Senior Mentor Series – Meet Jeff Berger & Geraldine "Gerri" Barnett

Jeff Berger Geraldine Barnett
Jeff Berger, Investment Associate at UBS Financial Services Inc. 
Geraldine “Gerri” Barnett, Senior Tax Accountant at Sherwin-Williams 


Where are you from?
Jeff: I’m from Columbia Station, OH.


Gerri: And I’m from Cleveland!


How did you learn about Minds Matter Cleveland?
Jeff: The former president of Minds Matter Cleveland is a colleague of mine. He introduced me to the organization.


Gerri: I learned about Minds Matter through a friend who was a mentor at the time.


Why did you decide to join Minds Matter? How long have you been a volunteer?
Jeff: I was looking to do something to give back in the city, and the mission of Minds Matter seemed honorable. I couldn’t think of anything more valuable than helping high-achieving, low-income students achieve their goals. This is my 3rd year being a volunteer.


Gerri: I also wanted to give back to the community. I previously volunteered with Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland and really enjoyed working with students. I like how Minds Matter enables volunteers to have more hands-on experience with the mentoring piece, where you get build long-term relationship and commitment with your students and can actually see their progress. This is my 5th year volunteering with Minds Matter.


What do you like most about Minds Matter Cleveland?
Jeff: Minds Matter help me appreciate my path so much more. I didn’t have some of the challenges that our students have, so I didn’t necessarily need a program like this to go to college. I appreciate the sacrifices my parents and grandparents made that allowed me to attend college. Our students simply don’t have the same opportunities. So I like being able to help them better reach their goals.


Gerri: I didn’t have anyone who gave me guidance or having access to a structured program like this when I was in high school. Minds Matter does things that no other organization does: provide one-on-one mentorship experience for students, give them a head start on their search for college admission and walk them through the process.


Who are your mentees? 
Jeff & Gerri: We have Samantha and Stephanie as our mentees. Samantha is currently attending John Hay High School and Stephanie goes to MC²STEM High School.


Jeff & Gerri with mentees-1
Caption: Jeff & Gerri with mentees, Samantha & Stephanie


What is the most rewarding part of your mentoring experience?
Jeff: Each Minds Matter student has their own stories of overcoming obstacles. There are a lot of points in these stories where they could have given up, but they didn’t. They all show tenacity to dedicate time, energy, and work to achieve their goals. I love working with my mentees. Watching them grow over the last 2.5 years and accomplish their goals of getting accepted into several universities feels very rewarding. They bring lots of joy and excitement; it is nice to see them beginning their own journey.


Gerri: When students have anxiety about decision making, I can be there to help calm them down, to provide that mentoring and guidance to keep them on track with their goals. That feels rewarding to me.


What does the future look like for your mentorship with the students and your involvement with Minds Matter Cleveland after graduation?
Jeff: I want to keep in contact with Samantha and Stephanie after they graduate. As for Minds Matter, I am open to explore other roles available with the organization.


Gerri: I definitely want to stay connected with my mentees once they finish with the program. I also want to continue being involved with Minds Matter and keep up with my current VP of Finance role.


Jeff & Gerri w_ mentees-2