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Established 2004

January 9, 2020

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Big Island Adventures!

Pacific Quest Young Adult students recently visited OK Farms in Hilo, where they assisted in transplanting Mamaki and coffee plants.  The historic OK Farms is over 1,000 acres and is home to amazing waterfalls and exotic fruit varieties. 

After lending a helping hand on the farm, students enjoyed lunch by a scenic waterfall and then returned to Reeds Bay to enjoy some time playing in the ocean!  The group launched kayaks and SUPs from the ice ponds and paddled around Hilo Bay, taking in the beautiful scenery!

Learn more about our Young Adult Program here!

January 19, 2018

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Sandalwood Restoration Project on the Slopes of Mauna Kea

A  group of Young Adult students recently had the opportunity to assist with a Sandalwood Restoration project on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  After departing Reeds Bay, the group took a scenic drive to meet the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rangers at the restoration site.  The rangers explained the importance of this project and the need to plant native Sandalwood to regenerate the forest and help maintain the root system of this region.

Students were given instructions and tools and worked alongside the rangers, digging holes and planting “keiki” sandalwood trees.  It was important to find a moist area in the soil, dig a small hole and then plug in the baby plant. Finding a nice, water-fed area was essential to ensure the small plants will grow.

Planting baby Sandalwood trees on slopes of Mauna Kea

A few of the students were a bit apprehensive at first, as this was a new project – but the rangers were patient and compassionate and able to help students to provide extra support to the group.  Before long, students were excited to get their hands dirty and help out!  It was a beautiful day and from the higher elevation, the group had a an incredible view of Haleakala – the volcano on Maui as well as the Kohala mountains and Mauna Loa. At this higher elevation there were a variety of different flowers, including the Hawaiian Rose, which provided insight into how diverse the Big Island landscape is.

Pacific Quest is committed to community stewardship and the ability to “give back”.  We believe empowering young adults to be active participants in community service promotes positive and meaningful engagement in society.  This is an ongoing project and Pacific Quest students will continue to offer support on a monthly basis towards rebuilding this ecosystem.

The Pacific Quest Foundation also provides financial support to the Sandalwood Reforestation project. Grants such as these are made possible by the generous donations of Pacific Quest and Pacific Quest Foundation families, friends and supporters.

September 22, 2017

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Spreading Aloha to Victims of Hurricane Harvey

By: Kellyn Smythe, Admissions & Outreach Manager

This week Pacific Quest’s Executive Director Mark Agosto and I traveled to Houston to share the aloha spirit with victims of Hurricane Harvey.  With support from the team at Academic Answers, needs like diapers, mattresses, food, refrigerators, clothing, bedding, and a full set of new kitchen appliances were identified and fulfilled.  However, in a whirlwind of shopping, moving, organizing, and delivering, it became clear that the Aloha Spirit was already there.  This community has rallied to support each other in the face of a devastating natural disaster.  In the wake of gutted homes, flooded cars, and soggy photo-albums, a sea of smiles and busy hands are wringing out the dampness and putting lives back together.  The task ahead is daunting, but the seeds of recovery are being sown in the gulf. PQ is honored to be a part of that effort and plant a few seeds or our own.


April 17, 2017

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PQ Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit

By: Katie Strong, Program Guide

“Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!” That’s Hawaiʻian for “love the land, love the ocean.” We take these phrases to heart at Pacific Quest. As a horticultural therapy program, we’re well known for caring for the land, but we’re also really into the ocean. PQ students learn about the importance of caring for our ocean during weekly water outings and beach cleanups and frequent swims in Reeds Bay. And we recently upped our marine stewardship game by installing two Beach Clean Up Stations, with two more on the way!

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean Up

We installed one of the Stations at our Reeds Bay campus and another at Richardson Beach. The other two Stations will soon be installed at Carlsmith Beach Park. These Stations will enable both Hilo beachgoers and PQ students to divert 80,000 pieces of trash a year from our ocean and waterways, improving the lives of sea and land creatures, including humans. Beach Clean Up Stations are permanently mounted wooden boxes containing repurposed, reusable bags for collecting beach trash. Each Station features children’s marine-themed art and signage showing how to use the Station, the impact of marine debris and how to reduce trash.

Pacific Quest Partners with All One Ocean Nonprofit for Beach Clean UpPQ students will use the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations during their beach cleanup outings, and the Reeds Bay Station several times a week. Students will use these Stations to pick up 26,000 pieces of trash a year. We expect that the Richardson Beach and Carlsmith Beach Park Stations will educate 3,240 beachgoers a year about the harm human-generated trash causes to sea and land creatures and teach them how to reduce this waste. Each year, these Stations will enable 1,080 beachgoers to remove 54,000 pieces of trash – which is definitely “Aloha ʻĀina, Aloha Kai!”

