June 17, 2015

We recently sent our very own Aubrey Merriman, Executive Director of Summer Search Silicon Valley, to CGI America 2015. Here is what he learned, in his own words:

For me, it was an honor to represent Summer Search at CGI America, a high-powered event that brings together leaders from the business, philanthropic, nonprofit, and government sectors to discuss the nation’s economic and social challenges and opportunities. This year, the focus of the nearly 1,000 participants in Denver, CO was on making big-dollar “commitments” aimed at addressing those issues.

CGI America is designed as a large “working meeting” to promote collaboration and actionable ideas. Participants joined one of ten topic-specific Working Groups that each met multiple times throughout the conference.

Men and Boys of Color Panel

Lisa Nutter, President of Philadelphia Academies Inc. and Summer Search Philadelphia’s Design Lab Partner, moderated a panel session discussing the social and economic barriers facing African-American and Latino men and boys. There was a robust discussion about how parents lack the tools to provide for their children in many low-income communities. There are also challenges around the fact that a “family” can mean so many different things to a young person growing up. The emerging perspective was that it is incumbent upon us (business, nonprofit, and government organizations) to partner with our communities in order to cultivate the tools and resources needed to totally wrap our arms around each and every young person in our neighborhoods.

Aubrey Merriman Tweet

The overall outlook of the panelists mirrored the perspective of one of the session participants, David McGhee, program officer for The Skillman Foundation. “The issues that these young people face will not be solved with one solution alone; we have to take a holistic approach.”

Commitments to Action

According to organizers, this year’s conference resulted in 79 new Commitments to Action! I lost count at 65. If fully funded and carried out, they will impact the lives of more than 1.6 million people in the United States. These new commitments will create or fill nearly 210,000 jobs, create more than $11.3 million in new capital for small businesses and help more than 110,000 students gain access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education opportunities.

CGI Commitments(Infographic courtesy of CGI America)

While the conference packed in almost too many highlights to count, my own personal highlight board includes the marathon networking / business-card-trading / photo-taking sessions with many Summer Search partners like AT&T, The Gap, and Roadtrip Nation; the excitement of learning and sharing best practices; facilitating a table discussion as part of the Reconnecting Youth Working Group; and spotlighting Summer Search’s intervention model and our “to and through” college differentiator.

Finally, my favorite moment was meeting former President Bill Clinton! #photobomb


His charm, charisma, detailed memory, as well as his commanding presence, was felt throughout the conference.
I left CGI America with a renewed sense that Summer Search matters, our students matter, and the work that we do matters.

— Aubrey Merriman is the Executive Director of Summer Search Silicon Valley.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Aubrey, and for representing at this important gathering. It’s inspiring to see so many others joining in the movement to support more, low-income students and especially young men of color on their path to college and beyond.

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