Alumane Stacey Thompson discusses at-risk youth

For low-income teenagers, the dream of getting a college education can often seem out of reach. 

The goal of organization Summer Search, is to help teenagers pursue their college careers and reach their full potential, despite where they come from. 

Summer Search’s Stacey Thompson was featured as one of the guest speakers for the Women and Gender Studies Feminist Lecture Series at Sonoma State University on Oct. 22. 

Thompson’s lecture was titled “Summer Search: Fostering and Empowering Marginalized Youth.” 

She explained to students in her introduction that the mission of Summer Search is to help low-income teenagers transform what they believe is possible for themselves and develop the skills they need to become college-educated leaders who give back to their families and communities.

As a Sonoma State alumna, Thompson is the first to graduate from college in her family and holds a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies. 

She began working at Summer Search where she spent three years as a program director to help launch the New York office, before returning to work at their offices in her hometown of San Francisco. She is now the senior director of talent at Summer Search.

The organization was started in 1990 by Linda Mornell and took off in 1995 when Jay Jacobs and Katherine Kennedy joined the team. Jacobs opened their first satellite office in Boston and Kennedy helped Mornell expand their San Francisco offices. 

Summer Search is now a national organization, celebrating their 25th anniversary this year with offices in seven U.S. cities- Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, North Bay San Francisco, San Francisco, Seattle and the Silicon Valley.

The Summer Search program is a seven-to-nine-year period starting with sophomore students in high school. With highly trained mentors, students are taught personal and practical skills to aid them in their future and assist them with getting into college. 

“I liked Stacy’s lecture because she was interactive with the group and talked to us, not at us. Her passion for Summer Search shined through her lecture,” said Sonoma State junior Marika Vivier.

Nominated by a teacher for Summer Search as a sophomore in high school, she was accepted into the program and it soon changed her life. With a rough adolescence, Thompson was the “caretaker” in her family. 

“Summer Search introduced a new way of thinking and also a consistent outlet for me to let stress out,” Thompson said. “It became a way for me to reflect and think about what my life is like and what I want to mentally create for myself, regardless of the barriers that existed.”

Summer Search’s success rates are skyrocketing, with 98 percent of their students graduating from high school, 94 percent of them going on to college and 77 percent of them on track to graduate. 

Their goal for the next year is to reach out to men of color, as they have 55 percent women of color and are trying to even those numbers to 50/50. They also want to expand their offices to more cities to give as many students they can the chance to succeed. 

Sonoma State freshman Nicholas Silva attended the lecture and shared that he is a Summer Searcher. Silva described his first Summer Search meeting.

“I was with students who had straight A’s, enrolled in AP classes, were more intelligent than me and have dedicated most of their time to school, community service and sports. I felt out of place,” Silva said. “I thought that I had no chance against these students, but the promises Summer Search made enticed me to give it a chance.” 

He is now an English major aspiring to be an English teacher. “I am proud to be a Summer Searcher. If it wasn’t for Summer Search, I would not have even graduated high school, nonetheless attend Sonoma State University. Summer Search is the greatest thing to happen in my life besides birth,” said Silva.

Summer Search is impacting students’ lives in a positive way and Thompson expressed her passion through her lecture. “The students are always at the center of Summer Search,” she said. “They matter above all else.” 

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