The 31 Summer Search students arriving at Chewonki this summer will be among the bravest participants on Wilderness Trips and Adventures for Girls. Chewonki is new to them. Maine is new to them. Wilderness is new to them. In hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or sailing with us, they are daring to step far from the familiar to learn about themselves and a different world. They are new to outdoor adventuring, however, they are in some ways uniquely prepared to take on the challenge. Rising high school juniors, these Summer Search students have already transcended adversity and demonstrated outstanding character and determination. They’ve applied for and worked hard to earn a spot in Summer Search, an organization dedicated to giving urban, low-income young people “life skills that allow them to reflect on what they see and feel, make skillful decisions, and navigate the ever-changing complexities of adult life…We look for students short on opportunity and long on potential,” explains Summer Search. Once accepted into the program, students begin a multi-year relationship that includes weekly mentoring, two summer adventures, college and financial aid advising, and alumni support during college and afterwards. This spring, Director of Girls Programs Nancy Kennedy and Director of Wilderness Trips Emma Carlson began talking about how best to welcome Summer Search participants and support a positive transition from urban life to wilderness programs. They decided to travel to Boston and New York City to meet face-to-face with the students coming to Chewonki. There were introductions all around, then Kennedy and Carlson described what to expect on the first day, the general plan of each expedition, and the gear students would need or encounter. “Our hope is that meeting them and making a connection with them before they come will be a step toward opening a door to comfort and providing a relevant welcome,” explains Kennedy. “When they step off the bus this summer, they’ll see two people they met in the city where they live.” Chewonki and Summer Search are old friends. We welcomed the first group of students in 1991. “These participants bring a great deal to our programs,” says Chewonki Vice President Greg Shute. “They’ve had life experiences that most Chewonki participants haven’t. They give as much as they take from their summer trips with us.” Kennedy has not forgotten the conversations she had with two Summer Search students who were sea-kayaking with Chewonki on Penobscot Bay last August. After meeting the group to drop off fresh supplies, she left the encounter with a new understanding of what it means to experience outdoor adventure for the first time. “These girls had never done anything like this,” she says. “They’d never been in a boat before. I thought, how would I feel in a situation where skills, food, language, peers, and the physical environment were all completely different from what I knew? What if I were homesick?” At the next resupply, Kennedy brought brownies and had a good talk with the girls. She saw them again after the trip. “They did it,” she recalls, in admiration. “And at the end of the summer, they spoke about what it meant to them. One said, ‘I had no idea that my body was capable of this kind of strength. I had no idea what I had to offer. Now I know.’” Learn more about Summer Search here.