June 11, 2019

There’s a popular saying that “the path to success is not a straight line.” At Summer Search, we support our young people on their journeys to success, which can indeed take many different pathways, twists, and turns.

Arsel Perez is deeply committed to helping his family, while also striving to find his “dream career” and securing his own successful future.

Arsel-2016-NB-DinnerArsel Perez speaking at the 2016 Summer Search North Bay Dinner.

Arsel was raised in Santa Rosa, CA in a tight-knit family that is long on love and short on money, like 96% of Summer Search students who come from low-income communities. His favorite English teacher, Mr. Jones, nominated Arsel to join Summer Search Bay Area his sophomore year.

“Mr. Jones saw some potential in me,” Arsel explains. “Still to this day I’m thankful for having him as a teacher and helping me connect to Summer Search.”

As a high schooler, Arsel’s relationship with his Summer Search mentor, Josie Santiago, became invaluable as she encouraged him to reflect on his next steps after graduation.

She really made me analyze my position and give myself a plan for after high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I did want to help support my family financially.”

Along with Summer Search’s professional mentoring, Arsel’s summer experiences drove him to unleash his strength and reflectiveness. He said that his first trip, which was a backpacking and service program in Colorado with Deer Hill Expeditions, “pushed me out of my comfort zone to try something really different.”

Arsel-DH-TripArsel on his summer program with Deer Hill in Colorado.

That experience also sparked a love of travel that was cemented after his second summer program in Thailand with Rustic Pathways. Now Arsel knows, “travel will be a part of my life forever.”

Arsel-RP-TripArsel working on a service project with Rustic Pathways in Thailand.

Both trips made Arsel more open to taking risks and diving into uncharted territory back home, including exploring unknown career paths. During his senior year of high school, Arsel developed an interest in a career in Law Enforcement as a way to serve the public. He joined a youth program with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office to learn more, and even worked as a security guard. However, after a few years, he realized that career path was not for him.

In reflecting with his mentor on what he gained from that experience , Arsel maintained a positive outlook, saying “Even though it didn’t work out, at least later on I won’t regret it [pursuing that career] because I gave it a fair try.”

Watch Arsel talk about being a role model to young men of color at the 2016 Summer Search North Bay Dinner (at 1:35):https://vimeo.com/163884209

After graduating from high school, Arsel knew he didn’t want to jump into a four-year college. He’s extremely close to his family and holds the noble goal of helping pay their mortgage while creating his own financial stability.

I feel the responsibility to help my family in whatever way I can, after growing up without much money. Right now, more than half my paycheck goes to my family, so finances matter to me. I try to budget, and I have financial goals for myself. My mentality is [to] help my parents now and save for my future.”

This led him to enroll in a local community college, so he can continue to hold a job that allows him to financially support his family and plan for his future. Amazingly, Arsel manages to balance school, full-time work, playing in a band, and his family commitments.

Thanks to Summer Search and conversations with his mentor about his Sociology classes and work experiences, Arsel has defined his values for what a fulfilling career means to him.

I definitely want a career where I can help people and serve my community members. I could see myself becoming a counselor or working for a nonprofit supporting low-income students. I think my first-hand experience with that could serve me well in this career.”

We couldn’t agree more – we love seeing our students grow into community leaders!

No matter where our students’ journeys might lead, Summer Search will be there to support and cheer them on! Stay tuned for more stories of Summer Searchers, like Arsel, who are taking diverse paths towards success in school, work, and in life.

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