Raised on a farm in an impoverished rural community, Leanne saw firsthand the impact a college degree had on her own career opportunities. After earning her bachelor's degree and starting her career in New York, this first generation college graduate used her free time to volunteer and plan enrichment days at museums, ballparks, and other sites for underserved foster youth. While these days were fun for the kids involved, Leanne wanted to do more, realizing that access to higher education was the key. She co-founded Minds Matter to guide deserving youth from low-income backgrounds towards college and improved life trajectories. The program works with high potential high school students providing them critical resources - such as mentoring, tutoring, SAT and ACT test preparation, summer academic programs and financial aid application assistance - to ensure both college access and success.
A variety of factors can prevent under-resourced youth from getting into and succeeding at college – so much so that only nine percent of low-income youth receive a college degree by age 24 (Pell Institute, 2015 Indicators Trend Report). Minds Matter was established to transform the lives of high-potential students from low-income families by broadening their dreams and preparing them for college success. Now operating in 14 cities across the country, Minds Matter engages 2,200 volunteers who guide, teach and mentor more than 800 youth each year. This nonprofit essentially pioneered the concept of structured academic mentoring and college access. Over the course of the organization’s 26-year history, 100 percent of students gained access to a four-year college or university, with over 90 percent attaining a bachelor's degree within four years. Moreover, a 2014 study completed at Columbia University found that Minds Matter produces a 17-to-1 positive social impact.
So much of our work involves helping young people understand their potential and how to reach it. I’m incredibly grateful and humbled for this opportunity to encourage more students to realize the advantages of pursuing a college degree.