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!
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.