Some Questions about Quest

A friend of a friend emailed me some Questions about my Quest Experience. They’re pretty much the same kinds of questions most people tend to ask me about my time here. Read on for a quick survey of my take on Quest.

1. Where are you from in Seattle?
I’m a 6th generation Seattleite. I grew up in the same house my mom grew up in, with my brother, parents, and grandma, in Madrona, about a mile away from Meany Middle School where she taught art for almost 40 years, before retiring to become a small-time seattle celebrity (Dee Dee Rainbow–highly googleable).

2. What year are you in at Quest? (Have you started working on your “question” yet?)
I’m in my fourth year at Quest. My Question is “How can I identify and implement economic-environmental win-wins?”

3. What made you choose Quest?
During my senior year at Garfield High School, I stopped going to classes; I was disengaged and disenchanted. Instead, I interned at a tiny middle/high school called Puget Sound Community School, where I saw intimate learning done right. I came to visit with one of the seniors at PSCS, and knew this was the place for me. The youth of the school meant malleability. The intimacy of the school gave room for conscientiousness. The school’s academic program meant serious students. That each student had to consider their own goals (ie develop a question) meant that an overwhelming majority of students want to be world-changers. Of PSCS’ 6-person graduating class that year, three of them came to Quest.

5. How do you find working within the block program?
I love it. I can focus. Instead of de-prioritizing courses I don’t find engaging, I take responsibility to work with the tutor and make the class worth my time. Because everyone else is in the exact same boat, I have a lot of support from my peers when the going gets rough. In almost any block, I’m so immersed that I think and talk about the course hungrily, with my course-mates and other students, over lunch, when I stop to chat with a friend, or when I’m at a party. Quest is the most stranger-welcoming community I’ve ever seen, but only as long as the stranger is willing to listen to us talk at length about whatever subject we happen to be studying.

6. What have been some of your best experiences at Quest?
Oh man. There are a lot.

In my third block at Quest, I noticed a problem with a mathematical proof which has been accepted for over a century. In my fifth block I got into a massive argument with faculty and administration which ended in a new policy granting protection to students taking religious absences–just from me arguing with them. In my eighth block, one of the fourth years (Quest’s first class) showed me a natural water slide very close to Quest, and told me to keep it a secret; I’ve never shown it to anyone else, and never seen anyone else there.

In my second year I had the pleasure of serving as the Foundation Rep on the Students’ Representative Council; I got to look at reforming the way academics was done at Quest, and institutionalize some accountability measures to improve student feedback.

In september of last year, I got to take African Self Perceptions: 18 essays, 12 books, 3 all-nighters, and the first time I felt what it feels like to touch my potential. At the end of last year, I got to head up running our annual Dancing Bear Music Festival: contracts, licenses, security, everything–what an experience.
At the end of last year, I proposed a project to my Advisor, Richard Hoshino, that we’re submitting for publication this week; I cannot begin to explain how much I have learned working one-on-one with him, well-beyond the narrow scope of applied mathematics.

Our project became my summer fellowship, and I got to spend the whole summer in *BEAUTIFUL* Squamish with a small, tight-knit group of students who stay over the summer to work for the school, as well as a few other fellows. From attending the AAAI conference (the foremost Artificial Intelligence academic conference) in Bellevue with Richard (my advisor), to helping another fellow collect lake-emission samples during my first ever kayak experience, to helping run an academic summer camp for high-schoolers, this summer was just magical.

This year, I’ve been allowed to do SO MUCH, which is great considering I finally feel like I know what’s going on. I’ve gotten to set up a partnership between the Residence Council (like floor reps at other schools, but elected) which I co-chair, and the Students’ Representative Council (the student government), to develop a set of joint “Innovation Initiatives”. I’ve gotten to write an opinion column in the student paper about the schools’ institutions and room for growth. I’ve gotten to help head Dancing Bear Music Festival again. I’ve been invited by my class to help coordinate graduation. I cannot begin to articulate the depths at which my experiences at Quest have changed me for the better. Quest made into the kind of person I want to be.

7. What’s your main subject of interest?
My Question is about environmental economics. My approaches are mathematical. My tools are computer-science. My goals are philosophical and theological.

8. What do you want to do in the future?
After stints running two non-profits (one religious, one political), organizing and attending protests, and volunteering for lots of different types of organizations, I thought that I would certainly be pursuing non-profit work. After a carbon-cycle class I took, I realized that global warming is the likely the defining issue of my generation.

Then I had my first executive position in a for-profit company. As head of Sales and Development, I watched our 3rd quarter revenue quadruple the previous year’s. This was all I needed; that kind of growth just doesn’t really happen in non-profits. My short-term future will hopefully be teaching entrepreneurship at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa (the only job listing I’ve responded to). My medium-term future will probably be graduate school in business administration and/or computer science for applied mathematics and the founding of a company. My long-term future will be devoted to leveraging my personal resources to battle global warming.Image

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