September 28, 2016

At Summer Search, mentoring is a huge part of what we do and why our students are successful. We partner each Summer Searcher with a staff mentor who builds an authentic and long-lasting relationship in order to provide individualized support to help them succeed, not only at school, but at home and in their communities.

We’re fortunate to have recently had two high profile opportunities to step forward as a leader in the field, alongside a few of our partners, and share our mentoring stories.

Arne Duncan Talks Mentoring and Summer Search

A few weeks ago, PBS aired its latest installment of American Graduate Day, a program celebrating people and organizations dedicated to helping youth stay on track to graduate high school, and highlighting the supporting role of mentoring.

Soledad O’Brien hosted the star-studded broadcast, featuring testimonials from celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal, Colin Powell, and Rachel Platten.

However, the guest we were most excited about was the former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In his segment, he spoke about the benefits of a college education, the impact mentoring had on his own life, and provided a resounding endorsement of Summer Search!

“Relationships matter… We all need people to look up to. What Summer Search does is so important.” — Arne Duncan.

By the way, not only was Summer Search well represented through Arne Duncan’s generous words in front of the camera, we were also behind the camera, with alumnus Edgar Garcia doing the filming in Secretary Duncan’s Chicago offices.

Critical Mentoring at CGI

Back in June, we had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America 2016 meeting. There, with our partners at the Youth Mentoring Action Network (YMAN), we announced our Commitment to Action, entitled #BeReal: Critical Mentoring for College Success.

Last week, we were honored to follow up on that commitment and share more about this work at CGI’s Annual Meeting in New York City!

There, our acting CEO and Chief Development Officer Guadalupe Nickell teamed up with Dr. Torie Weiston-Serdan, CEO of YMAN, to facilitate a breakout session called “U.S. Youth Employment Action Network: A New Mentoring Framework,” on how mentoring can help to prepare young people for successful lives and careers.

As part of the conversation, we shared best practices and lessons learned for how to provide comprehensive and culturally competent mentoring programs, highlighting the concept of Critical Mentoring. Here is an overview of what was discussed.

mentoring-notesNotes from the discussion of “what does a mentor do?”

In order for us at Summer Search to help address societal inequities and effectively prepare our students — low-income, first-generation youth who are primarily of color — for success, we need to have “real conversations” about the impact and meaning of race/ethnicity (and other categories) to our students’ educational and professional journeys.

This means that we have to be willing to talk about the context of our youths’ lives and where they intersect with power and privilege. These topics are important to youth, especially to adolescents of color, who are trying to make sense of a world around them that is sending mixed, oftentimes negative, messages.

Our alumni expressed how they wish they could have experienced this type of mentoring to prepare them for the realities of being the only person of color in the workplace or the classroom. They also want to be involved in helping future generations of Summer Searchers in those same situations.

Since then, we have been working to better equip our mentors through staff development and training on a more asset-based curriculum that lifts up our students’ voices.

We want the organizations that we partner with to recognize that through mentoring we can more effectively support the way our students see themselves, understand their context, and prepare for a future emboldened with new knowledge and power.

Summer Search is leaning into the difficult and challenging work to better understand how critical conversations of equity, diversity, and inclusion impact our community. We are grateful to have partners like Arne Duncan and Torie Weiston-Serdan to lean in with us.

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