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March 21, 2013

Below, is a college essay from a former student at Pacific Quest…we are always grateful to hear from past students as they continue on their journey.
I was fourteen years old and terrified. I had traveled eight hours by plane to Hawaii, driven three hours up and around the Kilauea volcano with a stranger, and finally landed at my new home, Pacific Quest. My eyes took in towering papaya trees surrounded by tomatoes, lettuce, and budding bananas. My nose juggled the many scents enveloping me: basil, oregano, wet firewood amidst the drizzling rain. As beautiful as it was, I knew this was no vacation. After years of struggling with depression and anxiety, my parents knew I needed an alternative approach to transform my life. They decided on Pacific Quest, a wilderness program for teens where organic farming symbolized how we should nurture ourselves. The goal was to recognize that I, like the plants, was fragile and needed care in order to flourish. Initially, I resisted the program. I didn’t need this. The gardening metaphor was too simple. It wouldn’t work for me. Sensing my doubt, the staff put me in charge of the nursery. The youngest most vulnerable shoots were the future of our sustainability. At Pacific Quest, we ate what we grew. If I neglected the plants, the entire community would suffer. The nursery was a mess, containers strewn everywhere, the floor soaking with leaking hoses, young seedlings in need of help. I immediately thought, why me?Yet my innate drive to work hard spurred me to take ownership of the nursery. I stabilized the hoses so the plants would receive the precise amount of water to help them grow. Too much and the young shoots would drown; the perfect balance was needed. It was clear I had found my place. As silly as I initially thought the idea was, I quickly learned to take care of myself the way I took care of the nursery. After 52 days, my counselors and parents decided I was strong enough to take these lessons with me. I was excited to move on to the next step of my journey. I had learned to love myself and to be happy with who I was and who I would become. I knew I was a dynamic person with much to offer. At Pacific Quest, I created an intent, a self-affirmation of who I am and what I want to be. “Through confidence, I am a respectful and trustworthy young woman who loves, listens, and accepts herself.” Packing the soil around the young shoots, I repeated this mantra often. Today, they are words I live by and continue to strive to uphold. Learning to love and accept myself was my first step toward being able to make a difference in the lives of others. Now, I volunteer with the Trevor Project, a crisis hotline for LGBT youth. Through TrevorChat, the instant messaging hotline, I am able to help teenagers who are dealing with similar issues that I faced just a few years back. Although, as a fourteen-year-old, I had felt incredibly strong, I was still just a shoot who needed to recognize the importance of letting others help me so I could grow. Now, I water the seedlings that come to me, ready to discover their own intent.

-Faith F.

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