success story: marcus, summer search alumnus

It’s difficult to imagine how different a life might be without its major influences

Marcos Nuño, 35, is a math teacher at St. Michael Middle School in Livermore, CA. He enriches the lives of dozens of kids every year, teaching them algebra and geometry, and stressing to them the

importance of education. But who knows where Marcos Nuño would be now if not for the positive influence of Summer Search?

“It was my sophomore year at St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland,” Nuño said recently, “and one of our counselors told us a program was coming in to ‘grant us our wishes.’ So we had to write an essay, and we had to jot down what our dream was. So I wrote that I wanted to go to Italy to play soccer, since the World Cup had just ended, and I had soccer dreams, and soccer on the mind. And toward the end

of the essay, I put, ‘being Catholic, I’d love to meet the Pope.’ ” Nuño laughs at the memory. A couple of weeks later, Summer Search founder Linda Mornell showed up at St. Elizabeth and interviewed a few of the students who had written essays, Nuño among them.

He remembers being taken with Mornell right away. “We went in, and, if you know Linda, she gives you that stare.” Nuño laughed again thoughtfully, as though picturing the famously piercing Linda Mornell stare. “She interviewed me for about an hour,” Nuño continued, “and toward the end, she got on the phone, and she made a few calls, and she said, ‘There’s an organization called Sports for Understanding, but they only have a few spots left, and the deadline for their Italy trip is coming up. How soon can you find out if you’re allowed to go?’ And she had me call my parents right there after the interview. And I called my mom, and she said, ‘Call your dad.’ And I called my dad at work, and he said, ‘Yes.’ And then Linda told me right then and there, ‘Okay, you’re off to Italy.’”

It was Nuño’s first time outside the United States, and first time traveling anywhere for more than a

few days. He ended up playing soccer and seeing the sights and soaking up the culture in Italy for

nearly a month. The biggest thing Nuño got out of his Italy trip was the realization that there was a world outside of Oakland. “I thought Oakland was the whole world,” he said. “That was my first long, long trip. And people spoke a different language. It really expanded my universe.”

For Nuño’s second trip, after his junior year in high school, he wanted to keep following his soccer dreams and go to Brazil, but Mornell would have no part of that. “She told me no,” Nuño laughed.

“She told me, ‘You’re going to Northwestern University for the summer to study engineering.’ So I went to Northwestern. She said that I had to start thinking about college instead of thinking about soccer.” At Northwestern, it was the first time Nuño had ever been challenged in school. “I’d always gotten A’s,” he said. “And I never had to study. It came easy to me. But that summer was the first time I realized I wasn’t the top student in the nation. It brought me to earth. I realized there was some real academic competition out there. It opened my eyes to higher education.”

Today, Nuño, who lives in Stockton, has a 21-month old girl named Tressa, and his second child is due right around the time of the Summer Search 20th Anniversary party. When asked about Mornell, Nuño sighed deeply, momentarily overwhelmed. “I could spend all day talking about Linda,” he said, finally. “But first of all, if it wasn’t for Linda being part of my life, I don’t think I would’ve gone to college. In fact, I don’t know if anyone in my family would’ve continued with school. But Linda was there for all four of us in my family, all four siblings, and we all went through Summer Search. So she’s had a huge impact on my family.”

Marcos was the first Nuño ever to go to college, and he ended up at San Jose State. He started as an engineering major, but finished with a liberal arts degree and an emphasis in math. During their time at Summer Search, his brothers matriculated to Cornell and Syracuse. His sister attended The University of California at San Diego.

Nuño came from a strict Catholic background. He avoided trouble growing up and was an excellent student. But his family’s income, and the fact that no one in his family had ever gone to college, made higher education seem like a dim and distant dream. In fact, Nuño’s father had wanted to open a body shop, and have his sons working alongside him once they finished high school, but college ended up changing all of that. “Because of Summer Search,” Nuño said, “I guess my dad’s dream got erased, but all four of his children got to have dreams of our own. Academics became the most important thing in our household.”

When asked how Summer Search changed his life, Nuño answered immediately and succinctly. “I’m

educated,” he said. “I’m an educated person because of Summer Search.” And then he went on, “Now that I’m a teacher,” he said, “I try to persuade the kids that education is the way to the future. Without education, it’s going to be difficult to make it in this world.”

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