Melissa Hulme: Young Professionals
We’re all about young leaders. Summer Search’s mission is to help students from low-income backgrounds strengthen the skills needed to become college graduates and leaders in their communities.
However, there are other young leaders that are playing a significant role in the Summer Search world. These are groups of altruistic young professionals who are dedicated to supporting our mission. They go by different names across the Summer Search network — there’s Boston’s Young Leadership Committee (YLC), Philadelphia’s Young Professional’s Network (YPN), and Seattle’s Alumni Board, while the Bay Area and New York City both refer to their respective groups as the Associate Board (AB).
No matter what you call them, these groups of philanthropic rock stars provide all kinds of support, from fundraising, to volunteering, to networking, as Melissa Hulme, who has been part of the Bay Area AB for about two years and was formerly a co-chair, explains:
“I love having the opportunity to work with other young professionals who share a similar passion and dream, yet who bring varied backgrounds and perspectives. The Associate Board is a very positive and supportive community where I have formed meaningful bonds. I also love that the AB provides varied ways to get involved with Summer Search. We get to volunteer for events and spend time with the students, put together fun events to raise money for the organization and introduce our friends to Summer Search, and get to know mentors, development staff, board members, and others who make Summer Search’s mission possible.”
“We raise money directly in support of Summer Search, but we have fun along the way and never forget whom we’re doing it for, and why,” says Emily Jager, who co-chairs Boston’s YLC alongside Elizabeth Connolly.
Our various Associate Boards are continuing to find new and creative ways to fundraise for Summer Search. In NYC, they have organized several spin/cycling class events, bringing people together for high energy group workouts that are also fundraisers. One recent event brought in more than $2,000.
Inspired by NYC, Philly’s YPN also pedaled into the popular cycling class trend, and have already held two successful events this year, raising $9,600!
In Boston, the YLC took advantage of the excitement around the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament and held a successful “March Madness” fundraiser, where people filled out tournament brackets and made donations. They also just held their inaugural “Fall Fest,” a fall-themed cocktail party to inspire back to school gifts. Between those two fundraisers, the YLC brought in $65,000 for Summer Search Boston!
Many of our sites’ boards have thrown similar “happy hours”/cocktail parties over the years. The Bay Area Associate Board just held their second annual “Walk, Run, Soar” cocktail event. Last year the party raised $50,000, smashing the AB’s original goal of $25,000. This year they did even better, bringing in $68,000!
Seattle’s Alumni Board hosted a special dinner at the home of Bao-Tram Do for alumni donors who made gifts to Summer Search, as a way to say thank you and connect with one another. Nearly 30% of our Seattle area alumni have either attended an event or made a donation this past year, equaling more than $10,000! They also hosted a similar brunch this summer on Alumni Board Chair Sumeet Chadha’s breathtaking roof deck.
Connecting with Students and Alumni
When they’re not busy cycling, sweating, or socializing to raise money for Summer Search, these young professionals are engaging with our students and alumni in a number of ways.
The Seattle Alumni Board hosted a bubble tea event near the University of Washington where board members networked with college students and encouraged them to stay involved with Summer Search after graduation.
Speaking of alumni, Jordan Singleton is a Boston alumnus who moved to NYC and was inspired to reconnect with Summer Search at a NYC Associate Board event in 2013. Jordan is now the recruitment chair for NYC’s AB, and also recently helped organize a Career Day at his company, global data center provider Equinix for around 20 NYC students. In describing the event, Jordan said, “We spoke to what a data center is, what careers are available, and how the internet connects the world.”
NYC also held a Professional Development Seminar at the offices of global investment firm General Atlantic in February, thanks in part to Co-Chair Hilary Hoffman, where Summer Search alumni got to network with AB members from a variety of industries, and learned how to better approach the job market and formalize plans on how to find a job or switch careers.
Some Bay Area AB members participated in a similar career development event this summer.
