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Forever Changed: How Summer Programs and Insight Mentoring Challenge Adolescents and Transform Lives Hardcover – March 1, 2015
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About the Author
Linda Mornell is a psychiatric nurse and the founder of Summer Search. She is a recipient of the Bay Area Jefferson Award and the Unsung Hero of Compassion Award, given by the Dalai Lama. She lives in Bolinas, California.
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The subtitle of Forever Changed reads as follows: “How Summer Programs and Insight Mentoring Challenge Adolescents and Transform Lives.” While there’s certainly some information on this important subject in the book, neither the subtitle nor the Summer Search mission statement quoted above give an adequate idea of the rich content and compelling stories that await within.
The epigraph for the first chapter of Forever Changed quotes Salman Rusdie: “Those who do not have the power over the the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, to rethink it, deconstruct it…and change it as times change…cannot think new thoughts.” This begins to hint at what Mornell is really after in her book: how understanding the stories that make up our lives gives power to change.
The stories in Forever Changed are, in fact, juicy. Mornell uses her own story of starting Summer Search on a shoestring and growing it into a national organization—truly new territory for her—as the framework for telling the stories of participants in the Summer Search programs, often in their own fascinating words.
This is a book that gives hope. The lives of adolescents that Mornell worked with through Summer Search have in many cases been profoundly changed for the better. There’s also insight. What kind of person sticks with it and makes it despite incredible privations? How do you best interview adolescents from troubled backgrounds, and get them to open up and tell their stories? It turns out that even the intake interviews that Mornell and Summer Search conducted have been transformative, and Mornell explains why, her accounts leavened with a sense of humor about the process of growing up in less than privileged situations.
Read Forever Changed for the stories of the triumph of hope and persistence over adversity and an increasingly sclerotic class system. Come away with insight on a number of fronts, most of all how we can make a difference.
Full disclosure: I am a friend and admirer of Linda Mornell and the work she has done at Summer Search, and had several discussions with Mornell about her book while it was still in manuscript.
Forever Changed is impactful, inspiring, and moving, and challenges the reader in many ways. It contains not just the incredible history of Summer Search but also deeply personal stories of a select group of Summer Search students with a variety of academic and professional outcomes, illustrating how Summer Search supports students to find success on their own terms. The author, Summer Search founder Linda Mornell, is thoughtful about how much she inserts her own story into that of the organization and the students, and the personal revelations she makes and stories she tells are always relevant and illuminating.
I have sent copies of the book to everyone I know working in youth mentoring and counseling, as well as several educators, but I don't think that you need to be a teacher or a parent to benefit from reading Forever Changed. The story gives amazing lessons without being heavy-handed. It works as a call to action for citizens to be involved with their communities and the youth that live there, and also as a challenge to individuals to identify and overcome obstacles and adversity in their lives.Linda Mornell's story is fascinating and inspirational, and I recommend Forever Changed wholeheartedly!