Summer Search starts by getting referrals from teachers and principals in identifying disadvantaged students who demonstrate potential for reflection, altruism and performance. Once they enter the program, students participate in four aspects of the Summer Search program.
- Each student is assigned a mentor and meets with their mentor for weekly sessions. The mentor helps coach the student, give them insight into their behavior, help them with any problems they are having, and generally gives emotional support. A big emphasis is placed on helping the student to be accountable for their actions.
- Each student gets a scholarship to take two trips, one in the summer before the junior year, and one in the summer before the senior year. These trips are designed to build the student's confidence in his/her abilities, to show them the broader world out there (a lot of these kids have never been outside Philadelphia) and help the student gain valuable experience. Past trips have included participating in Outward Bound, community service trips to the Dominican Republic, study abroad programs in China, and other amazing experiences.
- Each student gets help in applying to colleges, including individualized help with the admissions forms and financial aid counseling.
- Each student participates in a host of "alumni" services, like helping them with networking events, providing internships and finding mentors for them.
Tom and I attended a dinner at a West Philly high school a few months ago designed to celebrate the achievements of the Summer Search students. We were knocked out by these outstanding kids. Part of the process involves coaching the kids on social skills so that they're comfortable talking to adults, including things that seem like common sense but aren't at all intuitive if you haven't been taught them -- like looking people straight in the eye, shaking hands upon being introduced and speaking without mumbling. Tom and I were greeted by so many of these smart, accomplished kids. They were bursting with stories about their summer experiences and rightfully proud of the colleges they'd been accepted to.
Check out the statistics: 99.6 percent of Summer Search students graduate from high school, 96% go to college, 89% graduate from college or are on track to do so, and 72% are involved in some sort of community service.
So if you happen to be feeling altruistic, please keep Summer Search in mind. There are Summer Search offices in Philadelphia, San Francisco, North San Francisco Bay, Boston, NYC, Seattle and Silicon Valley. A link for secure on-line donations is here. Summer Search is also looking for volunteers to do everything from take students on a "breaking-in" hike to mentoring to creating internship positions to writing letters to the newspaper for publicity, and for more ideas on how to help (many of which don't involve giving money), you can go here. I'm going to do a fundraiser through my blog for this group sometime in early 2011, so you'll be hearing more about Summer Search during the coming year.