DENVER

Minds Matter: Making College a Reality for Denver's Underprivileged Students

03/30/2011 07:50 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2011

When it comes to schools and education, a 100 percent success rate is almost unheard of. However, there is a group in Denver that has achieved a 100 percent success rate in helping underprivileged students get into college.

Minds Matter of Denver has been helping underprivileged high school students since 2004. The group says that 100 percent of seniors involved in the program gain acceptance to a four-year college, and 100 percent of sophomores and juniors attend a summer college prep program.

"We are very proud of our students and our success rate," says Andy Seth, president and development director.

There are currently 30 students involved in Minds Matter. The program is completely run by volunteers, so every penny donated goes directly to helping the students.

The application process is highly selective and the organization works with high school counselors to nominate students. The application process starts when the students are freshmen and they enter as sophomores. They must have a GPA of 3.5 or above, qualify for free or reduced lunch an essay is required and an interview with the student is conducted. Parents must also sign a contract stating their support. The parental interview is important because Minds Matter wants to know that the student has support at home.

Students come from North High, West High, South High and Denver School of Science and Technology. Each student works with two mentors and each grade level has a different curriculum. Sophomores work on writing, critical thinking, public speaking and debate. They also use the online Khan Academy for teaching math-related topics. Students go through a seven week preparation for the PSAT test sophomore year. Sophomores also apply for the academic summer programs at colleges, universities and prep schools through the United States. They also get help with homework, researching and applying for financial aid and attends special events like a career panel.

Juniors continue with their mentors to refine their academic skills and start with interviewing skills. The students attend a 15-week course to prepare for the SATs, and achieve an average score improvement of 132 points. Juniors also have the chance to attend foreign or domestic summer programs.

Senior year it is all about applying to college. Students receive help with financial aid, interviews and adapting to college life. At the end of the year, Minds Matter provides seniors with performance-based stipends, up to $500, to use on tuition, books or computers. One hundred percent of seniors get at least one scholarship to pay for college. Five out of eight seniors receive full scholarships.

"The kids we serve are smart, have tremendous work ethic and want to go to college. They simply don't have the guidance or financial resources to get there. These students just need a bridge to get there, but letting them ‘fall through the cracks' is a failure that we as a society cannot allow to happen," Seth says.

Seth is passionate about his role in Minds Matter, as he sees himself in the students he helps. He was a low income student in the Los Angeles area before earning a full-ride scholarship to Culver Military Academy and Boston College. Beyond his role at Minds Matter Denver, he is also the co-founder of LotusGroup Advisors. His passion shows through in what the group has accomplished in the Mile High City.

To get involved with Mind Matter of Denver visit mindsmatterdenver.org. On April 29, Minds Matter has their annual Casino Night, to raise money for the organization. Buy tickets and get more information at mindsmatter.kintera.org/casinonight2011.

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