Linda Mornell has worked to dramatically change the lives of disadvantaged young people for the past 25 years. She began Summer Search in the Bay Area in 1990 with the idea of making summer experiential education programs possible for low-income teenagers. She was especially interested in matching students with programs like Outward Bound that offer wilderness expeditions. That first year Linda matched 14 students with scholarships. Today Summer Search has expanded to operate in seven cities across the United States and has forever changed the lives thousands of youth as they persist in their journeys to and through college.
Summer Search works by providing scholarships and mentoring to high-potential low-income students starting in their sophomore year of high school. This consistent support, combined with an intensive learning experience in the summer before their sophomore and junior years, gives students a framework to persist through significant challenges and achieve ambitious life goals. The success rate is tremendous. 100% of Summer Search students graduate from high school and almost 75% from college—often the first in their family to do so.
As Linda shares in this video, Outward Bound and Summer Search have built a strong partnership based on reciprocal support and shared values. Each organization raises 50% of the scholarship funding needed to cover the students’ wilderness expeditions. Since 1990, Outward Bound has engaged several thousand Summer Search students on multiweek expeditions. These backpacking, sailing and canyoneering trips take them outside of their comfort zones and into a learning environment where they discover that they are capable of achieving so much more than they thought.
We thank Linda for her longtime dedication to empowering young people and for her willingness to share her perspective with us in this interview. You can read more about Linda’s work and her personal journey in her wonderful new book, Forever Changed.
You can also make an Outward Bound course possible for a local Summer Search student by making a donation here and noting “Summer Search” in the comments section.
The Summer Search partnership is one of the treasures of OB in that it helps the student find traction for a life changed on a course. And Linda Mornell epitomizes what character and humility look like.