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Pacific Quest built and installed these Beach Clean Up Stations in partnership with All One Ocean and the County of Hawaii. All One Ocean, a local nonprofit, has installed 37 Beach Clean Up Stations and four School Clean Up Stations, in Hawaii, California, Iowa and Alabama.

April 8, 2017

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Community Service at Punalu’u Pond

By: Nikki Robinson, Adolescent Program Master Guide

A group of Pacific Quest adolescent students recently joined the community at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to participate in removing invasive plant species.  The pond at Punalu’u is a unique and rare ecosystem – an anchialine pool, it is connected to the ocean by an underground fissure, consists of brackish water, and the water level changes with the tides. Of all the anchialine pools on the planet, more than half of them can be found on the island of Hawai’i!  These ponds are home to a plethora of endemic plants and animals. Water hyacinth, an introduced and invasive species, thrives in this pond, crowding out native plants and animals, blocks sunlight into the pond, acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and threatens the existence of many species that only exist in this rare ecosystem.  Our job, pulling water hyacinth out of the pond, ensures the survival of endemic species to the island.

Pacific Quest community service pond clean up at Punalu'u

Removing water hyacinth from pond

Upon our arrival to the beach park, most students were eager to jump into the murky pond and work together with members of the community to eradicate the water hyacinth from an area of the pond.  As the rest of the group eased into the pond, students broke into groups.  Some students pushed clumps of hyacinth in towards the shore, while others threw the plants onto and away from the shore. The students spent time pausing to investigate the life forms in the pond. They discovered crayfish, tadpoles ducks, and the endangered nene. As they cleared the pond, they shared stories with community members; some of whom have lived in the region all of their lives. After some time working, the students were satisfied with the large area of cleared pond and ready to eat lunch.

Before lunch, we all jumped into the ocean to clean off. The cool water felt great after all the hard work we had done. The group circled up, had a round of thanks, and ate lunch over fun conversation topics. We enjoyed lunch and a view of palm trees, black sand, sea turtles, and beautiful blue waves. The weather was perfect for a day at the beach. After digesting for a while, the group decided to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean. Some choose to swim while others chose to float and chat.

Punalu’u was once a major residence for ancient Hawaiians. Hawaiians used this land for fishing and as a major source of fresh water. Punalu’u means “diving spring”, and sits on top of thousands of tons of fresh water flowing underground. During periods of drought, ancient Hawaiians would dive to the bottom of the ocean and fill “ipu” (gourds) with fresh water. Punalu’u is also home to endangered hawksbill sea turtles known as Honu’ea. Tourists come from far away to admire the fascinating creatures, but are warned: “do not touch or ride the turtles”. Students watched as turtles basked in the sun. They were awed by the turtles’ size and gentle nature, but made sure to give the turtles plenty of space.

After taking a nice swim, the students took some time to relax on the beach. The group played an organized bonding game and shared stories over the experience afterwards while loading up the van. We then headed back to Pacific Quest with about an hour to relax before it was time to hop into the gardens and kitchen to prepare dinner.

April 13, 2016

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Gardening in LA: Alumni find solace and camaraderie in service project

By: Mike Sullivan, MA, LMHC
Alumni and Family Services Director

Approaching Wattles Farm from Hollywood Boulevard is surreal.  A short walk from the iconic walk of fame in the heart of Hollywood, one navigates speeding sports cars, stoplights (which apparently aren’t enforced), and screaming police sirens to find the gate encircling the margins of Wattles Farm.  After traversing an ancient avocado grove, one emerges in the 4.2 acre organic garden of eden- a setting that couldn’t be more dichotomous from the immediate surroundings of bustling Hollywood.

The garden was reminiscent of Pacific Quest- meandering paths lined with rocks and downed limbs, tropical fruits draping from tree branches, and luscious garden beds overflowing with lettuce and kalWattles Farm Alumni Evente.  Travis Slagle and I felt at peace as we toured the garden, taking time to absorb every element of the Wattles oasis.  We basked in the familiarity of the natural landscape and reprieve from the urban gridlock surrounding us.

Head Gardenmaster for 23+ years, Toby Leaman, introduced Travis and I to the array of work needed to maintain Wattles garden.  She identified specific areas that our Pacific Quest alumni group could complete during our community service garden project the following day.  Travis observed closely as Toby showed him where the invasive onion grass was overtaking the roses and geranium, as well as where the rock wall was eroding.  While many people may view the immense undertaking Toby outlined as a nuisance, Travis and Toby see potential.  Being gardeners in their heart and healers/role models for youth, the garden is a means to connecting with something greater – a deeper sense of self and greater connection with community.  Excitement grew as we refined our plans for our project the following day.

