As the COVID vaccine rollout continues in the United States, we are collectively seeing some glimmers of hope on the horizon.
It's been over a year since the first shelter-in-place order went into effect in the Bay Area. As we all know, Summer Search's communities, along with the entire country, have been adapting to a new, virtual world, as best they can.
During our recent Summer Search Bay Area Beyond Limits event, our staff, alumni, and students shared reflections on how they navigated the past year. We invite you to watch below and see how our resilient community has been supporting each other and making the best out of an unprecedented situation.
Jessica Price, Alumna
"Last year influenced me as a person, by helping me realize that life is short. You have to make the best of what you can, while you still can."
Jessica, who is a teacher at Oakland Unified School District, also shared her challenges and trepidations with transitioning to distance learning, something she never thought she would be doing as a teacher.
"I didn't know how I was going to do it," she explained. "I was scared. I was nervous. And I remember the first day, I had butterflies in my stomach. I turned on my computer, and the minute I saw my students, my heart just smiled. They were so happy to be there... I thought to myself, 'Ok, you don't know how you're gonna do it, but you're gonna figure it out, because [my students] deserve the best."
Andrian Torres, Alumnus
Just two weeks before the shelter-in-place order, Andrian welcomed a new baby boy to his family. In looking back, Andrian is grateful for the unique experience that having a newborn in quarantine presented.
"That's kind of been the silver lining for me," he reflected. "I've been able to spend every waking moment with my family -- with my son, and my daughter, and my wife -- since the pandemic started. I will never have that opportunity ever again in life, and I don't take that for granted."
Iris Wong, Alumna
Iris, a recent college graduate, shared how her quarantine experience forced her to slow down and look inward.
"I'm someone who's a go-go-go type of person, someone who just likes a fast-paced environment," she said. "But being at home and having to take a step back and really prioritize my own mental health, was just really important to me. And different."
During the past year, Iris also connected with Andrian through the Bay Area's Career Coaching program, which pairs younger Summer Search alums with alumni further along in their careers. Andrian provided Iris with advice about the non-profit sector, as well as navigating the college-to-career transition.
"I am humbled to have been able to work with Iris because she's awesome," Andrian said. "It's just another way of staying connected and being able to pay it forward."
High School Junior
Leslie expressed her gratitude for the support she and her family received from Summer Search, from her mentor and our COVID Emergency Fund.
"I want to thank Summer Search [for] helping me last year, economically, for food and household expenses. And also my mentor, who has been helping me practice my english. I appreciate it."
Adrian Vega, Post-Secondary Mentor
Bay Area mentor Adrian Vega, along with the rest of our dedicated staff across the Summer Search network, found innovative ways to maintain close connections to our students, despite being physically distanced.
For Adrian, that meant changing how he approached the mentoring conversations with his post-sec students.
"I didn't want to take those conversations for granted. Instead, I wanted to show up and offer a reprieve from the world, even if it was only for a 15-minute conversation about what they had for breakfast. Just giving me and the Summer Searchers an opportunity to build community instead of weighing them down with questions and further adding the stress on an already stressful school year."
High School Junior
For Envision High School student Yaritzy, she has also felt her perspectives shift during the pandemic, focusing more on what she is grateful for.
"I would say that the biggest change I've had is most definitely my mentality. I feel like now I'm just more appreciative and more aware of my surroundings because I know that something so drastic like a pandemic can just remove all that from me. I'm now more thankful for the times I get to spend with my family [and] the times I get to spend working on my business."
By the way, you check out Yaritzy's business, Gloss Goddess Cosmetics, which she started with her younger sister.
Vanessa Torres, College Freshman
"For me, I feel like I slowly learned how to love myself. At first I thought that I had a really sufficient foundation for loving myself, but especially for what I went through last year, [that foundation] completely fell through. I felt like there was not a balance between how much I gave myself and how much I gave others."
BONUS: Watch Vanessa talk with her mentors, Mira, Barb, and Adrian, who all supported her growth throughout her Summer Search journey -- from high school, to exploring post-secondary paths, to now being a freshman at San Francisco State University!