Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Global Eyes

The air is thick here with heavy hopes of birthing change. Every day here at Pearson is nurturing my desire to be a steward of the earth and its people. I feel myself developing global eyes with a heightened cultural awareness. Daily I am inspired by the activism of the students and their ability to lead and take initiative in the small and the big things. Every day is full here as we seek to discuss topics of every range be an accelerator for change in the world. A word I have been thinking about a lot is peace. Personally, as I have been working in the Alumni in residence program as the campus chaplain, I have been coming to understand that word in a deeper way. One of my contributions here at Pearson is facilitating a group every week called “Life Chats”. It has been around discussions about life and faith. The goal for the group is to have a space to talk about religion and how it plays an effects in relationships, culture, worldview, politics, and more. Within this group we have had perspectives on Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Atheism, Confucianism, Judaism, Hinduism, and some individuals still forming what they believe. In light of the current age interfaith relations and dialogue is often an area of tension or avoidance. Each faith practice has a different perspective on the transcendent and also it has its own cultural identity. I remind myself weekly that within most human hearts lies a strong desire for peace and connection. Some of the largest conflicts to religious peace is social and ideological issues. Many of the students have been able to discuss and acknowledge some of the wounds they have from religion. We often discuss how we can recover that word in our world today at the same time reconcile differing beliefs. How can we use religion as a means of bringing people together? How can understanding one’s beliefs to help develop more respect and equality? These conversations are sounding boards with hopes of preventing the recurrence of division. In creating space for dialogue around religion and diversity, peace is the goal. It is my hope that this peace may have a ripple effect on the world as these students are the next generation.Our differences can make our connections deeper and can create a fuller and richer space to grow. We thrive when we are known and loved. With the Life Chats group we have covered many controversial topics and students have been learning to agree to disagree. They have been learning to respect and more deeply understand other’s religion, spirituality, and practices. It has been beautiful to watch the seeds of peace beginning to be planned within his group as we have shared thoughts, sacred music, quotes, religious art, texts from holy books, personal experience, and most of all forming connection.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Experiencing Pearson as an Alumni's daughter

I am the daughter of Alumni Chris Matthews. Chris attended Pearson College from 1981-82 (Year 7). Chris described Pearson as a place of unity, diversity, and opportunity. A lot of my father's passions and dreams began to form at Pearson College. One of the most impactful elements of Pearson for him was when he learned to sail. Years down the road, once he met my mom and was married he bought a boat and sailed around the world for two years before having children. This dream started at Pearson College. My mother Carol always described her marriage to Chris as strong as they weathered many storms sailing. Living on a boat together really prepared them for the years ahead of commitment. Further, at Pearson Chris did a large study on algae. Chris had always loved anything to do with nature and biology. After Pearson he studied Marine Biology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. He decided he wanted to become a medical missionary and applied to medical school after Dalhousie. He got into medical school and not long after he felt he was called to become a pastor instead. He dropped out of medical school and started seminary at Dallas Theological Seminary. He met my mother in Dallas through an intercity children's support ministry that my father had started. All in all, I say all of this to speak on behalf of how Pearson College was incredibly formative for my father. Pearson College gave him the space to really dream. He died peacefully March 9th, 2011 from internal bleeding. He lived like he was fully alive everyday of his life with a countenance and joy that was unmistakable. My name is Cadence, I am oldest daughter of Chris. I have followed in my fathers footsteps in many ways. I have been studying theology and religion for the last 6 years. When I finally came for a tour of Pearson last April I really had a longing to be apart of its community. I have begun my volunteer position at Pearson as the campus Chaplain. It has been nostalgic as I often imagine what it might have been like for my father to attend this school. But I really am experiencing it for the first time. I feel like just being here I am travelling the world. I love the immersion of the many differing cultures and languages. Each person I met has a different story and is often from a part of the world I have yet to explore. I love exploring the world through the beautiful array of people here at Pearson. I consider this opportunity such a gift in which I already feel I am learning so much through. Living at Pearson has forced me to have a deeper sensitivity and knowledge of the many ways to view the world. I am reminded of the limitless opportunity for possibility. What a space for creativity, growth, empowerment, and passion. The students remind me daily to always ask questions, to pursue what you are passionate about, and to take initiative. We are all leaders in different ways!

