Sara Can!

GUEST POST

by Linda Mornell, Founder of Summer Search

Linda

Growing up in a small, rural community my husband and I sent our children to summer programs away from home. After their freshman year of high school, each one participated in a three-week mountaineering and white-water rafting trip in Oregon.

Our middle daughter was sensitive, with an artistic side. Sandwiched between two athletic and competitive siblings, she learned early on to say, “I can’t,” and to give in to her many fears: heights, the dark, and extending herself athletically. The idea of doing any kind of wilderness program was anathema to her. We told her she had a choice: she could go voluntarily or involuntarily. She chose to go involuntarily. I still remember that angry silent drive to the airport.

She returned with a new name, “Sara Can!”

Those rigorous adventures had the intended effect, which I call, “going for hard.” By making hard choices in places where no one knew them, my children had the chance to stretch themselves and experiment with different identities, and build self-efficacy—the firm belief in their ability to succeed in challenging situations.

Because these programs were so instrumental in helping my children find their voices and embark on successful paths, I started Summer Search, a non-profit that provides similar opportunities to low-income high school students.

Twenty-five years later, thousands of these adolescents have completed summer experiential education programs and returned home more resilient and more self-assured. They too have learned that they can – that they are, indeed, strong enough to do anything.

Linda’s book Forever Changed captures the amazing true stories of courageous students who took on life-changing summer experiences to discover who they really were and what they were capable of becoming.

2 thoughts on “Sara Can!”

  1. Linda, thank you for Forever Changed. I read it two weekends ago, and ate it up. As an Outward Bound instructor, I have been blessed to have numerous Summer Search students on my courses. Honestly, its instructing Summer Search students that keeps me coming back year after year. Plus I taught at KIPP schools for four years. I must admit I was very skeptical when I started reading, thinking, “Oh, no. This is going to be another upper-middle-class white lady claiming to speak for the poor brown kids.” NOT AT ALL WHAT I FOUND. You are the first person I’ve read to compassionately speaks about the self-sabotage pattern I see consistently in my students. I loved that you explained this reaction as utterly rational and very real, not to be brushed aside by well-meaning adults. How you explained your approach and patience in giving these students the space to decide and process for themselves — absolutely brilliant. Truly instructional. Truly inspirational. Truly honest. Forever Changed should be required reading for every KIPP, YES! and TeachForAmerica teacher, every Outward Bound or NOLS instructor, every educational reformer, shoot, every human who genuinely cares to understand this most interesting world in which we live. Thank you, Linda, for Summer Search, thank you for this book, and thank you for not being just another white lady.

  2. Leslie this is amazing and brought me to tears….exactly what I had hoped readers would get from it. Can I ask you to email me and I have a few requests as to what to do with all your special insights. Not another white lady, Linda

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