Staff of the Month: Kellie Garrity

By Kate Eppinger, Field Supervisor Reeds Bay

Reeds Bay’s first Staff of the Quarter award goes to the talented and dedicated Miss Kellie Garrity. Kelly has worked for Pacific Quest since May 2012 and transitioned to our Young Adult Reeds Bay location when it opened this past June.  She is our longest standing Reeds Bay employee and brings with her a plethora of outdoor educational experience and an exceptional skill set. When she’s not working 10 day shifts and helping empower young adults, you can find her swimming and learning
how to dance in Hilo. Here are a few questions that highlight Kellie’s Pacific Quest experience.

Interviewed by: Kate Eppinger

Where does your motivation to work in this field come from? “All of my pain finally has a purpose. Everything in my life that I had been through and felt very alone going through, finally had a purpose, a really important purpose.”

Describe the community you’ve been welcomed in at PQ?
“You feel really at home because usually everyone is from some smaller town
where there is the small town pattern of getting married, having a house, doing
what society is pushing you to do. When you come here, you meet people like you,
who take risks and aren’t forming into societal molds. I have been welcomed into a
community of people who are just like me and have similar stories and passions. It’s
really inspiring.”

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself from a student?
“I think why I do this work is because I was an at risk youth just like they are. I felt
all of these emotions and I’ve been through most of their experiences. But somehow
I’ve trucked through and handled my business. I see myself in a lot of them. And it’s
easy to give your younger self advice. I think we wish we could all do that.”

How will working at PQ prepare you for your next step in life?
The biggest thing I’ve learned from PQ is how to be a strong leader. Among many
things, I’ve been given lots of feedback, I’ve learned different styles of teaching for
different students, and I’ve learned how to stay really calm and effective during
crisis.  I’ve learned how to empathize with people, which I always had,
but working at PQ has brought that level of compassion to a whole new level. Being
able to sit down with someone, and commit to their ‘wellness’ (mental, emotional,
physical) is invaluable. And not only one student, but a couple all at once. I have
become a leader because of working at PQ.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
“A couple months ago, there was this one student who wanted to leave our program
and who was feeling extremely depressed. We had this really long check in one day
and when he left, he was such a stronger person. When he hugged me goodbye,
he whispered to me, “I’ll never forget that day when you talked me off the ledge.”

It’s those little moments of hard work that are worth it: Having someone truly
understand you. To give a student the time and space, where they can say every
thought on their mind, and you can make a place for them- I can’t even describe it.”

Describe your attributes that you bring to the field.
After I got comfortable at PQ, my true self started coming out–and I have this way
of bringing humor to situations that make a lot of people laugh. I’m very charismatic
when I want to be. I can help shape a culture where you’re respected for your work,
but really laugh at the end of your day. I think I bring a strong female presence, with
my rougher edge. I bring my struggles, my successes and I am very open with that.

Motto for life?
“If you think you can or you think you can’t you’re probably right.” This is such a
good principle to live by; it’s so simple. Whatever you choose in your mind, is going
to be the outcome.”

Advice to a new PQ employee?
“You’re going to change here. Just be a silent observer when you first come, soak it
all in. Don’t try to do every activity on the island your first off shift!”

1 sentence to sum up PQ
“PQ is the best decision I’ve ever made.”

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