Our Story

Summer Search was founded in 1990 by Linda Mornell an adolescent counselor in private practice, who was inspired by the positive impact of her own children's transformative summer experiences, and wanted to provide more young people with similar opportunities. In our first year, Summer Search sent fourteen students from low-income backgrounds—students with potential to succeed, but who faced systemic inequities that could get in the way of their journeys to higher education—on wilderness education programs, to help them strengthen the skills needed to succeed in school and in life.

Recognizing that students would benefit from year-round support, Summer Search began to offer long-term mentoring by trained staff, as well as college access and success support, thereby redefining itself as a leading innovative youth development organization.

Alongside local high schools, community-based organizations, families, and our summer program partners, our comprehensive program now spans a crucial seven-to-nine-year period, helping high school students strengthen the personal and practical skills needed to become college-educated leaders who give back to their families and communities.

Today, Summer Search has a national presence, working with young people, most of whom will be the first in their families to attend college, in five regions across the country—the Bay Area, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Since our inception, we’ve helped 6,600 students soar.



1990Summer Search San Francisco founded.


1995 Summer Search’s first alumnus graduates college and Summer Search Boston launches.


1996 Mentoring by trained staff begins.


1998 Summer Search North Bay opens and the first alumnus serves on a board of directors.


1999 College counseling and professional development support added.


2003 Summer Search opens offices in New York City and Seattle.


2005 Summer Search Silicon Valley launches.


2007 First Alumni Summit takes place in San Francisco.


2008 Summer Search expands to Philadelphia and college access and success programming added.


2011 Students served hits 2,000 mark nationally (a goal set back in 2008).


2013 Summer Search National Alumni Network forms to bring together more than 2,300 alumni.


2014 Alumni Giving and Donor Society launches with 37 donors.


2015 Summer Search celebrates its 25th Anniversary.


2016 Our San Francisco, North Bay, and Silicon Valley sites merge to become Summer Search Bay Area.


2017 15 Summer Search alumni serve on our boards, with 40+ alumni serving in a variety of leadership roles. 9% of our staff are alumni.


View our full interactive timeline for more stories from Summer Search’s past 25+ years »