SOURCE: Summer Search

September 16, 2010 13:01 ET

Summer Search Celebrates 20 Years of Helping At-Risk Teens Break Poverty Cycle, Attend College and Become Positive Role Models

San Francisco Celebration Includes National Alumni Summit and Urban Picnic Honoring Founder Linda Mornell

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - September 16, 2010) -  In 1990, Linda Mornell, an adolescent counselor in Marin County, started Summer Search and sent 14 low-income students on full scholarships to summer experiential education programs worldwide. Her goal was to grow the program to support 50 students a year. She had no idea that Summer Search would eventually serve thousands of students from several major cities. 

"I knew that a rigorous summer encounter could spark a transformation for an at-risk student, but one experience isn't enough," says Mornell. "Our success is based on sustained relationships and the knowledge that low-income students succeed only when they are accountable and take ownership of their lives and goals -- that is what is unique about Summer Search."

Over the past 20 years, Mornell's passion to change the path for these deserving students has energized and guided Summer Search to become a transformative leadership development program that helps young people break the poverty cycle, make the transition into productive adulthood, and become positive role models in their communities.

Outstanding Results: Working through offices in the Bay Area, Boston, New York City, Seattle and Philadelphia, Summer Search has become one of the nation's most successful mentoring programs, and is one of the 70 largest non-profits serving low-income youth in the country. Last year, across the organization:

  • 99.6% of Summer Search seniors graduated from high school (compared to 1 in 10 of their low-income peers)
  • 95% go onto post-secondary school (compared to 33% of their low-income peers)
  • 85% completed college or are on track to do so (compared to 21% of their low-income peers)
  • 92% of Summer Search seniors were the first in their families to go to college

"Unfortunately, the public school system is limited in what it can do for students with potential but no support system. Without partners like Summer Search, hundreds of high potential kids would slip through the cracks," says Eric Guthertz, principal of Mission High School in San Francisco. "Instead, with Summer Search's support they change the course of their lives, graduate, attend college and contribute to the community."

Giving Back -- Summer Search alumni are distinguished by becoming positive leaders and role models:

  • 72% are involved in service to the community
  • Alumni go on to careers in education, social work and medicine, and 56% report they aspire to careers in public service
  • 85% of Summer Search alumni stay actively involved in Summer Search
  • 15% of Summer Search staff and 4% of board members are alumni

Summer Search alumnus Jabali Sawicki (1995), the founder and Principal of Excellence Boys Charter School of Bedford Stuyvesant, epitomizes the impact of Summer Search. Recalling his Summer Search sponsored backpacking experience in the Alaska wilderness: "When I was on top of the world, exhausted, hungry and proud, I realized that I had accomplished the impossible. All other struggles, obstacles and challenges paled in comparison. The streets I grew up on, the skeptics, poverty and race, everything that stood between me and my success could be scaled like the frozen peaks of Alaska."

Sawicki will be the keynote speaker at a national Summer Search Alumni Summit in San Francisco on Saturday, September 25.

Unique model. Summer Search has a proven high-impact model for finding and developing leadership potential in at-risk youth. Each year the program enrolls sophomores from low-income families who demonstrate potential for reflection, altruism and performance -- immersing them in a challenging process that includes year-round mentoring, life-changing summer experiences, college advisory services, and an alumni support network.

Summer Search partners with dozens of schools in the Bay Area and at its other national locations to identify high-potential students who lack the resources or motivation to succeed. Once identified by teachers or administrators, these students undergo a rigorous interview before acceptance into the program.

"Weekly mentoring with compassionate, professionally trained staff is how real change takes hold," says Mornell. "Intertwined with the life-changing intensive summer experiences, the ongoing mentoring relationships help to cement our students' realization of their potential. Summer Search students provide models of success and leadership in schools where it is increasingly rare or absent and go on to become role models in their communities."

Students participate in two summer experiential programs prior to their junior and senior years. These experiences take students out of their low income neighborhoods -- usually for the first time -- and into challenging wilderness experiences in the U.S. and international cross-cultural service around the world. They return as changed teenagers, determined to succeed.

"Summer Search is an immensely rewarding labor of love undertaken by staff, and supported by educators and businesses in the communities we serve," says Summer Search CEO Jay Jacobs. "We're celebrating 20 years of investing in these inspirational young people -- and seeing exciting returns every day."

"Summer Search is making a very significant, positive difference in the lives of some of our communities' most at-risk youth," says national board chairman Ted Williams, Managing Partner, Springbok Partners. "It is a powerful example of the importance of public-private cooperation in our educational system. This program's remarkable history of achievement, and its promising future, depend on a continued partnership between donors, summer program partners, education partners, staff -- and of course the engagement of our students and alumni."

About Summer Search. Summer Search provides underprivileged students long-term support, including mentoring with trained staff, summer experiential programs, access to college and financial aid counseling, a peer support network, and professional development. Students are selected for participation during their sophomore year based on financial need and potential. Summer Search also has programs in San Francisco and the North Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Seattle. For additional information visit

Contact Information

  • For additional information:
    Daniel Danzig
    Email Contact