Emily Jager from Boston’s YLC provides career support as well. For the past two years she has been a Career Coach, working one-on-one with Summer Search college juniors at UMass, an experience she says has been “very rewarding.” Emily adds that “helping and watching these students tackle and persevere through on-the-job challenges has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me because I see how valuable it is for them as they begin their careers.”
Emily also helped organize a Career Day at her company, MFS Investment Management, for about ten Summer Search college students. In describing the event Emily said, “my colleagues and I were very impressed by how engaged the students were; events like these really highlight the high caliber of students that come from Summer Search.”
Beyond career development, there are many events throughout the year where board members can engage with students and alumni. For Paul Jones, Bay Area AB co-chair alongside Alex McMullin, the annual fitness events are one of his favorite ways to connect.
“A recurring personal highlight (lucky me) is the annual sophomore fitness event, which has been centered around both runs and hikes during my years volunteering with Summer Search. There’s something about going through a strenuous experience with the students, providing support and watching as they support one another that’s really gratifying. It’s also a great way to connect with the students individually and I always come away so impressed with the caliber of the young people that Summer Search attracts.”
Paul was actually introduced to Summer Search at another event several years ago. As he explains, “My first introduction to Summer Search was at the annual Bay Area Investors Dinner. I was fortunate enough to sit next to Kevin Gay, who was the organization’s CFO at the time. Kevin spoke to me at length about the quality of the students, staff and outcomes at Summer Search, and the night’s programming did a lot to reinforce his message. He suggested that I pop into the office, which was coincidentally just two blocks from my apartment, to connect with staff members and see how I could get involved. I said, ‘sure, why not?’ and here I am now more than five years later!”
In fact, many of these young professionals were inspired to support Summer Search just by attending events like that one. August Gerhardt from Philly’s YPN had a similar experience as Paul, saying, “I first attended a Summer Search gala and was completely floored by the positive energy of the students. Those interactions motivated me to get involved in a broader way.”
Staying Involved and Inspired
No matter how they came to Summer Search, each member of our young professionals groups has remained inspired by our students and the impact of our program.
August, who co-chairs Philly’s YPN with Lucas Saunders, adds that, “I am motivated every time I get to interact with Summer Search students and alumni. It’s inspiring to listen and learn about how the program changes lives for the better.”
Diana Marko from the NYC AB explains why she continues to support Summer Search. “I think taking a moment to imagine how daunting some things are for a 15-year-old in the Summer Search demographic is what motivates me to continue supporting the organization year after year. There are things I had never thought about – such as how unimaginably intimidating things like FAFSA, travel, and internships must be without people around you who have experienced them. Where do you start? How tempting is it to give up? Summer Search isn’t a nice-to-have, this program is so important.”
After alumnus Jordan Singleton got reconnected with Summer Search, he said, “I realized quickly that I wanted to do more work with Summer Search and give back to an organization that not only made a difference in my life, but continues to do so for youth in cities across America.” He adds that “It’s a personal belief that anyone that has the drive and work ethic to get where they want to be in life should have the opportunity to do so. Summer Search provides that opportunity.”
Fellow alum Sumeet Chadha says of his experience with the Seattle Alumni Board, “It’s great to be with a group of people of similar age and similar interests giving back to an organization we care about.”
And if you are a young professional in the Bay Area, Boston, NYC, Philly, or Seattle and are wondering if you should get involved with Summer Search, let Diana and Paul give you some good reasons:
Diana Marko: “The Associate Board is a way to invest in your own community. There are so many on-ramps in our lives that we take for granted, and realizing that these pathways are hidden for kids who live three miles from your front door is a great motivator to help an organization like Summer Search which is working so effectively to level the playing field.”
Paul Jones: “It’s a long list [of reasons to get involved with Summer Search], but to name a few: if they are interested in working with some truly wonderful young people who have big dreams, if they want to work with an organization that provides resources and autonomy to design successful initiatives, if they want to connect with other like-minded young professionals and have fun doing it!”
Thank you to the many inspirational young professionals across the Summer Search network. Your support is so valuable in helping our students soar, becoming young leaders themselves… and maybe even future Associate Board/YLC/YPN members!