Friday, 2 February 2018

People, trees and ocean

Albert and I are the first two alumni in residence coming to the programme this year. I was probably writting my IB exams at the time Albert was born. Our difference of age does not mean anything in a place like Pearson College UWC. Here students and staff really make you feel welcome, and you very quickly get involved in activities and talks as if you had been here all along. Everyone shows such warmth and support you become a member of the community quickly. Here you find a place where people from all ages share the same passion for life, learning, creativity and personal growth. At Pearson, we all share eagerness and curiousity to learn from each other and share the values of the UWC movement with great respect. The spirit on campus is timeless. To me, this spirit has not changed much from the time I was here. My perception of it, however, has changed during the 38 years since I first arrived. Back then, we were natural changemakers, but we felt this strong sense of responsibility to become said changemakers and ambassadors of peace for the future.  As an observer of now and then, I see this spirit streams from students in a more natural way than we thought,  and that they think; we were, and they are, already acting as change-makers and ambassadors of peace, without being aware of it most of the times. My message to them now would be: "You are already doing it."

In a more intimate aspect of my return to Pearson College, I also feel like if I had never left this place; as if there were a thread that attached me to this place for generations of valuable students with many other threads, creating a strong net of roots around the campus trees.

One remarkable difference I notice now is the impact of the internet and social media on campus. Students now have the possibility of being in contact with "the outside". When I was here I only made a phone call to my family once in two years, when my houseparents generously offered me to phone my mother after the attempt of coup d'etat in 1981. I hardly had contact with my friends in Spain, so my return to the background I came from was a shock after such intensive and rich life at Pearson. Students now are able to use all the tools at hand for their educational growth. Social media makes communication among students and staff more fluent and easy now with a wide range of possibilities to organize and participate in activities that are taking place on campus. I find that the use of social network is not a burden for students for being very much involved on campus. They are amazing young people, who are able to accomplish their studies and juggle so many other activities that makes this place so vibrant: TEDx, Pearson Politics chats, Indigenous Day, CAS, One World rehearsals, choir, among many others. And there is also time for laughing, baking a birthday cake or cooking japanese food in the house of a resident amidst the pressure of the IB and university interviews.

I was lucky to be invited to some classes so far. I could see how social media allows students to receive updated information that enriches the exposure of the class. And I could see how learning can become a pleasure here using creativity as a very efficient tool. 

I love being in such an stimulating place. I am tremendously grateful for being back. And very proud of being part of it.

Oh! Another timeless fact at Pearson: the rain!!!!!!!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Life in Pearson after Pearson

Life in Pearson after Pearson

It feels great to be back. And it's intense too! I forgot how life on campus felt like and, although I have no deadlines to reach or classes to attend, I've tried over the past few days to engage in campus life as much as I could: Social Innovation CAS, Fitness Tuesdays, long cafeteria talks, Indigenous Day, tsunami alert, Intramurals soccer tournament, Art workshops, Calgary homemade pizza party, TOK, jogging in the forest, TEDx, Ukranian dance, Life After Pearson talk and countless informal encounters with students and staff. I've been going to bed every night at 8pm exhausted, happy and impressed. 

Everyone here has been extremely welcoming and curious about who I am and what I've done over the past two decades. Not only that, but one of the most popular questions I've had has been "so, what's changed from since the late 90's?". It's been a very interesting question to answer because on the surface most buildings are the same with the exception of the floating one, the spiritual center and some renovated houses or areas, but as time went by, I've noticed profound changes. 

First of all, I want to acknowledge the fact that the overall campus vibe is a healthy one. Although stress levels vary from person to person there's an underlying fundamental change that has allowed students to better cope with the hardships of this place. Food in the caf has improved, the Health Center is open everyday with the head nurse living on campus and student-led Fitness Tuesdays are in place, because students now know that burning calories is positive for them in many aspects. Fitness is available for all levels and personal preferences. Students were humble and happy to hear my advice on how to properly perform some of the exercises and the theory behind them. 