Our alumni group dug into our community service project at 10 AM.  Smiles, laughs, and reminiscing about funny stories from Hawaii ensued, while the group maintained diligence and attention to eradicating the onion grass. The group overhauled the rose and geranium beds, creating a discernable difference.  Apparently that project wasn’t enough, as the group then devoured the opportunity to weed a long pathway through the avocado orchard.   Toby exclaimed what an amazing group of volunteers we were, highlighting our attention to detail and positive attitudes.

AJandTravisOver a nutritious lunch and closing circle, the group discussed some observations throughout the day.  Many noted “being in the present” and “sharing a common goal,” as being significant aspects of the project. Others shared a sense of fun, camaraderie, peacefulness, and giving back.  Each of these observations speaks to the power of gardening and intention- when we set aside computers and phones, carve out a shared gardening project, we find meaning.  The group observed that the experience was far from insignificant, but rather served as an amazing conduit for connection and leaving a legacy for others in the future.  It was certainly a memorable Sunday!

I want to share a huge THANK YOU to Toby Leaman for being such a warm host and project leader.  I also want to thank the Pacific Quest alumni for their dedication to others and desire to continue to deepen their self awareness. And lastly I want to thank the entire community for maintaining Wattles Farm for others to enjoy.  Community gardens are a growing movement, and one can see layers of significance far greater than just providing salad greens.

February 16, 2016

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Pacific Quest Alumni Join Surfrider Foundation In Beach Cleanup


By Mike Sullivan, Alumni & Family Services Director

Pacific Quest alumni gathered at Torrey Pines State Beach this past Saturday to reconnect and contribute to a larger effort at protecting our ocean ecosystem.  Together with volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation, we combed the beach in hunt of marine debris littering the shores and posing environmental threats.  We collected everything from tiny shreds of styrofoam to large pieces of plastic. There were over 200 people total and we gathered hundreds of pounds of garbage in the clean up.  Go Pacific Quest!  Go Surfrider Foundation!

The beach clean up was a fun and relaxing event.  Alumni reminisced on stories from their journeys at Pacific Quest and shared about life in Southern California.  I was impressed with the continued interest the alumni shared regarding gardening, exercise, and culinary exploration.  They have infused elements of these into life outside of Hawaii, sharing photos and discussing future goals.   It is absolutely fantastic to see the alumni applying interests cultivated at Pacific Quest in their daily lives at home.   We look forward to featuring testimonials and success stories on our “Ohana Fridays” blog updates.

Pacific Quest believes in giving back to the community and maintaining alumni relationships.  Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle and I will be traveling to Los Angeles in March to help promote Sky’s the Limit Fund, a non-profit foundation dedicated to raising funds to help families access wilderness therapy who wouldn’t otherwise be able to do so.   While in Los Angeles, Travis and I will be hosting an alumni event at Wattles Farm, a 4.2 acre community garden in the heart of Hollywood. We will be leading a gardening workshop and community service project. We encourage any and all alumni who would like to participate to please RSVP to Mike Sullivan at

We look forward to another positive experience of community service, and most of all reconnecting with our alumni families in a fun and meaningful event!

January 22, 2016

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Southern California Alumni Events – Coming Soon!




Date: Saturday, February 13th

Time: 9:00 am- 12:00 pm

Location: Torrey Pines State Beach

Activity: Beach cleanup hosted by Surfrider Foundation

What to bring: Clothes suitable for weather

This is a great opportunity to join forces in promoting healthy oceans and giving back to the community.  After all, we all depend on our valued communities and ocean ecosystems, whether living in California or in Hawaii. Let’s work together!  After the beach clean up from 9:00-11:00am, we will provide lunch for volunteers and an opportunity to reconnect and visit.



Date: Sunday, March 6th

Time: 10:00 am- 2:00 pm

Location: Wattles Farm, 1714 N Curson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Activity: Community garden project for all ages – planting, weeding, harvesting, many fun projects!

What to bring: Clothes suitable for weather and gardening projects, sturdy shoes

Join Travis Slagle and Mike Sullivan at Wattles Farm, a 4.2 acre organic community garden in the heart of Hollywood.  Join us in giving back through gardening projects and learning more about organic gardening in Southern California.  We had a blast at our last gardening event at Golden Gate park in San Francisco – and we plan to make this one even better! We will take a break during our gardening activity to eat a nutritious lunch, provided by Pacific Quest.

