August 7, 2008
I must first answer the question of who I am for you to better understand my essay, but it is who I have become that is important. I believe things happen for a reason. Any obstacles I have faced somehow always turned into a blessing or learning experience, the building blocks for who I am today. In my sophomore year of high school, Summer Search, a leadership development program for low-income teenagers entered my life. Before my acceptance into Summer Search, I was consumed with the constant feeling that I must care for those around me, and I had no outlet for my own emotions. I felt so frenzied by caring for others that I did not have time to care for myself. For example, I kept my anger bottled up inside and rarely talked about my own emotions. That phase of my life ended because Summer Search gave me the opportunity to talk weekly with my mentor about what I am dealing with or what is bothering me. These calls have frequently made me uncomfortable or made me wish I was anywhere but on the phone with my mentor, but they are a necessary part of my week. Summer Search compelled me to be honest with myself and guided me to accept my imperfections.
In the summer of 2006, Summer Search sent me on a twenty-four day multi-expedition wilderness program. While mountain biking with my group we lost sight of the trail when it became covered in a snowdrift. We were unprepared for the elements and hunkered together for warmth until we were discovered at 12:30 a.m. by a Search and Rescue helicopter. That was the first time in my life that I felt my life could be in danger and that feeling resonated in me for days after our rescue. From this experience, my wilderness trip taught me how to harness my strength to press on in the most challenging situations. Blisters taught me about endurance, backpacking taught me about patience, mosquitoes taught me about tolerance, Search and Rescue taught me about unrestrained generosity, rock climbing taught me about trust and windsurfing taught me about finding my direction.
In addition to the wilderness trip, Summer Search funded my trip to Peru this past summer where I spent a month building a preschool in a small community in the Sacred Valley. Each member of my group came to affect me in beautiful ways, like how misleading my first impressions were. I made assumptions before I knew my group on a deeper level or knew about their background. One of the greatest impressions left on my heart was by a boy named Stuart, who fit the stereotype of a “meathead jock”, complete with a Long Islander accent. After befriending Stuart and learning about his family history, I understood why he has a facade of cockiness and got to see how genuine and caring he was once I made the effort to connect with him.
Even after we parted ways, the people on my trip truly amazed me with their diversity of personalities and friendship they offered me. After spending thirty days with the same people, I formed unconditional friendships and whether I see them or not, I love them and appreciate the chance to know them. On the other hand, having made such meaningful relationships and leaving each other so quickly was the most difficult part of my summer. However, with this loss I have learned to let go and readjust to my life in Seattle without forgetting my friendships from Peru.
Since the launch of my relationship with Summer Search, I have adopted new qualities and have formed new relationships that positively contribute to my life. I am proud of my accomplishments and my progress with Summer Search, yet also pleased that I have retained the distinctiveness of my personality. Change and growth in my life have not ended, but are really just beginning. I am on a journey with Summer Search that will last throughout the rest high school and will affect how I live my life. Summer Search has blessed my life in countless ways and will continue to be there to lend a hand as I settle into my spirit.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...
compassionate, generous, unconditional love, motivating
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
expand the number of students it serves by thousands
Ways to make it better...
it was flawless
In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...
the funding to expand and perhaps misleading first impression that Summer Search is a cult
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Client Served & I was a student in the SUmmer Search Programs, graduated in 2008 and was a Summer Search Ambassador Program Leader.