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Young Students Experience College at PacificQuest

Larry Peña, August 8, 2011
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Twenty-four outstanding students in grades seven, eight, and nine earned advance college credits and had a preview of college life at Pacific Union College’s annual PacificQuest, July 24-29. The program recruits high-performance students from schools across the Adventist system for a well rounded and challenging academic and social experience. Students came from as close as the Bay Area and as far away as Colorado.

“All of the kids are exceptional—they are academically gifted but also many are artistic,” says PacificQuest academic director Aimee Wyrick, a PUC biology professor. “Our students are very athletic as well. Altogether, a well-rounded bunch.”

This year’s program included a core class and two electives. Every student took a class on biology emphasizing exotic animals, taught by PUC biology professor Bryan Ness. He guided the students through interactions with a variety of unconventional pets, including monitors, tarantulas, and snakes, learning about the science of how they live and what makes them unusual.

PUC business professor Wally Lighthouse introduced the students to the study of business in one of the elective options. In “Business as Usual,” students explored the impact of trade and economics on history and culture, researched the value of unexpected commodities, and practiced business principles through trade-themed games like Monopoly and Pit.

“Learning about trade was more complicated than I ever imagined,” says Elizabeth Porco, a sophomore from Pine Hills Academy in Auburn, Calif.

The other elective course was “Creative Writing: Letters to the World,” taught by PUC English professor Sara Kakazu. Using the overarching theme of personal narratives, she gave students a chance to develop their imaginations, as well as publish short stories and poetry, write creative nonfiction, and perform in front of their peers.

PUC senior Mark Monterroso, last year’s student association religious vice president, offered worship services every morning—the first time in PacificQuest history that a student has held this role.

The program also offered many learning, social, and spiritual opportunities outside of the classroom. One evening a visiting professor from Solano College in Fairfield, Calif., offered a lecture on diversity, focusing on California’s large Hispanic community. On Tuesday students competed in an annual Quiz Bowl competition, teaming up to answer college-level questions about topics such as math, science, geography, and art. Almost every student performed in a talent show that featured music, skits, and a student completing a Rubik’s Cube puzzle in a minute and 30 seconds. The week wrapped up with the traditional end-of-the-week Luau Pool Party.

Many students are eager to encourage others to experience PacificQuest. “It’s a great place and fun things will happen,” says Matthew Mizuta, a sophomore from southern California who has attended PacificQuest all three years he has been eligible. “It’s a fun way to broaden your horizons and get a feel for college life.”