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February 19, 2018

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Academic Coordinator Attends Learning and the Brain Conference

Pacific Quest’s Academic Coordinator Isabel Holmes was recently in San Francisco attending the Winter 2018 Learning and the Brain Conference.  This event brought together hundreds of researchers, educators, clinicians, and school leaders from across the globe to explore the latest neuroscience research on innovation and creativity in an interdisciplinary forum.

Isabel Holmes, Academic Coordinator

In sessions such as “Being Creative is a Choice”, “Visible Literacy in Learning”, and “The Middle Way: Finding the Balance Between Mindfulness and Mind Wandering for Creativity and Achievement”, Isabel was able to learn about new strategies to develop innovative and creative mindsets in staff and students and see evidence of the benefits of imagination, mindfulness, and mind wandering for memory, literacy, and achievement.

Of particular interest was researcher and professor Alison Gopnik’s opening keynote address, “When (and Why) Children are More Creative Than Adults”, which touched on a number of tenets from her recent book, The Gardener and the Carpenter–a framework for creative learning and exploration that translates particularly well to the gardens of Pacific Quest and has been much discussed amongst staff in recent months. Isabel was grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this exciting meeting of minds, and looks forward to sharing what she learned while continuing to learn alongside her PQ colleagues.

Isabel Holmes joined Pacific Quest in the fall of 2016 after graduating from Vanderbilt University with her M.Ed in Human Development Counseling. She worked as a Young Adult Program Guide for seven months before moving into the role of Academic Coordinator. Isabel dedicated her early career to helping a variety of populations get the most out of their educational journeys and brings a holistic understanding of behavioral health in academic environments to PQ.

As the Academic Coordinator, Isabel strives to creatively integrate the curriculum into our students’ daily process and envisions bringing the curriculum to life in the field through groups and experiential learning opportunities. She serves as an energetic liaison between internal departments and between PQ and external entities, and is invigorated by opportunities to drive staff development and training.

Learn more here about the Accredited Academic Program at Pacific Quest!

June 22, 2017

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Q & A with Academic Coordinator Isabel Holmes

Isabel joined the Pacific Quest team in 2016 after graduating from Vanderbilt University with her M.Ed in Human Development Counseling. She worked as a Young Adult Program Guide for seven months before moving into her current role as Academic Coordinator.  As the AC, Isabel strives to integrate the curriculum into our students’ daily process through groups and experiential learning opportunities.  This Q & A is an opportunity to learn more about Isabel and her valuable role at PQ!

Isabel Holmes, Academic Coordinator

What drew you to PQ?

I was drawn to Pacific Quest by the unique way our program combines mental health treatment, social-emotional learning, and experience of the outdoors. I was excited by the community approach to care, and have come to respect that even more during my time here. On a personal level, I thought that living on the Big Island and working at Pacific Quest would allow me to live and experience my own life in a radically different way, and that has absolutely proven true! My time here has challenged me in ways I didn’t previously know I could rise to meet, and has opened doors that I never knew existed.

What is your favorite part of PQ?

When I was working as a Program Guide, I used to joke that my favorite part of the job was sitting outside the luas at the end of the day, waiting for students to shower or complete their nightly routines. While it makes for an easy laugh, I meant it honestly, because it was in some of those moments, rolling around on a dirty floor in exhaustion verging on delirium, that I forged some of the best connections I ever had with students, whether through hilarious laughter over something completely silly or in a quiet moment of serious reflection on that day. I think what this really points to, and my real favorite part of PQ, is that the structure of our program gives us the opportunity to observe and help our students recognize and change their own patterns of behavior in a way that just doesn’t exist anywhere else.

What is your academic background?

My parents were both teachers, so I grew up in the world of academia. I attended Bryn Mawr College for undergrad, where I majored in English. I wasn’t the most motivated high school student, and it was at Bryn Mawr that I really found my own drive to learn and explore. I was able to take a wide variety of classes just because they interested me. After graduation, I ended up working at a boarding school outside of Boston, MA. The school environment was a comfortable one for me, and I had many opportunities to experience all the different things that make a school run. What I enjoyed most about that period of my life was my work with students in a residential community setting, and that led me to Vanderbilt, where I earned my M.Ed. in Human Development Counseling from the Peabody College of Education and Human Development. I completed my internships for my degree in a variety of school settings, gaining first-hand knowledge and experience in both counseling and academic program administration.

What about the PQ academic program is unique?

The PQ academic program is unique because it teaches our students to appreciate their environment, to appreciate their history, and to appreciate and care for themselves. Before they can be healthy learners, they must also be healthy people, and we provide access to a wide range of supports, structures, and skills to aid them in that quest, as well as opportunities to practice becoming both of those things.

