By Alicia Goldman
Aloha! I am Alicia Goldman, and I am the new Director of Alumni and Family Services at Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program. My role is two-fold…one role being a resource to assist families and bridge the transition from PQ back into the home environment. For many families this can be a fragile and trying time, and my goal is to help facilitate as smooth a transition as possible. The other piece of my role is to reach out to the alumni families and help them stay connected to their experience at PQ. All of us at Pacific Quest feel that our past students and families play an important and essential role in our Ohana. We want to help our past students and families to remain connected to their experience and journey at Pacific Quest after they leave Hawaii. Our hope is for past students to possibly reconnect with the friendships they found at Pacific Quest wilderness program, for parents to find resources and support from one another, and for prospective families to have a place where they can begin to feel that hope and healing are possible. While this is a new role for PQ, I see it as an integral piece of the journey, and what helps to make the Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program experience so unique.
Over the past 8 months I have reconnected with hundreds of former PQ students and their families, and the experience has been extraordinary!! It is wonderful to hear about how students are doing now, both their triumphs and continued challenges, and how they are still utilizing the skills and philosophies they learned while in Hawaii with us. I am also moved by how incredibly grateful families are, and their strong interest in staying connected to PQ and to other families, as well. I am thrilled to report that there has been PQ alumni gatherings in Boston and Northern California already, with an upcoming one in the NY area and others to follow around the country!
On a recent visit to Hawaii I was lucky enough to visit with students and participate in what constitutes a “normal day” in the field. A few students taught me about the process behind planting new seeds. They were able to make connections of how being at PQ has helped them plant the “seeds” to start their new stories in their own lives, as well. I was lucky enough to witness a group of students and staff getting ready to harvest a huge amount of bananas from a tree in their camp. I watched as they worked together to figure out the best way to get the bananas down, without damaging a nearby hale (small hut each student has at camp) or the bananas. They talked through several different scenarios. It took patience, cooperation and communication and they worked together to harvest the fruit successfully. Everyone felt very accomplished and happy. I asked everyone to guess how many bananas were harvested in the bundle, which became a fun contest (I guessed 64, but there were 144!).
I told the group about my role and asked them if they thought they would want to stay connected to their peers post PQ. One student stood up and said, “Absolutely. I mean, how often do kids like us get to harvest a big bunch of bananas?? It’s definitely a bonding experience.” We all laughed. Others spoke about how connected they feel to the work they are doing at PQ, to each other, how they have learned about themselves, and about how to be in healthy relationships. I challenged them to think about how getting back to the routine of their lives might diminish these feelings. A student said, “That’s why we need to be able to stay connected to our friends from PQ. So when we need a reminder we can just reach out and ask for help.” That about said it all.