linda mornell, summer search founder
Linda was born in Muncie, Indiana, in 1943. She attended Methodist Hospital School of Nursing. In 1964, she studied psychiatric nursing at Langley Porter Institute at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. From 1972 until 1989, Linda was in private practice counseling families and adolescents. She developed a special interest in summer experiential educational programs as corrective emotional experiences for teenagers. In addition, her three children participated in these programs, ranging from leadership camps in North America to drama programs in England and community service projects in Haiti. In 1990, with no experience in the non-profit sector, Linda started Summer Search.
She began her work with 14 students in the San Francisco Bay Area. Linda’s passion and desire to change the path for these 14 students has blossomed into an even larger impact today – to give the life-changing Summer Search experience to over 2,200 students in the Bay Area, Boston, New York City, Seattle and Philadelphia.
Linda paired low-dose, highly-focused mentoring by full-time, trained paid staff with two sequenced summer experiences to maximize each student’s potential for growth and help them integrate and sustain their positive changes upon coming home. She shaped the mentoring program to allow mentors to become personally invested in each student and to focus on students’ altruism. It provided a safe space for students to talk about their struggles, but also to challenge students to gain self-awareness and take responsibility for their personal growth and academic success.
In August, 2005, Linda was named Bay Area Jefferson Award winner for outstanding c0mmunity service. She was profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle for her achievement. In that article, this is what she says about the Summer Search program:
"These kids show courage and take such huge risks in participating in these programs. These kids are going off with kids from other economic, ethnic and scholastic backgrounds. Many times, they are the only poor kids and the only minorities. We are very tough on our kids - we insist they drive their own progress in the program or take responsibility for their lack of progress. The trips are great, but the mentoring is where the real change takes place. The regular access to a sympathetic adult is where the kids really do change and transform themselves. We are providing models of success and leadership in schools for communities where it is increasingly rare or absent."
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Today, Linda continues to be involved in Summer Search, maintaining the relationships, support and connection she has with the many alumni and supporters of the program. In addition, Linda is writing a book about her experience in creating Summer Search, and is also consulting and helping other nonprofits learn how to mentor more effectively.