Alumni Aspirations for Summer Search’s New Leader

Guest post written by Summer Search Bay Area alumna Cicely Li, after participating in a conference call discussion regarding the hiring of Summer Search’s next CEO.

Cicely Li


Recently, leaders of the Summer Search alumni community were invited to share input on which qualities we would like to see in Summer Search’s next CEO. The call with Summer Search’s National Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, Dana Hagenbuch, and Commongood Careers (a search firm that focuses exclusively on nonprofit leadership searches) focused on uncovering key priorities, including how a new leader could inspire greater alumni engagement.

Throughout the discussion, alumni provided feedback and ideas, and laid out our priorities. We voiced our appreciation for having Amy Saxton—a woman of color—lead Summer Search for these past five years and shared that we felt the alumni community was more deeply engaged during her tenure. We hope this trend will continue with new leadership.

We believe that the input of the two Summer Search alumni currently serving on the CEO search committee—Jabali Sawicki and Saul Pena—will be incredibly valuable during the search process.

Jabali and SaulSummer Search alumni Jabali Sawicki (left) and Saul Pena.

Why did Summer Search reach out to alumni to get our opinions? As alumni of the program, we have a unique perspective on what worked and what needs to change. As a community, we have witnessed the program’s evolution and growth during its 27-year history.

But most importantly, alumni are stakeholders. We are deeply invested in Summer Search’s continued success, and like any investor, we want to see an attractive return and long-term success. We want to ensure that this program continues to pay dividends for generations to come, and we are doing that by investing in the future of this program, a future predicated on the executive leadership team’s vision over the next three, five, and 10 years.

So in a nutshell, here are the priority characteristics that alumni would like to see in the incoming CEO:

1. A firm understanding of what it means to be part of an organization that is striving to close the opportunity gap for youth from low-income backgrounds.

2. An individual who will optimize the program’s value by thinking strategically about how we can grow the program without sacrificing the core mission and quality of the program.

3. A whole-hearted investment of his/her time and talent to ensure that Summer Search can continue to support many generations of young people to come.

Time and time again, Summer Search reiterates that alumni are the future of the program. Alumni themselves have a saying, “Once a Summer Searcher, always a Summer Searcher.” Today, there is at least one alumnus sitting on every site’s Board of Directors and the National Board. In total, we have 15 board members from the alumni community. Furthermore, four Alumni Boards across the network work together to engage the alumni community, deepen alumni relationships, raise significant philanthropic dollars, and utilize a growing network to further develop their professional careers.

As students, Summer Search instilled in us the belief that we deserve a seat at every table and that all young people have the right to attend a four-year university of our choice. We kayaked hundreds of miles, hiked up mountains, traveled the world for weeks at a time, and came home to become leaders in our communities, overcoming incredible challenges along the way. Members of the alumni community have now demonstrated that they have the interest, responsibility, and the obligation to shape Summer Search’s future.

Helping find Summer Search’s next great CEO is a meaningful way for members of the Summer Search alumni community to do just that.

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