Summer Search is honored to officially welcome Malika Graham-Bailey, our new Vice President of Program!
Malika brings more than 20 years of leadership focusing on the efficacy and sustainability of youth development initiatives that are critical to supporting thriving post-secondary life outcomes for our under-resourced youth.
She comes to us from Duke University, where she led operations for the Talent Identification Program, which supported 100,000 students across nine states and three countries.
Since joining the team, Malika has been busy traveling across our network to each of our sites to learn how our programs operate in the regions, how they work with the communities, and how Summer Search mentors are serving our young people.
"I'm a big fan of networks," Malika explains (via video message from her hotel overlooking the Boston skyline). "I've spent my career trying to make sure that networks that do work in favor of positive youth outcomes are strong and sustainable and built on systems that make the work easier and more impactful."
Malika was kind enough to share some of her learnings and reflections on her Summer Search residency tour, which also included
a stop in Colorado to participate in our first Depth Mentoring Institute training with our longtime summer partners, Deer Hill Expeditions.
Question: What's it Like to Walk in Your Shoes?
Malika: I gotta say, what's interesting about Summer Search, especially in these first couple of weeks exploring the regions, is how much the "Walk in My Shoes" feels similar to the walk that our young people are taking.
I was in a program like this when I was younger. I had transformational summer experiences. I believe deeply in being engaged in the summer and my parents took me up on that challenge and helped me find accessible opportunities to be engaged every summer, just like our Summer Searchers... So, I'm excited to uplift the voices of our Summer Searchers and also their families.
Q: What Are You Looking Forward To Doing at Summer Search?
Malika: One of the things that really intrigues me and makes me extremely committed to driving our values home is Summer Search's commitment to unapologetically serving Black and Brown youth and not shying away from the importance of dismantling obstacles.
It’s no secret that less people look like us in spaces where Summer Search has entre and I'm excited to make sure that door is open as wide as possible.
If you know me, you know how important the work that my parents have done through the years in the struggle for liberation is to my life and my identity.
When I was little, I asked [my Dad] what he wanted me to be when I grew up. And his response was, "As long as you join the struggle." And I really feel like I have... Really understanding that my place is in making education as accessible and equitable as possible, which means thinking about what happens for young people as they're shaped both inside and outside of the classroom... And I am really excited to continue that work with Summer Search.
Q: What's Something Unique You've Learned on Your Summer Search Travels?
Malika: It is a dark and dreary day. Like, the skies are black, the clouds are in, and it is raining. And I wanted to share this because one of the most unique things about my Summer Search New York experience is how comfortable and welcomed the students feel in our physical spaces [across our network]...
I also say that our partners are doing a great job of making our students feel comfortable as well... I appreciate that we're doing that [and] also expecting our partners to do that. It's just a baseline of making our young people feel comfortable in the spaces that we have.
Stay tuned for more insight from Malika, our students and alumni, and other leaders from the Summer Search orbit.