support and resources needed to help highly motivated, low-resource DC students reach their highest potential without additional costs to the school system or students. Our team members have a wide range of experience and skills in the non-profit and private sectors, including a number of DC residents, members who previously volunteered as mentors at other Minds Matter chapters, and one member who has two young children in DC Public Schools.

Minds Matter DC is a chapter of the national Minds Matter organization. Since its founding in New York City in 1991, Minds Matter has grown into a national organization with eleven chapters across the United States in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, the Twin Cities, Washington D.C., and Houston. For 25 years, Minds Matter has been making competitive college admission a reality for underserved students nationwide. Minds Matter transforms the lives of highly-motivated, low-resource students by providing the individualized mentoring, standardized test preparation, and writing and critical thinking instruction that has been proven necessary to achieve college success.

As a result of those efforts, on a nationwide basis, 100% of our graduates have been accepted into a four-year college or university, and more than 95% of our tracked alumni have graduated from or are currently enrolled in college. 89% of Minds Matter students accepted to college are first-generation college students.

%

College graduates earn a staggering 84% more than high-school graduates.

Only 3% of students at the nation’s top 146 colleges are from low-resource backgrounds. The cycle of poverty is fundamentally hard to break, even for students whose motivation has been demonstrated by high academic achievement.

Why does Minds Matter matter?

Low-resource, high-achieving students are grossly underrepresented at competitive colleges.

  • Only 3% of students at the nation’s top 146 colleges are from low-resource backgrounds.
  • College graduates earn a staggering 84% more than high-school graduates.
  • The cycle of poverty is fundamentally hard to break, even for students whose motivation has been demonstrated by high academic achievement.

The Program

Minds Matter serves nearly 650 motivated students in 12 cities nationwide and pairs them with volunteers committed to helping them achieve their academic and personal goals. The program provides:

  • Academic mentoring
  • SAT/ACT test prep
  • Writing and critical thinking instruction
  • Access to prestigious summer enrichment programs
  • Guidance through the college application and financial aid processes

Minds Matter Helps Students Succeed

In collaboration with our volunteers, Minds Matter’s impact is proven:

  • 100% of Minds Matter students attend a 4-year college or university
  • 70% of students have attended top-tier institutions
  • Participants average a 200 point increase in SAT scores

We Could Not Exist Without Our Volunteers

Minds Matter could not exist without the dedication and commitment of over 1,900 volunteers nationwide. Many of our mentors are working professionals who devote their free time to enriching the lives of our deserving students. Our volunteers are a motivational powerhouse, always available to provide a listening ear and an encouraging word to the students they mentor.

Board & Leadership

Our all volunteer group of board members and leaders, along with all our remarkable volunteers and mentors, make Minds Matter possible.

Board Members

David R. Ford: Board Chairman

David Ford is an advisor to and investor in the healthcare and seniors-housing industries, commercial real-estate ventures and start-up enterprises.  Until 2015, he was the Vice Chairman of Aegis Senior Communities LLC, a leading developer and operator of seniors-housing communities, and remains a principal in the company. David previously served as the COO and General Counsel of a government contracting firm that provided IT consulting services to defense and other federal agencies. For the first two decades of his professional life, he was an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C., where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare, technology and government-contracting industries. David is a member of the D.C. regional board of Teach for America, and was a founder of Kalorama Village, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping seniors “age in place.”

Becca Chernyha: Co-President 

Becca Chernyha is an Associate Director of Admissions at Dickinson College. She has dedicated her career to higher education and she is passionate about improving access and equity in the college admissions process. The mission of Minds Matter resonates deeply with her and she previously held mentor and program director roles within the DC chapter. She received her Bachelor of Science from Marist College and Master of Public Administration from Arizona State University.

Rachel Weissman: Co-President

Rachel grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA. She graduated from Brandeis University with a double major in Biology and Health: Science, Society and Policy and double minored in Chemistry and Sculpture. Upon graduation she completed an MBA in Healthcare Administration at Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business. She is currently a Director in the Research and Policy Department at PhRMA (a trade group that represents leading biopharmaceutical  research companies).  Rachel has spent countless hours dedicated to Minds Matter and is passionate about helping students be more than they thought possible.

Bill Mutryn: Board Member

Bill Mutryn brings over 40 years of experience as a practicing attorney, most of which has been representing clients in merger and acquisition transactions in the aerospace, defense, government services, healthcare, consumer products, and staffing space.  Prior to joining Bluestone Investment Partners, Bill was a co-leader of Holland & Knight’s Corporate and Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group, and served as a member of Holland & Knight's Directors Committee for 6 years. Bill is thrilled to be working with Minds Matter DC and looks forward to seeing the progress students make in their pursuit for higher education.

Steven Thomas: Board Member

Thomas Kramer: Board Member (Finance)

Thomas Kramer is responsible for financial management, and administrative stewardship at energy efficiency software company Opower (NYSE: OPWR). Previously, he cofounded and served at CFO at Cvent (NYSE: CVT), the largest event-management technology company in the US, where he helped grow the organization from its wee beginnings to profitability and 850 employees. Thomas was recently named CFO of the year in Washington, DC, by Washington Business Journal. A child of public school education, Thomas would like to see everybody have equal opportunities. He earned a Master’s at the Norwegian School of Economics, and an MBA at Harvard Business School. In his spare time he tries desperately to match his 5 and 7 year old boys’ public school math knowledge, but keeps coming up short.

Kris van Riper: Board Member (Finance)

Kris van Riper is the Practice Leader of the Infrastructure Leadership Council and Roadmap Builder at Gartner. She has previously worked at the World Bank, AOL/Netscape and the Joint Economic Committee. She is excited about Minds Matter's mission as a native Washingtonian and an alumni of DC Public Schools.

Thayer Surette Roberts: Board Member (Fundraising)

Thayer Roberts is a senior vice president at Thorn Run Partners where she focuses on health policy. Previously she held roles at several national nonprofits including Research America, the National 4H Council and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She is a graduate of Boston College. She believes strongly in Minds Matter's mission and served as a mentor and in leadership positions with Minds Matter Boston prior to moving to the Mid-Atlantic and joining Minds Matter DC.

Leadership

Co-Presidents: Becca Chernyha & Rachel Weissman
Senior Program Director: Aaron Shroyer
Junior Program Directors: Diana Pournaras and Alex Rued
Sophomore Program Directors: Claire Park and Corydon Baylor
Summer Program Directors: Sid Paruchuru and Hannah Gilbert
Volunteer Recruitment Directors: Sahar Roodehchi and Kate Edson
Student Recruitment Directors: Daniel Doxzon and Jeffrey Arango
Instructors: Phillip Shattan, Thomas Escande, and Janet Lee
Marketing Director: Melissa Toronto
Mentor Education Directors: Danielle Glazer and Lizzy Vogel
Virtual Support: Olesya Minina