20 in their 20s

When you speak with Raj Salhotra about his mission to improve opportunities for under-resourced students, your first response is to ask where to sign up to help. The focus of his enthusiasm is Momentum Education, a nonprofit that provides mentorship, scholarship funding, and college and career counseling to high school and college students in the Houston area.

After graduating from Rice, Salhotra joined Teach For America as a high school math teacher and also taught at YES Prep Southwest. This experience drove home the dearth of opportunities for first-generation and low-income kids and motivated him to gain a greater understanding of law and policy. In response, he founded two educational nonprofits: One Jump, which connected high school students to summer programs, and SWAG (Students With Ambition Go) to College, a mentoring program. He also attended Harvard Law School, where he focused on the intersection of law and policy.

“The decision to run was driven by a desire to use policy to address the many issues I saw affecting my students outside of the classroom,” Salhotra says. “I was thinking about housing, transportation and the lack of opportunities to attend after-school or summer programs.”

After law school, he returned to Houston, deferred a job with Baker Botts and launched a campaign for city council. “The decision to run was driven by a desire to use policy to address the many issues I saw affecting my students outside of the classroom,” Salhotra says. “I was thinking about housing, transportation and the lack of opportunities to attend after-school or summer programs.”

Salhotra lost the city council race, but he learned that his north star was leveling the playing field for students from underserved backgrounds. Instead of returning to Baker Botts, he rolled both One Jump and SWAG to College into the nonprofit Momentum Education. 

“I’ve seen the power of social capital, of connections, of mentors and of access to resources,” Salhotra explains. “I fundamentally believe that we have an obligation to level the playing field and expand opportunities for all.”

Read more “20 in Their 20s” profiles here.

 

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