Winter 2017 Speaker Series Inspires Students

Minds Matter students have a lot on their plates. The way our students manage demanding academic schedules, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, being a teenager, summer program/college applications, and sometimes difficult home lives, make me incredibly impressed with their stamina and resilience. In the month of February, Minds Matter Seattle held a speaker series focusing on enduring difficult circumstances, overcoming obstacles, and achieving success. We invited three members of the Seattle community to speak about their experiences.


Cheryl gives valuable tips for navigating the application process, and college itself.

Our first speaker was Cheryl Hammond, the Chief Technology Officer at Peak Medical Technologies and a Burien, WA native. In fact, Cheryl is a graduate of Highline High School, the future alma mater of many of our current students. Our students connected with her story of growing up in similar circumstances to theirs, especially with needing assistance in navigating the college application process. Cheryl had the opportunity to attend Smith College, where she capitalized on the resources available to students at a smaller liberal arts school that focuses on building a supportive community. We learned about how important that infrastructure was for a student like Cheryl to excel in the college environment, and Cheryl gave our students lots of advice on how to establish the support they need regardless of the higher education institution they choose.

Our second speaker Scott Thompson is a software engineer at Microsoft, who during college suffered a stroke. He spoke about how he used his dream of working for the tech giant as motivation to overcome the struggles of his body not functioning as it had before. Scott exhibits much of the same drive our students do (he asked his parents to drive him to an interview days after his stroke), but he also detailed how important his support system of friends and family was to his recovery process.


Learning about time-and-stress-management from Dr. Reza Ghomi.

Lastly, Dr. Reza Ghomi, a resident physician at the University of Washington training in neuropsychiatry, took a slightly different approach with his talk. While we did hear about his transition in interests from engineering, to clinical research, to patient care, Reza shared with us some of his expertise in talking about common stressors for teens and young adults. We also participated in a short, guided meditation session to show us all how taking a bit of time out of your day to quiet your mind and listen to your body can help alleviate stress and center us when we need to make a difficult decision. We finished up our session with a discussion about procrastination and how methods like the time-management Pomodoro Technique can help us refocus our time and energy to increase productivity and limit anxiety-inducing behaviors, such as scrolling through social media feeds endlessly. This was certainly a session that both our students and mentors enjoyed and found useful.

Overall, this was a very successful series that helped our students identify obstacles they are currently facing in their lives, learn some techniques to minimize their stress concerning those obstacles, and to visualize themselves moving beyond where they are now to achieving their dreams of a college education and establishing their subsequent careers. Following one of these speakers, a junior mentee commented that this series has made him truly believe that he could accomplish his academic goals.

Nicole Arroyo, VP Academics