The following is a message from Dr. Marc Spencer, Summer Search CEO.
Dear Summer Search Community,
I hope this note finds you and yours healthy and doing well. I’m writing to share what is happening in our network and how the talented and committed Summer Search team is responding to the needs of our students, alumni, and staff.
Since our last community message in March, our students and their families have experienced lost jobs, food insecurity, and housing crises, in addition to a sense of isolation that comes from sheltering in place.
Now more than ever, students need to know they are not alone.
They need supportive peers and committed mentors who can sustain deep relationships. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Summer Search has supported young people to navigate the abrupt end to their school year, access funds to cover emergency needs, grieve for the loss of loved ones, and stay connected to a community that’s unwavering in its support.
Here are some of the ways Summer Search is adapting to ensure that our students, alumni, and staff are supported:
• During this time, our high school and post-secondary students continue to receive one-on-one support from their mentors over the phone. Our students are also connecting with one another through virtual group mentoring sessions, which provide a valuable space to connect with peers in the absence of a school environment.
• We are facilitating contingency plans with university and college partners to identify problems and address needs. Recently, we held sessions in the Bay Area to connect high school seniors with Summer Searchers currently in college to learn more about what it’s like to attend specific colleges.
Sharing and Providing Resources
• We are working to make sure that students and alumni are connected to local resources and up-to-date information about COVID-19. Students are sharing those resources with their families, in addition to the strategies that they are learning during their mentoring sessions to center themselves, stay present, and deal with anxiety. These resources are available at summersearch.org/COVID19.
• In a new effort to provide basic needs to young people and their families, we have established the Summer Search Unstoppable Fund, which provides emergency funding to students and alumni to support incurred expenses resulting from lost household wages, illness, and/or campus displacement.
Reimagining Summer Programming
• With student safety as our top priority, we have made the difficult decision to suspend in-person trips this year. We are currently working to design our summer programming, which will include continued mentoring, digital learning, and/or direct financial support for our participants. We look forward to sharing more details about this programming in the weeks ahead.
Taking Care of Staff
• We continue to prioritize our staff’s health and well-being as we work remotely during this time, ensuring they have the flexibility and space to take care of themselves and their families. Specifically, we are providing unlimited sick leave and accommodating flexible schedules; supplementing federal benefits to ensure that our team’s paychecks are not impacted by this crisis; and providing a range of supports to promote mental health and self-care, including access to licensed counselors.
• This week we are sending out a wellness survey to all staff to get a pulse check on how our people are doing and to seek additional input on how we can support staff well-being.
Nothing matters more than the safety and well-being of our staff and students, so we will continue planning, adapting, and communicating.
I invite you to share your questions, concerns, and suggestions. We encourage you to subscribe to the Summer Search blog, which shares stories of how our students and alumni are stepping up to support their communities right now. Here’s a recent story on virtual mentoring.
This crisis has affected everyone, but it’s impacting our students and their families most of all. Summer Search’s work has never been more important. That’s why I’m thankful and inspired by the many ways that our team and supporters have stepped up to respond to the needs of our community.
Dr. Marc Spencer
Summer Search CEO