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Minds Matter Cleveland thinking outside the box to help scholars achieve college plans, dreams

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 18:49:50-04

CLEVELAND — Roughly 70 high school students every year depend on a tutoring and mentoring model that seems like it’s of another world while Ohio battles the coronavirus.

In September, News 5 visited Minds Matter Cleveland’s Saturday programing, where students receive tutoring and meet with mentors meant to help them through the college application and acceptance process.

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In September 2019, Minds Matter Cleveland students gather for their Saturday sessions of tutoring and mentorship meetings in downtown Cleveland.

As if the coronavirus isn’t creating enough chaos with colleges, universities, and local school districts determining how or if they’ll hold in-person classes, the uncertainty is even worse for college freshman who may have never been away from their families before.

“The vast majority of our students are going to be first generation college students,” said Minds Matter Cleveland Executive Director Sara Elaqad.

That process is hard enough for the students who come through the program. That’s why they’d normally get the chance to be in summer college programs all over the United States, feeling out what higher education might be like for the first time.

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"[Mentorship and summer college programs] really make a big difference for a population of students that, unfortunately in our society are, still not earning college degrees at the rate that they deserve and are frankly capable of but don’t always have everything that they need to help them get there," said Elaqad.

“Last year, we had students going to UCLA, Yale, Johns Hopkins,” said Elaqad.

The coronavirus has canceled those programs, which is especially unfortunate because of who the program primarily helps.

Elaqad says the Minds Matter Cleveland students are 90 percent black, meaning they’re not only at a higher risk of worse outcomes with the coronavirus but also less statistically likely to get a college degree.

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Students are expected to keep a high GPA while in the program and Minds Matter Cleveland's website says 100 percent of the students go on to four-year college programs.

“It really makes a big difference for a population of students that unfortunately, in our society, are still not earning college degrees at the rate that they deserve and are frankly capable of but don’t always have everything that they need to help them get there,” said Elaqad.

Those programs helped made Misrach Ewunetie feel better about her plans to head off to Princeton this year.

“Taking classes at a college level in the summer really helped me feel comfortable, knowing that I could handle the course-load,” said Ewunetie.

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"Taking classes at the college level in the summer really helped me feel comfortable knowing that I could handle the course load," said Ewunetie.

To fill in the gap, Elaqad says Minds Matter Cleveland had to think outside the box to help.

“We bought every kid a novel they were interested in reading and sent it to their house just so they would have additional enrichment and something to do,” said Elaqad.

Elaqad says mentorship and test prep has moved online, allowing students to stay connected to their mentors. Those relationships have taken on an extra importance as colleges prepare for unusual semesters and the United States has hard conversations bout racial equity.

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Genesis Merritt is going to Loyola University New Orleans after taking part in Minds Matter Cleveland.

“[My mentor] has always been there or me,” said Genesis Merritt, who is preparing to go to Loyola University New Orleans. “She’s always texting me, asking if I’m ok, how I’m doing, checking up on me.”

If you’re trying to figure out how to make college costs work for your family budget, experts recommend considering these steps

  • Sort out your finances — make sure it makes sense to pay this much money right now. If it doesn’t college will be there when you do have the funds for it.
  • Evaluate your and your family’s health — it might not make sense to go if you or someone you love is high-risk
  • Ask for help — you might be directed to a program like Kent State’s Emergency Grant Fund or colleges can use their discretion to help you make college more affordable.

This story is part of The Rebound: Northeast Ohio, News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

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