What was the first gift you ever gave?:
When I was 13, I collected money for a Polish hospital (my mom’s family comes from Poland) to buy supplies. In the mid-90s, the Polish economy was hit pretty hard by the collapse of the Soviet Union, so they were in dire need of supplies. I contributed about a month of my allowance ($50), but I was able to collect almost $1,500 for the hospital.
What is your charity of choice?:
My charity of choice is Minds Matter, which is a national non-profit that provides educational opportunities to low income high school students that show academic promise and commitment to attend college. The students’ commitment is pretty incredible; I’m there for about 2 hours helping them with SAT math on Saturday mornings, but they spend their entire Saturday working on math, reading and writing. Some of them are traveling for over an hour on the subway to get there by 10am.
What’s terrific about the program is that it’s not only helping the top kids from top schools – the kids that you read about as the success stories that you might see in a blog post on your Facebook feed. Minds Matter also supports kids that are top performers in below average schools, where those students need to do more to be competitive in college admissions, but where the institutional support system for college readiness doesn’t exist.
Who inspires you to give?:
My wife, Rachel, is my primary inspiration to give. She works tirelessly to help low income, high achieving high school students to attend and graduate from top colleges nationwide through Questbridge. She shares the successes of some of her award winners with me and it really feels great to know that there is an organization like Questbridge that actively seeks to help hard working students to get into a top school, and graduate without owing any money. It’s a really great organization that helps some really deserving kids.
What motivates you to give?:
When you find out that a kid you helped and watched work hard gets good news. Two years ago, one of the students I tutored, who was from a school that doesn’t send a lot of students to 4-year colleges, got a full scholarship to a top 5 liberal arts school. It’s real evidence that there’s still a reward for hard work.
What advice do you have for others to consider giving?:
While I do give some money, I also volunteer as a math tutor for high school sophomores on Saturday mornings through Minds Matter, and in the fall, I’ll help Questbridge students with their college essays. I think that while nonprofit organizations can certainly use money, those that mentor or provide support can only reach more people if they have more volunteers. If you have a skill or are willing to listen and commit some of your time, you can do a lot for people without writing a check.