Accelerating College Dreams

With a Cummings Foundation grant, a new program supports high-achieving high schoolers on their academic journeys

When high school students say they can’t picture themselves at a four-year college, it sometimes has nothing to do with their past academic achievements. Even for those who excel at school, systemic inequities have long deprived high school students from low-income backgrounds of the resources and guidance they need to apply to and succeed at a selective college. 

A new collaboration of University College and Minds Matter Boston, made possible by a $225,000 grant from Cummings Foundation, will address that challenge by enabling every rising high school junior enrolled in MMB to attend the Tufts Summer Accelerator Program at no cost to themselves or their families, starting this July.

Minds Matter Boston helps high-achieving, low-income students in Greater Boston, many of whom are first-generation college hopefuls and students of color, to apply to, attend, and graduate from a competitive four-year college.

For two weeks this summer, 50 to 60 MMB juniors will enroll in college-level seminars on subjects spanning neuroscience to the war on Ukraine, live and dine on the Medford/Somerville campus, and take part in extracurricular activities. They’ll also learn the ins and outs of the college application process and receive specialized mentoring. It’s all designed to provide a realistic snapshot of the college experience, an experience in which they can see themselves.

Each student’s tuition and living expenses will be fully paid through the Cummings Foundation grant, which will be disbursed over three years, an annual contribution from the Office of the Provost of $120,000 for three years, and support from MMB.

“As a student-centered research university that seeks to embrace non-traditional learners and advance diversity and inclusion, Tufts University cannot simply talk about making college more accessible. We must back up our words with action, which requires time and money,” said Provost and Senior Vice President ad interim Caroline Genco. “Such efforts are particularly important for groups that are underrepresented on our campus and those who live in our neighboring communities. We are very grateful to Cummings Foundation for supporting this University College initiative.”

MMB is part of a national nonprofit organization that nurtures the academic and social-emotional development of students from low-income backgrounds throughout high school and college; 100% of MMB students served have been accepted into a four-year college or university and 98% have graduated or are currently enrolled. 

While MMB students have participated in pre-college summer programs in the past—in fact Tufts conducted a pilot involving seven students last summer—this is the first time that a single institution will host all members of one high school class.

“We’re proud to be supporting the efforts of Minds Matter Boston and Tufts to widen the educational opportunities for area students from underserved socio-economic backgrounds,” said Cummings Foundation Executive Director Joyce Vyriotes. “We hope that enabling MMB’s entire junior class to share the Tufts pre-college experience will help these students build a stronger sense of community and gain life-long skills that will contribute to their success in college and beyond.”

Founded by trustee emeritus Bill Cummings, A58, H06, J97P, M97P, and his wife, Joyce, H17, J97P, M97P, Cummings Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in New England, with grants to Greater Boston non-profits alone totaling almost $500 million.

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