Summer Search

Anyone who has ventured into the untamed wilderness knows how transformative the experience can be. Such is the premise of Summer Search, a unique program conceived by longtime Marin resident Linda Mornell in 1990, while observing a student whom she knew was on scholarship at the San Francisco private high school that her kids also attended. Mornell and her husband had sent each of their children on summer wilderness trips to enhance their confidence, and Mornell wondered what a similar experience would do for this boy and his perception of the world around him. Now in its 25th year, Summer Search has branches in seven U.S. cities, each branch working to send low income teenagers on two carefully selected summer trips and to support the students on their return through ongoing mentorships that begin sophomore year and continue into college. Mornell’s recently released book on the subject, Forever Changed: How Summer Programs and Insight Mentoring Challenge Adolescents and Transform Lives, documents the varied and courageous journeys of Summer Searchers, 94 percent of whom go on to attend college — the majority being the first in their family to do so. "In all the years I have worked with Summer Search, it never ceases to amaze me just how much resilience and determination our students demonstrate," says Ryan Cooney, Summer Search North Bay associate director. "They are beating the odds and breaking barriers every day to achieve their dreams and become leaders in their families and communities."