Category Archives: Alumni

Alumni Participation Challenge 2020

Summer Search alumni represent a rich tapestry of voices, experiences, and leadership. This growing network of nearly 4,000 leaders is making a positive impact in the world and at Summer Search.

One crucial way they are making an impact is through giving back — whether that’s giving back to their local communities by volunteering, voting, working in the nonprofit sector, or donating.

We are incredibly grateful for our alumni’s generosity. Over the years, Summer Search alumni have graciously given with their dollars to support the young people in our program, with alumni generating revenue topping $200,000 last year.

In 2020, alumni are once again rallying to support Summer Search at a most critical time.

Continue reading Alumni Participation Challenge 2020

Graduating into a Pandemic

Year after year, the young people we partner with work tremendously hard to complete their goals and take the next steps in their journeys. They’re studying and passing exams, graduating and matriculating to new campuses and cities, and starting or advancing their careers… all while navigating systemic barriers and inequity.

In 2020, add a global pandemic and repeated, very public, reminders of racial violence and injustice to that list of obstacles.

But Summer Searchers persevere and thrive!

Recent grad and Seattle alumna Ehler Tha Win took some time to answer a few questions about her experience transitioning from college to career and shares how she believes people can support each other during these unprecedented times.

Continue reading Graduating into a Pandemic

Navigating the COVID-19 Job Market

How do you find a job when the world is grappling with a global pandemic and a rapidly-changing employment and economic landscape where more than 40 million people are out of work?

A few months ago we brought together a panel of Summer Search alumni and partners to tackle that question from a few different angles:

  • Naming the challenges that recent college graduates and early-career professionals are facing in the job market,
  • Sharing ways that Summer Searchers can adapt to the new reality and make themselves stand out to employers,
  • And discussing how our community as a whole can support each other, and our young people.

Graduating Into Uncertainty: Supporting Young People Navigating the Job Market

Continue reading Navigating the COVID-19 Job Market

Pride And Liberation

“The Stonewall Uprising sparked a dramatic shift in LGBTQ activism 51 years ago. Today, this feels like we’re at that crossroads again, with the convergence of the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements.”


Saúl Guzman is a Summer Search Bay Area alumnus living in New York City where he is the Senior Director of PR, Marketing, and Communications at Alvanon, a global fashion tech company.

In honor of Pride Month, Saúl reflected on how this year’s celebration — due to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter — has taken on a whole new meaning for him.

Continue reading Pride And Liberation

A Vigil For Healing

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

— excerpt from Lift Every Voice & Sing


In recent weeks, our community, like so many others, has been mourning, taking action, and trying to heal.

This inspired an idea to truly bring the Summer Search community together, offering a space to honor George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, James Scurlock, and the ever-growing list of Black and Brown people who have died because of violence and racism.

Envisioned by Sylvia Watts McKinney, Summer Search Philadelphia Executive Director, and supported by Hermese Velasquez (Boston ED and alumna), Kris Leja (Bay Area ED), and many others across our network, our team moved quickly to create a Community Vigil Series — a three-part series of virtual events to come together focusing on healing, education, and action. Continue reading A Vigil For Healing

Our Community Responds

Social injustice and racial inequalities must come to an end. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, James Scurlock and too many other Black people are acts of terror.

We know these senseless deaths have caused great pain and angst for all Summer Searchers and have had an especially traumatic impact on our black-identifying students, staff, and community members.

In times of crisis, everyone reacts differently — from speaking out, to reflecting inward, and everything in between. We wanted to spotlight how a few folks in our Summer Search family have responded publicly — from expressing their emotions, rallying their communities, sharing resources, and much more.

Continue reading Our Community Responds

Black Lives Matter

The following is a message co-authored by Summer Search’s Alumni Board Chairs, our Alumni Staff Cohort, and CEO Dr. Marc Spencer.


Dear Summer Search Students and Alumni,

We are thinking of you, your families, and all our communities right now. We wish you safety and health, and hope to see you again very soon. We have much work to do ahead.

These past few weeks have been especially difficult, as our nation has watched the continued assault, police brutality, and murdering of black people. It’s frightening, it’s infuriating, and it’s exhausting.

Black and Brown people, including many in our own community of students, alumni, their families, our staff, and our boards, are living an existential crisis: murdered, exposed disproportionately to COVID-19, terminated from employment and benefits, denied access to healthcare, housing, and financial systems, and backed up hard against the wall. It’s no wonder the result has been anger and protest.

Continue reading Black Lives Matter

Alumnus Helps Former Teacher During COVID Crisis

“We managed to get on what turned out to be one of the last flights leaving the country… By the end of the day all borders of the country were closed. No one in or out. Vasny saved us!”

Vasny Maldonado was nominated to apply for Summer Search by his teacher, Jan Hudson, at Mission High School in San Francisco in 1996. In present day, during the outbreak of the coronavirus, the two were reunited in an unexpected, yet meaningful way. But first, back to 1996…

Vasny Wilderness Summer ProgramVasny Maldonado during one of his summer experiences.

Continue reading Alumnus Helps Former Teacher During COVID Crisis

Being a Nurse on the Front Lines of COVID-19

Summer Search reached out to Seattle alumna Lisa Blechschmidt, a registered nurse working in the Pacific Northwest. She reflects on her role as a nurse, what’s changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and offers advice to help the community stay safe.

Name: Lisa Blechschmidt

Site: Summer Search Seattle

Summer Search Trips:
1) Outward Bound in Moab, Utah.
2) VISIONS on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana.

Current Position: Registered Nurse

Lisa_NurseLisa Blechschmidt (right), registered nurse and Summer Search Seattle alumna.

Continue reading Being a Nurse on the Front Lines of COVID-19

One Chance to Make Change

The following is a guest post written by Niles Xi’an Lichtenstein, entrepreneur and Summer Search Bay Area alumnus. It was originally shared at a Summer Search fundraising event. Lightly edited and shared with permission.


Hi everyone, I’m Niles Lichtenstein, a Summer Search Bay Area alum.

Niles Lichtenstein

While ‘Summer Search Alum’ is an amazing title to have, perhaps the best title I’ve recently received was the title of ‘Dad’ to my wonderful daughter Genevieve, who we call ‘Evie’.

Evie was born 11 months ago and upon her birth, my mother, as she smiled at a future generation strong female, said something profound to me. She said that “having a granddaughter felt like having a second chance.”

“A second chance for what?” I asked her.

“A second chance to give Evie all the things I couldn’t always give you,” she replied. Continue reading One Chance to Make Change