VISIONS Partner Celebrates 20th Anniversary–– Congratulations, Summer Search!

A remarkable nonprofit recently celebrated its first 20 years. Summer Search “is a high-impact program that gives low-income students the opportunities and support they need to transform their lives, achieve their own potential, and create change as role models and everyday leaders.”
VISIONS has partnered with Summer Search for two decades, providing program spaces for their kids among our annual scholarships. Philosophically and practically VISIONS feels a deep affinity for Summer Search, and their kids enrich our enrollment every summer.

Summer Search kids are closely mentored year-round. Linda Mornell, Summer Search’s founder and former CEO, realized early on that it wasn’t enough to get low income kids out of their neighborhoods and into outdoor / wilderness trips, academic sojourns, or programs of community service abroad for a few weeks in the summer. They needed real support before and after their trips to help them process and integrate the new experience in an environment radically different from anything they’d known.

Mornell created an initial intake interview model and an ambitious year-round mentoring process that helps the transition into college. In an August Reuters interview, part of a series on social entrepreneurship, she said, “Adolescents are complicated and erratic… Learning how to listen actively is a skill. Active listening is like being a sponge. It’s just taking in everything you are hearing without thinking about what you’re going to say next. We had a phrase for it: ‘listen longer.'”

Working passionately on her own at first, Linda won the trust of a few teachers in inner-city schools who referred students to her. By Summer Search’s second year 87 kids went on wilderness, academic and community service abroad programs. Last year 824 kids participated in summer programs! Along with the original San Francisco office there are now offices in North San Francisco, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Silicon Valley.

A Summer Search students gets two summers. The second summer’s goals include developing three essential qualities–reflection, altruism, performance–that are part of assessing candidates and must be present to some degree. (Between the initial interview and the student taking hold, approximately 20-30% of kids drop-off. Says Linda: “Once they realize it’s not a free summer trip, but that they have to start looking inward, stop blaming others, call in once a week and start the mentoring process, once that dust settles, the kids tend to stay in the program. It’s intense.”)

Other second-summer goals, and where VISIONS’ partnership comes into play, are to broaden perspective of the world and self; better one’s life prospects by creating goals for a different future than previously envisioned; and engage in a different culture.

How successful has Summer Search been in achieving its goals? 89% of kids graduate from college, a statistic that differentiates Summer Search from any other program. 61% of alumni who graduate college are involved in careers that provide service to others. 100% of kids accepted into Summer Search graduate from high school.

We are proud partners of Summer Search and will be on board supporting Summer Search students for the next 20 years, to be sure.

VISIONS in The New York Times