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November 4, 2009

I am the Program Director for Pacific Quest and a founder/owner. This is one of my favorite programmatic points and the excerpt below is taken from one of our staff trainings.

Our students are usually looking for something to push against, something to blame. It is much easier to focus on the injustices of the situation or to blame others than accept your own responsibility. We have developed this program to provide a pleasant and relevant experience. The farm and camp work have meaning, the environment is beautiful, the food is good, the staff are caring and are excellent role models, the program has flexibility and individuation.  The program and can be facilitated effectively if the relationships are built from a foundation of respect, honesty, acceptance, support and unity. Specifically, this includes actions, verbal and non-verbal communication, consistency, approachability, investment, leadership, humility, and openness.

It is important to create this environment from the beginning of a student’s stay. Their perception is constantly being formed from the minute we pick them up at the airport. Introduce yourself, as soon as possible, and begin to form a relationship. Let the program take the blame for the few things that are restrictive or “unfair”. These rules and boundaries have been created as a direct result of our students’ needs and actions.

We do not want to fight and focus on the little things. We want to know about the big things: why are you angry or sad? Who are you? What do you need?  These are questions we want students to ask our counselors and to reflect upon during their stay. This is not to say that the little camp rules and boundaries are not important. I have found that staff’s enforcement of rules fluctuates as the group dynamics shift. It is important to provide room for failure within an atmosphere of encouragement.

We want to avoid win/lose situations. Be aware and do not let them catch you in a meaningless struggle. If you have a good, solid relationship then you should be able to enforce rules and boundaries with clarity and patience. We support their growth by enforcing the clear rules, with consistency, and letting them know that we do care. If you can consistently role model and guide them back to themselves, they can move forward and cope much more effectively.

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