Philadelphia Eagles News

Summer Search helps students of color navigate the challenges of high school

The Eagles continue to support nonprofits that work to reduce barriers to opportunity and end racism. In support of Black History Month, the Eagles are proud to recognize the work of one of these nonprofits each day.

The odds are stacked against students of color from disadvantaged communities. Extreme family conditions place some young people into the workforce at an early age without the education to land a high-paying job, creating a cycle of poverty that is nearly impossible to break. Other students from these neighborhoods can focus on school, but lack the role models or support to achieve their dream jobs.

This is where Summer Search comes in. Each year, the nonprofit guides 200-300 students of color in Philadelphia through a seven-year mentoring and experiential-learning program that starts in the sophomore year of high school.

"If you are brought up in a community that doesn't have resources, disadvantaged communities, you don't have folks who graduated from high school, much less college. You won't have that connection to all of that social capital," said Sylvia Watts McKinney, Summer Search Philadelphia's executive director. "You could get admitted to college and get resources to pay your tuition, but you don't have resources to buy clothes, to buy extra food. Because of that scarcity and that distraction and that stress, it adds more pressure for you to succeed."

What are these students trying to overcome? According to Summer Search, the average income of a family of four for a member of their program is $27,000. And 93 percent of the students are the first in their families to go to college.

When Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner Chris Long donated his entire season's worth of paychecks in 2017, Summer Search was one of the beneficiaries. Long also connected Summer Search with former First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher and Better Make Room initiatives. The exposure provided Summer Search the resources to help more students. But for Summer Search, the most important thing was to increase the quality of support and structure for the students while expanding the enrollment numbers.

"Every person should have the opportunity to be who they want to be," McKinney said. "I want them to think bigger than they've ever thought before. By connecting them with resources and with people, they can get there."

During this past summer's racial reckoning in America, the students in the Summer Search program had a question – What can we do? Summer Search Philadelphia started a Black Lives Matter series that focused on three vital components: healing, education, and action. Furthermore, the Philadelphia chapter crafted a Championing for Justice and Equity program that was adopted at the national level.

It has been said that "you can't be what you can't see." Summer Search is tearing down the obstacles to not only show students what is possible, but provide the compass to achieve those goals.

Learn more about Summer Search:

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