Second, student initiatives have been recognized and made official. Back in my day there was a lot going on outside of what the IB mandated, just like today, but it didn’t count as part of the IB. In my case, I remember spending lots of hours learning how to play the guitar and starting a rock band, Mary’s Rock, but none of that counted as part of the IB although it arguably met all of the criteria. The College has come to realize that in a place like this, spontaneous creativity and gathering will occur, and that it has to be recognized. Students put a lot of faith, passion and sweat to what they believe in and this is what ultimately matters. Just as an example, I was honoured with an invitation from the students that started Social Innovation CAS. These guys are doers. They’ve done what every startup should do: identify a precise problem in a community, solve it, market it and distribute it. Their current efforts are focused on which offers students to buy supplies from their website with a premium and the CAS Group will by them for them at Walmart and deliver them to their room. Shopify, Strype, order management, marketing, discounts, distribution are some of the management concepts and tech that they apply, test and talk about every week to make things happen. C$300 of sales this week and 3 hours of debate and brainstorming with me speak for themselves. Once again, humility and thirst for knowledge is what drives these students. Hopefully I’ll be able to dive into many other student-led activities over the next days. 

Third, last Wednesday we celebrated Indigenous Day. I might be wrong, but I don’t remember having celebrated a full day of workshops like this one in my days outside of National Days (which are called Regional Days now). This initiative, led by Clint Kuzio, Indigenous Educator, Advisor & Coordinator of Reconciliation, and a group of students, aimed at acknowledging Indigenous People in Canada through a series of debates, movie screening and workshops. It was a very emotionally intense day which started off by Clint warning us about the movie we were about to watch showing the abuse that Indigenous children suffered in Residential Schools in Canada for the past decades up until 1996. Student workshops were very engaging and knowledgeable. 

Over the next three weeks I'll be living on campus spending as much time as I can with the unique population of this place. Faces have changed, but energy levels and vibes are still the same. 

Intramurals soccer tournament

Raquel, year 6, Spain, leading a watercolor workshop

Calgary House boy pizza party

Indigenous Day

Common Room inauguration

To be continued… 

Albert Lluís, year 24, Spain

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Alumni-in Residence Initiative Begins Its Third Year

Next month, the campus will welcome the first of this season’s Alumni-in Residence participants, Raquel Moya Agudo (Year 06/1981, Spain).

Raquel attended the College from 1979 to 1981 and, after recently retiring from her 36-year career as a flight attendant and occasional translator, is looking forward to sharing her “energy and optimism to help spread the values that makes Pearson College and the UWC movement so beautifully and greatly special.”

After Pearson, Raquel studied Translation at the University of Granada  then Spanish Linguistics and Literature at Autonoma University in Madrid. Around the same time, she started working as a part-time flight attendant for Iberia Airlines. Raquel adds that she is very active and loves painting watercolors, reading, and “trying to write short stories.”

“I am very happy and grateful for the opportunity of being part of the Pearson community again, 36 years after I graduated.”
The Alumni-in Residence Program began with the arrival of Dani McArthur (Year 6/1981,Canada) and her "Tiny House.” The program encourages alumni to engage in life and learning on our experiential education campus and to enrich campus life for current students, faculty and staff. Alumni are invited to bring their expertise and passions and work collaboratively with the community to offer new activities or learning opportunities based on their work, world experience, or passions.

The program was kick-started by Dani when she responded to Desiree McGraw's challenge to all Pearson alumni to find creative ways to dedicate time and talent to the College's mission: "To make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures, for peace and a sustainable future." Dani was enthusiastic about the invitation, and her proposal to live on campus and volunteer her expansive experience teaching English as a second language was something we were absolutely thrilled to take her up on! The added bonus was that she was bringing her own house with her!

With nearly 45 years of educating young leaders here on the Pacific Coast of Canada, we know that our most valuable resource is that pool of educated, experienced, motivated and diverse alumni. Alumni know that the Pearson experience is unique and something they remember forever.

Many alumni recall this time with fondness and are enthusiastic about giving back to help ensure other young people of promise are given the chance to have a similar experience. We eagerly invite this engagement, and encourage alumni to join us here on campus to continue to live the mission, and continue to educate and inspire young leaders to make a difference in their communities, organizations and the world.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Disappearing Acts

I woke in the dark this morning. It was still raining. I promised myself I'd wake early to watch the sun rise from basecamp at the dock, but the sound of the rain on the roof of the Tiny House was so familiar, so comforting, I considered staying cocooned like a slug in the warm loft.

