Minds Matter of Philadelphia

Minds Matter of Philadelphia is a tutoring and mentoring program that assists high achieving, low income students in achieving success and gaining admission to college. In its inaugural year, Minds Matter of Philadelphia is serving nine talented sophomores from various high schools throughout the city. During the summer of 2012, through hard work, and assistance from their dedicated mentors and tutors, students have been admitted to academic programs at the nation’s leading colleges and universities, including University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Columbia Brown, Drexel, University of Maryland, and more.

Minds Matter of Philadelphia is the newest chapter of the national Minds Matter organization. Since its founding in New York City in 1991, the organization has expanded to eight additional cities, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and now Philadelphia.

    Each student is paired with two mentors with whom they meet weekly throughout the school year to work on essays, summer prep program selection, and college/university selection. In larger chapters, each Mentor/Mentee triad is placed with other triads to form a Team, which has a designated Team Leader.
    Mentors are role models and mentor not only their Student but also all of the Students on their team; they assist the Team Leader in building team cohesion, implementing the curriculum, and keeping the team on track.

The students and mentors build relationships at weekly sessions, participate in writing, reading and math workshops, Socratic debates, monthly field trips, and community service days.

Minds Matters students begin their three year journey in our program during their Sophomore year. Each year provides the students unique opportunities to learn and grow with their Mentors:

    The Sophomore Program is designed to build confidence, ambition, and motivation for students early in their high school years. Goals of the curriculum include the development of writing, critical thinking and math skills. Students are given the chance to enhance and develop these skills through specific lessons with tutors, weekly discussions on global current events, and debates.

    In addition, mentors guide students through the summer program application process and ensure that each student is accepted into a valuable educational program. At the end of the academic year, students are off to summer programs at prep schools, colleges, and universities around the country. In addition, the Sophomore Program introduces students to the college admissions process and encourages them to develop a Three-Year Course & Activity Plan for high school.

    The Minds Matter Junior Program is dedicated to preparing high school students for college through SAT test preparation and Writing and Critical Thinking education.

    For juniors, the Test Prep Program takes the form of a full year program leading up to the Spring SAT. Students are grouped into teams based on their individual development needs, with each team receiving personal coaching from dedicated math and verbal Test Prep Instructors. The curriculum familiarizes students with the SAT exam, provides test-taking strategies, refreshes basic skills, and provides several diagnostic exams to identify student strengths and weaknesses while reinforcing test strategies. In the 2009 – 2010 academic year, the average national improvement was more than 230 points for students taking the SAT exam.

    In addition to Test Prep, juniors have the opportunity to polish their Writing and Critical Thinking skills. Building on the work done in the Sophomore Year, juniors continue to craft and refine their personal statements. A debate series in the spring allows students to further hone their critical thinking and public speaking skills.

    The core focus of the Senior Program is to prepare mentees for the college application process, which includes considerations for government and institutional financial aid, as well as third party scholarships. The Senior Program begins with a refresher Test Prep curriculum for mentees taking SAT exam in the fall of their senior year.

    The targeted Writing and Critical Thinking curriculum focuses on improving college essays. The mentoring sessions focus on the college selection process, preparing admissions, financial aid and scholarship applications, and general college preparation skills. In the spring, seniors attend a number of workshops aimed at preparing them for college life and the new challenges they will face after graduation.

Interested in volunteering?
Contact Minds Matter of Philadelphia at volunteers@mindsmatterphilly.org.

Want to learn more about Minds Matter of Philadelphia?
Visit them online at www.mindsmatterphilly.org or by connecting to them through their Facebook and Twitter page.

Led by a well established Executive Committee, 100% of Minds Matter students have been accepted into a four-year college.

Brian Austin, VP of Finance

Mr. Austin is currently an Associate Relationship Manager within the Corporate Finance group at PNC Bank.Mr. Austin is responsible for providing comprehensive banking solutions including financing, treasury management, capital markets and institutional investment services to clients with revenue in excess of $500 million. Mr. Austin is an active volunteer with Philadelphia Reads, a literacy program for inner-city elementary school students. Mr. Austin holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from The Pennsylvania State University and is a Level III candidate in the CFA Program.

Conrey Callahan, Senior VP of Programs

Ms. Callahan is in her fourth year teaching at Overbrook High School in West Philadelphia, following a two-year commitment through the Teach for America program. Ms. Callahan was nominated for the National Sulehman Teaching Award, and currently directs the professional development for Teach for America. She also served on the executive committee for Teach for America Alumni fundraising. Ms. Callahan also served on the board of directors for Maryland Leadership Workshops, a Maryland not-for-profit organization. Ms. Callahan holds a MSE in education from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Spanish and History from Vanderbilt University.

Melissa Ciurlino, VP of Events

Ms. Ciurlino is currently a consultant in the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences group at PwC. She has been involved with event planning and fundraising for a number of different causes in the area, including the Philadelphia chapter of St. Judes and Susan G. Komen. In 2007, she also was on the Overall Committee for the Penn State Dance Marathon, which raised more than $5.2 million for pediatric cancer that year. Melissa graduated from Penn State in 2007 with Bachelor’s of Science in Finance.

