May 7, 2020

The following is a guest post and reflection from Seattle Summer Searcher Jessica Par, a junior at University of Washington Seattle pursuing Education. This was originally shared as part of Summer Search Seattle’s Unstoppable Campaign.

Being a part of Summer Search has changed my life. As a first-generation college student, and coming from a refugee background, I was so lost during high school. But Summer Search was able to provide me structure, while supporting me with resources and authentic mentorship. My Summer Search mentor plays such a critical role in my life that I’m not sure where I’d be without her. From talking about academic issues to professional development to personal matters, she has always been there for me.

Jessica ParJessica Par.

Sharing My Story

My first Summer Search backpacking trip in the Northwest Cascade was so meaningful. Since re-settling to the US during middle school, it was my first time being out in nature with people I didn’t know, who were also Summer Search students. I still clearly remember one night where we were all sharing our stories, and it was my first time sharing my refugee narrative to people outside of my family. I was scared, but my vulnerability showed me I could be courageous and proud. It was a turning point for me in which I realized the value and authenticity in my story and the stories of those around me.

Ever since then, I have continued to share my narratives to normalize and empathize with those who may have gone through a similar journey. I became very service-oriented and passionate to advocate for higher education access, thus, I began to give back to my community through volunteering and sharing my story.

Jessica at University of Washington-Seattle

My dream in life is to be a voice for underserved communities of color like mine. My identity as a 1.5 generation immigrant and a Southeast Asian Woman of Color have inspired me to bridge the gap for access in higher education in my community. So I continue to serve.

Impacts of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected both my academic process and mental health as I navigate online learning with constant concerns and chaos in my big, low-income Asian household who are all considered “essential workers”.

In addition, seeing about the everyday negative impact of COVID-19 towards Black, Indegenious, and People of Color (BIPOC) and the perpetuation of structural inequalities and racism through social media has taken another great toll on me, making me constantly worried about the safety and well-beings of my loved ones. With my summer internship on hold, I’m stressed about how next year will proceed for me.

I remember the critical role that Summer Search played for me during the senior year of my high school, and I am glad Summer Search continues to be there for students now. I can’t imagine how hard it’ll be for my fellow Summer Search high school seniors without their mentors.

Jessica and Summer SearchersJessica with fellow Summer Searchers and former mentor, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing is hard, and I miss being with my friends. But we’re all still able to keep in touch and cheer one another through social media. I am also blessed to be with my family at home, and I’m so grateful to be able to connect with my mentors and leaders. I have also been reflecting and journaling often, which I learned through Summer Search and has helped me significantly with my thought processes.

Supporting Each Other

Summer Search is a family, community, and a support system to many of us. It plays a critical role in how we are in this together. And for other rising first-generation college students, Summer Search can be the best support system that anyone could ask for. Social distancing is critical, but that doesn’t mean one must deal with this global pandemic alone. Eventually, only solidarity can solve this crisis.

Jessica High School Graduation

Learn more about Summer Search Seattle’s Unstoppable Campaign.

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