Instead, I made myself a thermos of coffee and hiked down to the waterfront, navigating the slick ramp down to the floating dock. The rain soon subsided. I stood at the dock's edge and peered out over Pedder Bay, watching the sun break in the direction of Race Rocks. The sky glowed orange, then a fiery yellow. When I turned around, a spectacular rainbow arched over the forest, from the direction of East Sooke Park to Matheson Lake


One World Expo, 2017
One World was a spectacular success. Students danced, sang, spoke, and Soca'ed their hearts out. Speaking of hearts, tunes like Shosholoza tugged at the heart strings. A posse of my fellow years gathered in Victoria for a mini-reunion. It was a gift to hang in the audience together, listening to haunting music from Syrian refugees, spoken word by an Afghan feminist, expert emceeing by students from South Sudan, Mexico, Norway, and Ontario, and a fierce performance by Indigenous students from around the world.

The Nostalgia Project--an interactive exhibit featuring your postcards, letters, emails, and messages to your Pearson selves--was featured in the One World Expo in McPherson Theatre. The stories, memories, and advice were eagerly pored over, especially by current students, who will have the chance to spend quality time in conversation with your messages (and writing messages to their own future selves) as part of the Life After Pearson workshop next month.


I'm leaving Pearson for the second time. It's been such a privilege to be back--the writing, storytelling and migration workshops, the passionate mealtime conversations, the rainy day hikes, the long forest bike rides, the quiet morning time in reflection and meditation.

I've been thinking of all the ways we leave or have left the College. The wrenching, sobbing, early morning goodbye at the end of our second year, when it felt like the world was ending. I've been wondering about all the alumni who have gone completely off-grid, AWOL, slipping silently away from the Pearson web for reasons all their own.

Pearson Log, 1992/93
I've been thinking of the many ways we disappear and re-appear to ourselves and to each other; times we feel ourselves lost and re-surface; intimate conversations we have with our own private ghosts.

And I've been thinking about Bruce--his crazy explosion of curls, his brilliant gifts on the piano, his generous intelligence, his smile. I've been thinking about Laureen--her warm, mischievous eyes, her confident two-step, her rock solid sense of vocation.

All the ways we consider our lives, like lines on an invisible map, spiralling every which way. The magic of taking the time to be present, to savour the sunset, that last meandering conversation, a fleeting rainbow, love.

We all take our leave, eventually. From Pearson. From each other and those we care about. From the world and its gorgeous mystery.

But here we are, you and I, breathing right now. Let us find the grace to live the wonder and the mystery.



In memory of Bruce McKinnon (Year 18), Laureen Laturnas (Year 19), 
& all the wild and quiet Pearson dreamers
who have blazed a trail before us.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Pearson Notes: One World, Bear Stories, Muscle Memory

It's the night before One World. Last night, final dress rehearsal: Max Bell Hall was filled with the voices of choir, the pounding of passionate Gumboot, the manic joy of Ukrainian dance. Tomorrow, One World 2017 meets the world. But tonight, students are enjoying a little down time.

Today felt like the first fully-fledged day of spring. The daffodils are out in bloom and the sun is shining. Groups of students roamed about in T-shirts, and some ate dinner outside. A rowdy soccer game transpired on the pitch. There's a collective exhalation--a reprieve before the excitement of the weekend.

That Time the Hungry Bear Sauntered into the Common Room

In the Spiritual Centre last week I practiced yoga while it rained outside. The view through the soaring window was so majestic and familiar. Low tide. Rain kissing webs of moss clinging to gnarly branches. Earlier, a bald eagle circled high above the bay. In the middle of Tree Pose, I spotted two grown deer, dipping their noses into the muck and salt.

There have been so many animal stories these past few weeks. My favourite is about Nazim--a faculty member--stumbling upon an adult black bear snout deep in a garbage can in the Student Common Room early one morning. Feasting, no doubt, on leftover Mr. Noodles.

Then there's the story of another faculty member coming face to face with a cougar, biking up the College Drive at dawn. The cougar sat atop a rocky perch, gazing down serenely. Apparently that cougar spent a lot of time around the College. Bear and cougar warnings have become more common. One student spoke about finding a raccoon in her room. Talk about teachable moments.

Muscle Memory

I read last week, after the cougar story, that nearly anyone who has ever hiked on Vancouver Island has been watched by a cougar, without knowing the cougar was patiently observing in the wood. This has me thinking about how I am more aware now of certain things I was oblivious of as a student, caught in my own angsty bubble. Being back offers the chance to absorb and appreciate the macro view. It's a chance to integrate the memories of who I was with the person I've become; to call up the tender old ghosts and find adequate room for compassion and forgiveness.

That's one piece of advice I'd leave for the Pearson students of 2017:  It's okay. You're okay. You're whole just as you are.