Please RSVP!  Contact Mike Sullivan, Alumni and Family Services Director at

November 9, 2015

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Malama I Ka ‘Aina: A Community Service Project

By Lauren Meyer – Assistant Program Supervisor
pineappleThis past Friday, a few of our Malama students took a break from camp to set out into the community of Na’alehu with a purpose. With a trunk full of tools, and smiles on our faces, we took off down the road to a neighbor’s house. In this house lives two, once very active members of our small community here in Ka’u. The wife has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the husband, who has been giving his fullest self to take care of her, was recently diagnosed with cancer as well. The students weren’t able to shake the hands of these two, as they were out for the day, but our task was to give them something to smile about when they returned.
With shovels in hand, we stepped into their garden. We could see that they had put forth a lot of effort into beautifying their backyard, which was backed up to a golf course a few miles down the road from our base camp. We weren’t given much instruction besides “he really likes his pineapples.” We took a walk around, discussing what we could do to help. There were many overgrown areas which needed a lot of TLC to survive. We looked closer at the pineapples, and realized that they had produced many slips, which can be planted to make new pineapples.
We spent about an hour simply weeding the whole garden, then put up rock walls made of the Hawaiian volcanic lava rocks to stop the weeds from spreading as easily. A dragon fruit vine was starting to take over some of his smaller plants, so we transplanted that to a nearby wall to crawl on instead. Then we started our pineapple project.
Pineapples are great plants for the fact that they don’t need much attention – they can grow almost entirely on their own without the need for constant attention from the caretaker. This makes them a perfect plant for this couple, who have become quite preoccupied but still appreciate the beauty and reward from the garden. We harvested the slips and planted them in the ground, making a larger pineapple patch lining up against their beautiful plumeria trees that separates their yard from the golf course. We talked about how excited he was going to be when he came home to see this.
We worked ourselves into a hunger and decided to stop and eat the lunch that we had packed. Three malamas and two staff sat in a circle and expressed how grateful we were for our health, and the fact that our loved ones don’t have to go through this right now. We thought about the couple and the hardships they must be feeling right now. “I wonder if they have any kids” one of the students asked. “It feels great to get out and be a part of the community” another vocalized.
After lunch, we continued to work on the pineapple patch as well as some general maintenance and weeding of the area. It was soon time to head back into the vehicle and begin the quick drive back to camp. The ride back was quiet, it seems our hard work really wore us out. The students got back into camp with an hour to spare before it was time to start cooking dinner, and were quick to tell the other students in their ohana about their productive day.

March 28, 2014

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By: Mike Sullivan, Primary Therapist & Lori Armbruster, Communications Director

PQ staff members were honored and humbled by the overwhelming turnout of alumni, students and families who gathered at the San Francisco Children’s Garden in Golden Gate Park for an inspiring day of service to the community! PQ alumni spent the day working side by side with PQ staff to build sustainable garden beds, revamp neglected pathways, and artfully paint various stumps and signs with inspirational quotes and educational facts to support this beautiful landmark garden. Though the theme of the day was service, the undertone was that of connection. The garden is a powerful classroom and catalyst to support change, which has been proven during each student’s stay at Pacific Quest. Families attending the event sought to give to their local community and were also excited to reconnect with the PQ Ohana that helped to create meaningful and life-changing experiences during their Pacific Quest journeys.

Upon arriving at the park, all projects were carefully outlined and explained. Moms, dads, alumni, students, and siblings quickly volunteered for various tasks and out came the gardening gloves, shovels, paintbrushes, and hand picks. The families dove into the tasks, utilizing communication skills, teamwork, and plenty of good humor to complete each task. The families worked throughout the morning, enjoying the camaraderie, sunshine, and people around them. In a pre-lunch debrief circle facilitated by PQ’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, many commented on how good it was to reconnect with the garden, nature, and community. Young siblings shared the simple happiness they felt being with their families and doing something together. The park interns commented repeatedly that our volunteer alumni were enthusiastic, polite, exceptionally hard working, and clearly dedicated to the tasks at hand.

The Children’s Garden serves as a venue for educating young children in San Francisco about the wonders of the natural world, where their food comes from, and health and nutrition. The garden is maintained by wonderfully enthusiastic interns, who are dedicated to the well-being of youth in their community. The PQ alumni families continuously expressed gratitude that they were able to contribute to such an important and worthy cause. As the day concluded, the Children’s Garden Community Coordinator and her small team of interns expressed sincere heartfelt appreciation, sharing that in one day our “army of angel volunteers” were able to accomplish several projects that would’ve taken their small crew, weeks and — in some cases– months to complete.

As the day came to a close, bittersweet goodbyes ensued. The community gardening project was a huge success! PQ alumni families rekindled a deeper connection with each other and within themselves by working in the garden and giving back to their local community. It is our hope that families will continue to seek out opportunities to practice and put to use many of the concepts learned at Pacific Quest, and that Ohana Days serves to spark that desire.

As I reflect back on this weekend’s event, I am inspired by the ripple effect of the work that we do. Seeing the smiling faces and families working together is a powerful and tangible reminder of that work. It is our goal to foster growth and connection that ripples outward into communities, where families and children will find a deeper sense of connection to themselves and the world.