My name is Tonino Peluso and I am an 18 year old high school graduate who has found the need to be a part of something bigger. I have grown up in Southwest Santa Rosa, California, my entire life, where there are opportunities to help and become involved with the community around every corner. Not only opportunities to become involved, but a need for more people to be involved. It wasn’t until the later years of high school when I realized this. I started to slowly develop the feeling that I needed to be a part of something bigger, to start learning effective ways to be a positive driving force in a community. I progressively began to act, volunteering, planning, organizing, and becoming more involved in the community all the time. Then, as high school started to come to an end I decided that the best way learn how to be a part of something bigger and have a life-altering experience was to take on a gap year abroad. That’s how Global Citizen Year came to me.
All of these things didn’t just happen; there was a lot of support and there were a lot of struggles on the way to gaining a sense of community and gaining enough confidence to take a gap year. The most life-altering experiences of my life to this day were brought about by an organization called SummerSearch. SummerSearch sent me to Colorado for a 22-day mountaineering expedition with Outward Bound where I was physically and mentally pushed beyond my preconceived limits, and learned so much about myself and what I can accomplish. A year later SummerSearch sent me to Chile for two months on exchange where I gained an entirely new respect and perspective of the world. Throughout these experiences with SummerSearch, they mentored me, helped me understand the value of these experiences, and helped me reach my potential. In the midst of my summer experiences with SummerSearch, I was at school discovering my passion for music. I found myself always worrying about whether or not I would have to choose music over my values of community and being a part of something bigger. Again, SummerSearch was there for me and helped me realize how I can utilize my passion for music to be a part of something bigger, and be a positive force in a community. The support that SummerSearch has offered me and the struggles I have gone through with them have played an enormous role in the person I am today. I never would have had the confidence or initiative to be a part of a gap year program without what they have given me.