Minds Matter San Francisco receives unprecedented $100,000 donation from high-tech executive

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Award will expand organization’s Bay Area outreach to Black and Hispanic/Latinx high school students

On Saturday, May 22, 29 students in the Class of 2021 graduated from Minds Matter San Francisco’s high school program. Minds Matter San Francisco has mentored and graduated 8 classes of students in 11 years, all of whom are from low-income communities of color. Students from this year’s graduating class will be headed to some of the most prestigious four-year institutions in the country -- from Princeton to Brown to Claremont McKenna. These incredible students are exceptional. They are also, quite literally, the exception.

Systemic Exclusion
Black and Hispanic/Latinx professionals and leaders are disproportionately underrepresented across many sectors of our economy, including high tech. A college degree, especially from a selective institution, is often a necessary ticket for entry into a job in tech. Yet, that degree -- that essential prerequisite to career advancement and graduate studies in this competitive field -- remains inaccessible to many Black and Hispanic/Latinx youth for systemic reasons unrelated to their skills or abilities.

Even among high-achieving Black and Hispanic/Latinx high school students, many will “undermatch” college entrance requirements, not attend college at all, attend a college that is below their scholastic capability, or enter and not graduate. In practical terms, college is much more than a continuation of one’s academic preparation. The finest institutions offer something even more valuable: a lifelong connection to a brand name and to powerful networks that open professional doors.

Underrepresentation at such institutions denies these unique academic and social benefits to Black and Hispanic/Latinx people.

Enter Minds Matter San Francisco (MMSF)
Minds Matter San Francisco (MMSF) exists to address the specific issue of “undermatching”: the underrepresentation of high-achieving, low-income students at selective colleges across the country. MMSF is a mentorship-focused nonprofit that connects driven and determined high school students from low-income families with the people, preparation, and possibilities to succeed in college, create their future, and change the world. Founded in 2010, 100% of MMSF’s alumni have been accepted to 4-year colleges, 77% attend some of the most selective schools in the country, and 97% are on track to graduate from college within 4 years. Compared with similar peers, MMSF students are 25X more likely to graduate from a selective college that prepares them for successful careers and beyond.

MMSF Recognized and Supported by Silicon Valley High-Tech Executive
Recognizing that these challenges persist into the professional world, many are continuing the work to fight underrepresentation in their industries. Inspired by organizations like Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and BreakLine, some Silicon Valley executives have formed mentor groups comprised of early-to-mid-career Black professionals working in high tech, to support their advancement into roles of senior leadership, and to inspire them to cultivate a generative pipeline of rising Black and Hispanic/Latinx leaders. Recently, one such group in Silicon Valley recognized the work MMSF was doing to lift up underrepresented youth. As an extension of their own mission, an anonymous Silicon Valley senior executive donated $100,000, the largest in MMSF’s history, in honor and recognition of Gabriella Allong, Todd Johnson, Karesha McGee, Harold E. Penson, and Nicholas Smith -- each an exemplary high-tech Black professional and an inspiration for MMSF’s youth. Todd Johnson, a tech leader at SoFi, has been a volunteer and Associate Board member with MMSF since 2018. Todd’s championship of MMSF’s mission was instrumental in forging this powerful partnership.

“The Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the rise in racial injustice has further illustrated the many inequities in our country, most notably across healthcare and education,” said Mark Taguchi, Vice President and West Coast Managing Director, MLT. “As we emerge from this pandemic, access to high quality education and the professional career playbook, are key to economic mobility for our next generation of young talent - helping them to be resilient and thrive in challenging environments. We are excited to support organizations like Minds Matter who along with MLT now have an even greater opportunity to impact student growth and development in our communities and help them become role models for generations to come."

“This $100,000 gift marks a key milestone in MMSF’s history, as the largest single donation the organization has received since opening its doors in 2010,” said Irene Shih, CEO of MMSF. “This investment will help MMSF to double its class size by 2025, and helps ensure that half of the student body is represented by Black and Hispanic/Latinx students whose talents deserve to be seen and cultivated for the betterment of our world. Hopefully, this donation will inspire the generosity of other financially successful Silicon Valley executives who believe in equal access to high-quality education.”

To learn more about MMSF, to donate or to volunteer, please visit: http://www.mindsmattersf.org. If you are a rising high school freshman (Class of 2025) interested in applying to join us when you are a Sophomore in Fall 2022, please visit: http://www.mindsmattersf.org/apply.

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Yin Jiang
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