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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.
In Forever Changed you will learn about a non-profit organization that demands much of its students, holding them responsible for their own actions. At first, Linda’s treatment of my students seemed very harsh and judgmental, the polar opposite of my then 28 years of training and experience with “at risk” students. Yet as it turned out, I watched the students she worked with begin to blossom. Their self-esteem and confidence began to grow rather than shrink. As a result, Summer Search taught me to be more open to possibilities and less judgmental of myself and others.
Carlton’s story in Forever Changed was, from my perspective, unlike that of any other student I had previously referred. In addition to his background of drugs, violence, and physical abuse that partially robbed him of his hearing, he was a sophomore in high school and could barely read. My judgment at the time was that Summer Search would never take him. He was simply too risky, and the odds against his success were too great. Yet Linda and Katherine took him under their wings and sent him to a special academic summer program for students with severe learning disabilities. As you will read, he persevered in a very rigid environment, and with specific mentoring and high expectations, he began to embody the qualities of character that make Summer Searchers unique. His success has been both stunning and humbling.
My journey with this program has been extraordinary, and I have witnessed extraordinary results. Teachers and counselors are seldom recognized for the work that we do, so it is indeed an honor and privilege for me to be mentioned in this inspiring book. Anyone who works with teenagers, especially anyone who wants to understand what is possible for underachieving students, should read Forever Changed. You will learn invaluable techniques of mentoring and support, and I believe you will, like me, find yourself forever changed in the process.