Matt Gelles, VP of Corporate Donations

Matthew Gelles is currently a Director at PNC Bank, NA within the Derivative Products Group. In his role, Mr. Gelles is responsible for the structuring, advisory, and execution of interest rate risk management solutions for PNC’s customers including Corporations, Real Estate Development Companies, and High-Net Worth Individuals. Mr. Gelles has been involved with several volunteering and fund-raising efforts including serving as Treasurer for the Plum Borough School District’s efforts for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In addition, Mr. Gelles has been involved in numerous community programs such as the Plum Borough Legion Baseball and Plum Borough Youth Baseball Program and the Allegheny College Varsity Football and Meadville Area Youth Football Program. Mr. Gelles holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Managerial Economics from Allegheny College.

Cara Gentile, VP of Grants

Cara Gentile is a Senior Vice President at PNC Bank, N.A. Ms. Gentile is part of PNC’s Financial Services Advisory & Banking group and is responsible for a team that manages the bank’s asset manager client portfolio. Ms. Gentile has been involved in the Philadelphia community through various organizations including Philadelphia Reads, Friends of the Philadelphia Art Museum, and the Junior League of Philadelphia. Ms. Gentile holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a BA in International Relations from Bucknell University.

Elizabeth Hines, VP of Curriculum

Ms. Hines is currently a clinical research assistant to Dr. Samir Shah in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She has worked in this capacity since June 2010, following the completion of her two-year commitment to the Teach for America program. As a Teach for America corps member Ms. Hines taught math at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia, where she ran an SAT math tutoring program and was nominated for an Excellence in Math Teaching Award given by the Pennsylvania Society of Engineers. Ms. Hines holds a certification in secondary mathematics education from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in American Studies from Amherst College.

Devon Madison, VP of Summer Programs

Devon Madison recently graduated from Vanderbilt University in May with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Child Studies. She loves working with kids of all ages and abilities, and has done a variety of babysitting, tutoring, and working with students in schools. She moved to Philadelphia in May and is currently working for a family just outside of Philly and volunteering for an after school tutoring program called Mighty Writers.

Kelly McGinn, VP of Students

Ms. McGinn is a third year 7th and 8th grade math teacher at Alain Locke Elementary School in West Philadelphia, following her two-year commitment to the Teach for America program. At Alain Locke, Ms. McGinn is a member of the Leadership Team. She is the math curriculum coordinator and the middle school lead teacher. Ms. McGinn holds a certification in both secondary general science and middle school mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Psychology from the Catholic University of America. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Educational Psychology at Temple University.

Jeff Mills, Emeritus

Jeffrey Mills is currently studying for a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Previously, Mr. Mills worked as a Director in PNC Financial Services Group’s Capital Markets division in Philadelphia. Mr. Mills was responsible for providing funding opportunities for not-for-profit, healthcare, and higher education institutions in the public debt markets through the issuance of municipal bonds. Primarily, Mr. Mills produced structure alternatives to his clients and analyzed the most efficient and cost effective way to enter the bond market and raise necessary capital. Mr. Mills has had the opportunity to participate in a number of local charity efforts, including an annual running event to raise money for the ALS Hope Foundation and serving on various fund-raising committees at La Salle College High School. Mr. Mills was the VP of Grants prior to his matriculation to Oxford, where he helped generate contributions toward Minds Matter Philadelphia. Mr. Mills currently holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania.

Viraj Narayanan, VP of Volunteers

Mr. Narayanan is a Consultant at Decision Strategies International, a strategy consultancy that helps organizations and their leaders recognize and harness opportunities in an evolving marketplace. He advises clients on strategy, decision making, and leadership. He has worked with numerous clients including major healthcare players: GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca; non-profit organizations: Asbury Communities, Parker Homes; and government organizations: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and several branches of the U.S. Navy. Viraj holds a B.S. in Decision Science from Carnegie Mellon University and is native to the Philadelphia area.

Haren Nayagan, Executive Vice President

Haren Nayagan is currently a Senior Associate at PNC Bank, NA within the Derivative Products Group. In his role, Mr. Nayagan is responsible for the structuring, advisory, and execution of interest rate risk management solutions for PNC’s customers including Corporations, Real Estate Development Companies, and High-Net Worth Individuals. Mr. Nayagan has been a volunteer for the West Philadephia Tutoring Project as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters Philadelphia. Mr. Nayagan holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Chris Uhrinek, President

Mr. Uhrinek is currently a consultant for the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences division of Pricewaterhouse Coopers Advisory LLC. In his role, Mr. Uhrinek is responsible for proving strategic and operational advice to pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients. He has been responsible for the design and development of a number of large commercial and compliance programs within the healthcare industry. Mr. Uhrinek holds B.S. degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He has been involved with several service organizations and previously served as a mentor for the Minds Matter of New York program.
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