Like 90% of Summer Search students, Aaron is low-income.
“It was really hard growing up with no money,” says Summer Search Student Aaron. “Coming from a low-income family, I’d go to school, and the kids would make fun of me. I’d get teased a lot because of the cheap clothes I had to wear. And then, on top of it, our house burned down when I was seven.”
The second of six siblings, Aaron helped raise his four younger brothers and sisters. “During my high school years, everything was dependent on me.” Aaron went to George Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn, NY, where the graduation rate is about 63%, according to the New York City High School Directory. “Everybody slacked off in classes. It was hard to learn.”
Aaron needed someone to listen and to challenge him.
“My grades went down because of distractions,” Aaron says. “And they went back up because of Summer Search.” He was getting A’s again, and he finished his high school career with a B+ average. "I had no idea Summer Search would turn out to be as beneficial as it’s turned out to be,” says Aaron. He did an Outward Bound course in Utah, and then a home stay in Finland.
“Being a part of the program was beneficial, because I got weekly mentoring. Having somebody to talk to, having somebody there for me, distracted me from doing a lot of the stupid things I was doing to myself," says Aaron. "It helped me take my anger out, to speak to my mentor every week. I didn’t like myself, in my teenage years, because I didn’t think I deserved to be here, because I didn’t feel wanted in my family. But having somebody to talk to, who I could trust, and who could give me good feedback, helped me think deeper. It helped me change my attitude, and become more of the young man that I am. And the trips gave me the idea that I was capable of doing whatever I put my mind to, and succeeding in whatever I’d like.”
Aaron is now a freshman at SUNY College at Old Westbury. He’s the president of the dorm where he lives, volunteers on campus clean-up, and does work-study at the academic advisor center. He also plays intramural volleyball, and is thinking of majoring in accounting.
Like 89% of Summer Search students, he is in college.
“My dream is to be ‘the word on the street’ back in Brooklyn,” Aaron says, with excitement in his voice. “I want to be someone to look up to. I feel like a lot of kids are in the place where I used to be – I was lost – and Summer Search was the one who found me and guided me. But not a lot of kids get that opportunity. I want to be the one who’s there to help guide others.”