Meet Melissa, a long-time volunteer who has helped shape the Minds Matter experience for countless students over the course of eight years.
Name: Melissa Sepe-Johnston
Profession: User experience consultant (I help companies make their websites and software more intuitive)
Current Role: Co-Director of College Advising
Previous role: Mentor and W&CT Adviser
Years in Minds Matter: 8
Question: What are your relationships like with the students you work with?
Melissa: Each year, my teammates and I work with 15-20 seniors apiece. We basically function like guidance counselors. I try to quickly learn about each student’s background and goals so that I can suggest schools that may be a good fit. As the year goes on, I help students understand the admissions process, navigate financial aid options, and make their final college decisions.
Q: What is your favorite part of Minds Matter?
Melissa: I live for graduation. It’s always sad to say goodbye to our amazing seniors, but it’s so much fun to celebrate their accomplishments, meet their families, and send them off to their new adventures in college.
Q: What is your favorite Minds Matter memory?
Melissa: Watching my mentee, Addia, graduate in 2012.
Q: How have you benefited personally from your experience at Minds Matter?
Melissa: I was 24, new to NYC, and just starting my career when I joined as a sophomore mentor, so I’ve literally grown up during my time with Minds Matter. Committing to session every Saturday definitely taught me a lot about discipline and accountability! Over the years I’ve also gone through something like four apartments, five jobs, and gotten married, but Minds Matter has been a constant presence in my life.
Q: What is a fun fact about you?
Melissa: I sing in a choir that only covers pop songs.
Melissa is one of many incredible volunteers who has not only impacted generations of Minds Matter students, but has shaped the culture of our organization through her dedication and passion for our work. Learn more about our amazing volunteers here.
Playing a crucial role in student recruitment, Minds Matter Student Ambassadors help usher in the next generation of Minds Matter students! By attending monthly leadership meetings, Student Ambassadors are trained in how to support prospective students through the application process and prepare for the interview, thus catalyzing a connection between their school communities and Minds Matter.
Student Ambassadors represent a crucial youth-leadership voice in program feedback and evaluation and work with both volunteers and staff to help shape and create the MM program. Student Ambassadors have also spoken at and attended the Brilliant Minds Benefit, held independent information sessions for students at their schools and welcomed potential students and their families at interview day. We could not do our work without them and we are proud of their leadership!
Leslie is a hard-working and enthusiastic junior. She talks with us about her passions, overcoming hardships, and her drive to succeed.
Q: What is your favorite part about Minds Matter?
Leslie: In Minds Matter I am constantly reminded of my capability. The community that has been built for us is a lovely blessing. Volunteers come to work with us and challenge us in order to go beyond our limits. They believe that we are capable of much more than we ourselves think. They are always there for us when we need them. They motivate us to work hard in school and support us in order to be college ready and pursue our dreams. They push us to try new things and hand us the resources we need in order to succeed in our journey.
Q: What is the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome?
Leslie: The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome is the loss of my mother in her battle with cancer. It happened so quickly that until this day it seems unreal. My mom is my motivation, role model and my strength to move forward and take myself and my dad out of the darkness we live in. When I look into my father’s eyes, all I see is hope and sacrifice. Hope that one day we will achieve the American Dream. Sacrifice because he works every day for long hours to pay the bills that lead to stress and frustration. He inspires me to strive in my education and standout. Both of my parents have built the person that I am today.
Q: What is your favorite subject in school?
Leslie: In school I have gravitated towards the power of math and I have developed a passion for art. This has inspired me to become an architect. I am fascinated by the work that can be done by combining math and art. Opportunities offered to low income students like myself at Minds Matter will benefit me in pursuing a career in architecture.
Q: What is an interesting fact about you?
Leslie: An interesting fact about me is that I have a passion for dancing, especially Salsa.
Support students like Leslie. Donate today!
“The college trip was really helpful in terms of exploring different campus environments. It was a taste of what college life might actually look like and it makes students think of where they might belong.”– Brandon, Class of 2018
Brandon is a dedicated, optimistic and creative senior who is excited about his future.
Q: What does college mean to you?
Brandon: College is the place where you find and mold yourself as an individual. This is the place where you can seek knowledge and make vast key connections. College is the place where you transition from childhood to adulthood.
Q: What is the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome?
Brandon: My greatest obstacle occurred at the age of 1, where my mother was impacted by 9/11. Growing up with a disabled mother has been difficult to overcome; I was forced to balance taking care of my mother, participating in sports, and excelling in school. At times I had to work to put the little food we had on the table. I still managed to do well in school, sports and more importantly keeping my mom healthy.
Q: What is the most interesting thing about you?
Brandon: Most of the kids who go through tough situations like I have use it as an excuse to walk towards the wrong path. My situation actually gives me purpose to be successful, in order to help my mother in the best way and give aid to families that go through similar situations. I use my background as an excuse to make a difference.
Q: What has been your favorite Minds Matter moment?
Brandon: My favorite Minds Matter moment would have to be the ALDA summer program. To be a part of the beautiful NYU campus, making connections, and getting closer with the staff and students was an awesome experience. The summer program molded my goals into perspective and I realized what I wanted to do with my life.
Support students like Brandon. Donate today!
Are you an ELA or Math teacher looking for teaching opportunities this summer? We want to hear from you!
Each summer, Minds Matter hosts the Academic & Leadership Development Academy (ALDA), a three-week summer-intensive program focused on math, reading and writing. Students in the program will also participate in professional and leadership development workshops led by industry executives.
Minds Matter seeks enthusiastic, credentialed ELA and Math teachers to teach our high-achieving and motivated students during this three-week program!
- Implement Math or ELA curriculum designed by expert teachers
- Instruct small groups of students of varying academic levels in above curriculum
- Use assessment tools to identify student needs
- Ensure students are receiving sufficient support to master the curriculum
- Participate in daily check-ins with ALDA teachers
- Participate in weekly check-ins with Minds Matter staff during ALDA
- Partner with Minds Matter staff to evaluate course material and structure
- ALDA Teacher Orientation: Wednesday, June 15, 5:30 – 7:30pm
- Program Dates: Monday, July 11 – Friday, July 29
- Instructional Times:
- Math Teachers: Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 11:00am
- ELA Teachers: Monday – Friday, 11:00am – 3:30pm (including a 90-min lunch period)
- Bachelor’s degree in Education (Master’s degree preferred)
- NYS certification (or equivalent) in Algebra or Geometry (for Math teachers) or in high school ELA (for ELA teachers)
- Experience in SAT Test Prep a plus (for Math teachers)
- Minimum three years teaching experience in an urban setting
- Strong curriculum development experience focused on short-term gains
- Excelled track record of establishing strong rapport with students
- Ability to use coaching, discussion-oriented instruction and didactic models
- ESL and bilingual teachers preferred
- Passionate believe in Minds Matter’s mission and high standard of excellence
- Experience working in a highly collaborative environment
- Math Teachers: $2,000 (includes planning, instruction and evaluation)
- ELA Teachers: $3,000 (includes planning, instruction and evaluation)
Applications will be reviewed and processed in the order received. The application deadline is Monday, May 2. Applicants should email resume and letter of interest in MS Word or PDF format to Julia Loonin at Julia.Loonin@mindsmatter.org. The subject line of the email should include your full name and “ALDA [Math or ELA] Application.” Please call (212) 626-6590 with any questions.