April 11, 2017

She was an immigrant student in need of support, now she’s a Ph.D. and triathlete

A letter from a former student confirms the awesome power of mentorship

Summer Search's Interim Chief Development Officer Emily Edwards and former student Lunide Louis, in 2015. Photo courtesy of Summer Search


In January we introduced the 20 finalists for this year’s Renewal Awards, which recognizes innovative nonprofits. Throughout the year, we will share their success stories, like this one, from Summer Search.

Jay Jacobs, the founder of Summer Search Boston and former CEO, and I first met Lunide when she was a freshmen in high school. Her guidance counselor had made a compelling case that we needed to accept her into the Summer Search program a year early (we generally only accept sophomores), before “life swept in” and things went in the wrong direction for her.

At the time, Lunide and her family were experiencing many of the challenges that are typical for immigrants as they try to build a new life in America. Summer Search helped her navigate those obstacles. As her mentor, she and I were together for many big events in her high school career. We even stuck her college applications in a mail box together to make sure they went out on time.

A couple of years ago, Lunide reached out to share that she’d earned her Ph.D.! She also thanked me for the role that Summer Search’s “unconditional love and support” had played in that achievement. When I wrote her back to reinforce that it was actually she, not us, who had made that happen, this was her profound response:

    Emily, as you may remember, I battle with accepting compliments. I always say, “it’s no big deal, it just happened.” NO, things don’t just happen to me. I bust my behind to make things happen. I need to accept it when others acknowledge my hard work … simple as that. I want to make that crucial change in my life and in my daily interactions so it becomes routine.

    I take the first step here to say thank you Emily Edwards and Jay Jacobs for breaking me down like you did in the library at Brighton High during the spring of 2000. (That) changed my life forever, and it continues to do so. You broke me down only to start the building process, a process I have continued through hard work, hope and humor for over 15 years. Let’s continue to build together—build individuals and communities, side by side.

Once a self-titled “alienated” Haitian immigrant living with extended family in Boston, Lunide is now a professor at a university in San Diego, California, inspiring and reaching other students there.

Lunide’s commitment to “building together” inspired me when we met in 2015 to celebrate her achievements (pictured above), and it inspires me daily in my life and work as a mentor and leader at Summer Search.

Update from the author: Since this essay first appeared in January 2016 on Summer Search’s blog, Lunide has shared even more good news. She is the founder and CEO of Focal Point á Lunide Louis Company where she provides business coaching and organizational development services to small organizations. She also works at Sempra Energy—San Diego Gas and Electric Company as a data analyst and project coordinator.

Lunide also shared that, after our meeting in 2015, she was inspired to become a runner. Lunide has since competed in more than 15 races: Seven half marathons and one full marathon! In July 2016, at 31 years old, she also learned how to swim. Now she’s accomplished triathlete! She said “everything is possible with a little faith.”

Emily Edwards

Summer Search

Emily Edwards is the Interim Chief Development Officer for the nonprofit Summer Search. Read more about this innovative program that uses summer experiences to help students succeed.