"This summer, I met incredible individuals, had the opportunity to challenge myself mentally and physically, and began to recover from past trauma that I used to avoid talking about." - Brenda, Summer Search Participant
Summer is in full effect!
With the support of the entire Summer Search community, we have been able to provide engaging, challenging, and safe experiences to more than 300 young people this summer.
These programs -- whether coding, environmental justice, college courses, internships, or the great outdoors -- push our young people to try new things, get out of their comfort zones, and build leadership skills, all while expanding their world views.
After last year's all-virtual summer programming, we're thrilled to get our students back outside! In fact, as of writing this, we have 80 students out in the field, with several others returning this week.
While this is somewhat of a return to our "normal" summer process (students coming and going), we've added layers of logistics and changes to ensure the safest possible experiences for our young people. Many of our summer partners have graciously worked with us to amend their programming and schedules to do so.
Collaborators in Authentic Connection
One of those is our longtime partner Deva Healing Center, who has been offering Summer-Search-only trips -- called Deva SoulJourneys -- that are not only physically challenging, but also emphasize therapeutic self expression and reflection.
As Bri Boertman, Deva Healing Center's Director, explains
: "Nearly a decade ago we specifically designed Deva SoulJourneys to meet the needs of the first-year Summer Search adventure experience, more specifically for female-identifying participants who may or may not have a history of trauma."
Deva SoulJourneys normally take place in New Mexico and Arizona. However, to accommodate one of Summer Search's safety measures of having students travel only by bus or van, Deva agreed to facilitate two programs in California for our Bay Area students. Despite the changed location, the core elements of the SoulJourney remained the same.
"Each adventure experience incorporates yoga and mindfulness, creative self-expression, and expedition travel in beautiful backcountry settings," Bri says. "
We gather for share circles each night, trek slowly across beautiful backcountry terrain accessible for most fitness levels, participate in daily experiential education workshops, enjoy crafternoons, and take time for silence and solitude each morning after yoga to reflect, journal, and practice just being."
Deva also plans to offer an LGBTQ+ specific course in the coming year, open to any gay, queer +, non-binary/conforming, and trans-identified Summer Search students.
Bri adds, "Magic lives here, in these sacred spaces created in the spirit of vulnerability and authentic connection."
Summer Searchers Leading and Representing
Over the years, that magic (along with an intentional effort from the Deva team) has brought several Summer Search alumnae back to Deva to work as interns and program coordinators. Two of those alums partnered to lead trips this summer.
Shakya Geiger, from Summer Search Philadelphia, describes her time with Deva in back high school as "truly a transformative and healing experience."
She continues: "Because my SoulJourney was so impactful, I decided to return as an intern back in 2019. That was the greatest reminder as to why I need to be part of the teams leading Summer Search youth on SoulJourneys."
Due to the logistics involved in the relocation to California, this year's programs unfortunately needed to be a few days shorter than usual. Despite the truncated timeline, Shakya and Daisy Zamora (Bay Area alumna) utilized their unique Summer Searcher perspectives to facilitate an open and safe environment for the students to feel comfortable sharing.
Shakya also shares how she took pride in the opportunity to be a role model for her fellow Summer Searchers, and what her position as a trip leader represents.
"I'm extremely proud to be a part of the DEVA Soul Journey team, not only as an alumna, but also as an Afro-Latina woman working in a White male dominated field, providing representation to others who look like me and may come from a similar walk of life, and being an example so they too can find their place in this industry and in the world."
Brenda's Healing Journey
Daisy's and Shakya's leadership, combined with Deva's holistic programming out in the beauty of nature made a positive impact on our Summer Searchers.
We'll leave you with a powerful reflection from Brenda, a Bay Area student who embraces and embodies the true spirit of the SoulJourney.
"Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I constantly tell myself these words when I’m ready to do anything out of my comfort zone, and it has never let me down. This summer, I met incredible individuals, had the opportunity to challenge myself mentally and physically, and began to recover from past trauma that I used to avoid talking about. Being able to talk to my mentor about difficult things at home has been an important part of my healing journey."
After this past year, participants, like Brenda, were eager to expand their horizons and step outside -- literally and figuratively. Thank you to Deva and all of our summer partners for collaborating on such transformative experiences for our young people.
Thank you all for sticking by Summer Search!