November 15, 2019

Before I met you,
I went through so many scars that left invisible wounds
And moments that forever stayed in the back of my mind.
I questioned who I was and where I came from.
I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

Every young person that comes to Summer Search faces unique circumstances and challenges — and Ren Peredo has certainly faced his fair share of both.

Ren with Mentors Regina and MonicaRen (center), with Summer Search Seattle mentors Monica (left) and Regina (right, former mentor).

A Challenging Road

Starting when Ren was only six years old, he unexpectedly lost his hearing, leading to confusion and feeling isolated from other kids his age.

“I didn’t exactly know why I couldn’t ‘hear’ anymore,” he explained. “I went to a hearing elementary school where I was always bullied for being deaf. I always used to think that I didn’t belong anywhere.”

After receiving a surgically implanted hearing aid, learning American Sign Language (ASL), and transferring schools, Ren started excelling academically. However, outside of school, verbal communication was still challenging.

“Even as I thrived as a deaf person in education, in public I would be defined as dumb or stupid simply because I couldn’t hear. I had to learn how to lip read as I go because of the majority of the time I couldn’t hear everything.”

Despite these challenges, Ren was determined not to let his circumstances slow him down.

“I refuse to let my deafness become an excuse for something I want, I’m not that person. I’m the kind of person that puts in 150% of everything I have to be successful even if it means doing twice the work… Being deaf taught me self-advocacy and confidence.”

As he got older, Ren also began to question his gender identity.

“I always felt like I didn’t belong in the stereotype of being identified as the binary sex I was born as. It was always uncomfortable to be asked a question of whether I was a boy or a girl. For every time I was asked that question, I never felt like I fit in either categories.”

Once again, Ren faced bullying and feelings of isolation, even in his own family and church community, saying “it was a struggle to find some kind of comfort in the world where I was not either a boy or a girl. I kept my family at a distance where I didn’t want them to know anything about me being identified within the LGBTQ community.”

But just like with his hearing loss, Ren showed tremendous strength and resiliency in exploring his identity.

I learned so much about myself through finding my identity as a trans male that it allowed me to see the world differently. I believed in myself and the small goals that adds up to a big goal of truly being me.”

Ren and Mentor MonicaRen and Seattle mentor Monica.

A Trusting Connection

When he joined Summer Search Seattle, Ren was able to build on his confidence and learn new skills. Ren formed an instant bond with his mentor, Summer Search alumna Regina.

“Honestly before I had Regina as my mentor, I had a lot of self-doubt about who I am, and actually owning the fact that I am me… but then also having trouble reaching out to people I can trust about the issues that I have.”

Ren found himself confiding in her and sharing some of the deep emotional issues he had kept inside for years. In gaining Ren’s trust, Regina helped him break down the defensive walls he had put up.

“Trusting Regina made me feel like I can change the world. It made realize that I needed people who have my back as much as I have theirs. Regina is part of my chosen family, one of the people that I can turn to.”

In addition to his mentoring relationship, Ren’s summer experiences with the Aspen Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Colorado proved truly transformational. He reflected on the impact of Summer Search and these summer experiences in one of his beautiful poems:

And I was gone for a few weeks.
Facing everything I came across to and having fun
Through many challenges of self-advocacy and trust.
And although I wasn’t thinking of home,
I was smiling in places I’ve never been to.

And I was gone,
Writing poems and tasting the world with my tongue.
Learning who I am in different worlds that I see.
Thinking everything that we’ve talked about and settling down.
Believing in myself through every step of the way.

Ren and Mentor Monica at the Seattle LuncheonRen and Monica at the Summer Search Seattle Luncheon.

The intensive mentoring and summer experiential learning trips provided by Summer Search encourage students like Ren to be their own best advocates. Ren’s summer trips helped him build courage, while the full-time mentoring he received jump-started a drive towards self-healing and growth.

A Culinary Calling

Not only is he a talented poet, but Ren is also an aspiring chef with a passion for food.

“When I was a kid, I would spend a lot of time in the kitchen just admiring food that my family would make or bring to the table.”

In high school, he participated in a culinary program at Puget Sound Skills Center where he learned the science of food and gained cooking skills.

“It’s the best part of my days [the program]. I love seeing how food is made and learning different food from various cultures and countries across the world… And that’s where I realized I wanted to actually be a Chef.”

Ren the ChefA delicious dish prepared by Ren at the Puget Sound Skills Center.

So, after graduating high school this past summer, Ren’s next step will be to Seattle Central College to study his passion (other than poetry) of Culinary Arts!

“I have wanted to attend Seattle Central College, since I was eight years old. I grew up there, I found more support and community in Seattle, especially Capitol Hill. It is crucial to me that I have a standing support in the Deaf community as well as the LGBTQ+ community.”

He hopes to use his cooking skills as a method to see the world and give back to those in need.

“I want to be able to travel the world and explore what it means to really have food. Though I do want to cook for people, for their needs and wants, I also want to taste their food. We create a better world, a better bond through food and dining experiences that we have with people. The dream is to change the world by impacting people for better than they were before. Yet, my dream is through the gift of food and the experiences of dining.”

Ren's High School GraduationRen celebrating his graduation from Tyee High School!

In closing, Ren shared a powerful post-graduation reflection on his journey so far and what he is most excited about for his future.

“I look back at the person I was in high school, and there was a lot of tremendous experiences and tragedies that shaped the person I am. The experiences and tragedies I’ve had taught me a lot of things — emotionally, socially, academically, and realistically. Summer Search has also opened up doors for me in those senses.

I’m forever grateful I had experienced so many things in high school, especially in exploring who I am. As I graduated, I was truly emotional in how far I have come; not only as a scholar but as a person overall. I’m so ready for what life has in store for me.”

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