What does Sustainable Growth mean to you?

In my eyes, sustainable growth means becoming the person you want to be slowly enough that it’s actually possible. We’ve all woken up on January 1st and named a litany of resolutions that we are going to enact to become a completely new version of ourselves right away. And we’ve all woken up on February or March 1st and bemoaned all the ways in which we are failing ourselves yet again, before waking up on August 1st and remembering nothing at all about any of it. These types of resolutions are often unsuccessful because they ask too much at once. A flower doesn’t bloom from a seed overnight, and humans are not capable of such rapid development, either. In order to really change, we must find our own rate of sustainable growth and incorporate new patterns and behaviors into our lives slowly.

How does Sustainable Growth tie into the PQ academic program?

Rather than seeking to completely change or “fix” a student during their short 8-12 week stay with us and consider them a finished product, the PQ curriculum teaches lifelong skills and concepts that students can take with them when they leave, to continue their process of sustainable growth over their entire lifetime.

February 3, 2017

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PQ Success Story: Creating a Path in Life

By:  Dr. John Souza & Janna Pate

Linus came to Pacific Quest as a 25-year-old who struggled with four college failures, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. He often referred to himself as “lazy” and believed he could not finish anything.

At Pacific Quest, Linus received a 391-page curriculum consisting of 242 assignments in English, environmental literacy, fitness, health, Hawaiian culture, horticulture, and psychology. One of those assignments was a project called a Discernible Difference (DD) that requires students to spend at least 3 days creating a lasting, positive impact on the land.

PQ Alumni Success Story: Creating a Path - in the Garden and in Life

Student with his final project

Per his pattern, Linus took on a project that was far bigger and more anxiety-producing than necessary, opting to cut a long and difficult path through the cane grass (a “noxious weed” that grows in clumps over 10 feet high) to a meditative section of the camp known as Ocean View. At the time, students could not access Ocean View independently because it wasn’t visible to staff over the cane grass.

To start, Linus felt his familiar pattern of anxiety while working in the cane grass and at times suggested quitting. However, as he continued to work and reflect, he began to feel empowered.

Most notable was the day when Linus began to redefine his past failures as not resulting from “laziness,” but rather from a “paralysis of analysis” — anxiety from over-thinking and not “doing” something. By “doing” something every day, Linus learned how to break down large tasks into smaller ones, take breaks, ask for help, and take ownership of his own wants and needs.

When project completion was in sight, Linus began to ask: Wouldn’t the cane grass simply grow back? But finally he said, “It doesn’t matter if the DD gets maintained after I leave, the real work is for me. And if it does get taken care of, all the better.”

PQ Alumni Success Story: Creating a Path - in the Garden and in Life

Over a year later – continued progress!

Almost a year and a half later, we are happy to report that Linus’s DD has inspired generations of PQ students not only to maintain the Ocean View path to but to expand it. A vast new area for gardening and other projects now exists: a pumpkin patch, a meditation mandala, a memorial garden, and a secondary path to a space used for graduation ceremonies. And students can access Ocean View independently.

Not only did Linus complete all of his work at PQ, but since leaving, Linus has successfully completed a transitional program, started taking university classes, and is living independently, continuing to create his own path.

July 15, 2016

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PQ Offers Additional Academic Credits

By: Sharon Findlay, MS
Admissions and Communications Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce that our students now have the opportunity to complete seven academic courses for a total of four (4) high school credits! Most recently, we have incorporated an elective credit with the addition of a Psychology Course. This additional course provides our students with methods for understanding biopsychological, developmental, and cognitive functioning in humans, as well as individual and group variations in behavior. By the end of the course, students know through their own experience this psychological truth, articulated by Abraham Maslow: “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” This course is aligned with Pacific Quest’s therapeutic curriculum, the Common Core Curriculum and the National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula.

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Pacific Quest’s Academic Coordinator, Janna Pate comments, “Pacific Quest is pleased to offer high school credits in the content area of psychology. Perhaps more than any other, this course reflects the knowledge our students come here seeking. Experiential learning takes places around the clock, and the content of our psychology course is at the heart of that work. Throughout the day, students have the opportunity to learn and demonstrate their understanding by doing things like participating in horticultural therapy activities, practicing healthy coping skills, trying out different mindfulness practices, practicing nonviolent communication, and establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.”

All PQ academic coursework is accredited by AdvancEd and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, allowing credits to transfer and students to grow their academic skills and knowledge while participating in integrative and daily therapeutic work.