As we all know, the last few years have been anything but normal.
At Summer Search, while our mentoring support for our young people continued uninterrupted, the pandemic forced a pivot with many of our summer experience offerings, with many moving online or being limited in duration, distance from home, or participation numbers.
However, thanks to the incredible planning, prep, and partnership of our entire community, this summer was the first since 2019 where we saw a return to normal with our summer programming!
That means the majority of our students got to travel to in-person experiences that were challenging and empowering, and provided ample opportunity for growth and connection.
"One thing about Summer Search: we stay outside!" - @summersearchphilly
From late June through the end of August, more than 550 Summer Searchers - high school sophomores, juniors, and even a few seniors - participated in:
Shian, from Summer Search NYC, on a wilderness experience in Colorado with Global Routes.
"Because I am able to experience things and come out of my comfort zone, I was able to conquer all fears and realize once again it was not about the situation, it was about perspective. So, literally if people put their minds to it, they can do it." ~ Shian, New York City student reflecting on her trip to Colorado with Global Routes.
These summer experiences mark a turning point for high school participants, where they begin to (and continue to) recognize their own personal power, strengths, and abilities to navigate future challenges. Over the next few months, participants will reflect on their experiences and work to integrate learnings and lessons from their trips with the support of their mentor.
As Shian from NYC (pictured above) shares, after achieving and growing so much over the summer, that integration back to "normal" is a big step in its own right:
"The most challenging thing about my trip [was] coming home… Having that kind of growth and change in mindset was a little scary. How do I come back the same person, but not the same person?"
Left: Summer Search Boston students and mentors on a service trip in Puerto Rico with the Fuller Center for Housing.
Right: Boston students on a wilderness experience with Thompson Island Outward Bound.
“In middle school and early high school I was dealing with bad social anxiety, so when I went on the trip I had a challenge for myself to expand my social skills. It was an amazing experience. I never thought it was going to be that way." ~ Leisha, Boston student reflecting on her trip to Puerto Rico with the Fuller Center for Housing.
Across our network, Summer Searchers expressed how welcome and important the social aspects of their experiences were to them. After so much isolation and uncertainty, these summer programs offered unique opportunities for connection and camaraderie.
Dani, a NYC student reflecting on his wilderness experience with Chewonki, explains:
"I forgot how much as a kid I just enjoyed spending time with other people, and it was something I had to relearn... especially being in quarantine and not being with that many people. Something that I thought wasn’t going to be easy for me to do became very natural."
It truly takes a village of amazing partners and people to support our student's ability to access these empowering experiential opportunities.
Thank you to all of our summer program partners for giving our participants a summer of stories, triumphs, and transformation!
And to our Summer Searchers: thank you for your courage, conviction, and curiosity in taking on these adventures. We're sending an enormous congratulations for completing your summer experiences, and wishing you the best as you start school again!
Leave a comment to say congrats!
Summer Search Philadelphia students gathering for Philly's Summer Prep day (top left), an Architecture Internship program with Brawer Hauptman (top right) and our Environmental Justice Brigade (bottom).