Quayshaun Owens from Team Dominican Republic
Boston Green Academy
Quayshaun Owens lives in the moment; he’s had to his entire life. It’s his senior year at Boston Green Academy, a small public charter school within the Boston Public Schools system, and more than ever it is time for Quay to step up to the plate. Quay is going to be the first member of his family to go to college, and all eyes are watching.
It hasn’t been easy for Quay to reach this point. He went into foster care for the first time at age 14 and has found himself back in the system again at 18 years old. When his mother, who he is no longer in contact with, kicked him out of her home this past summer, Quay needed a place to stay and he knew just the family.
Quay found track in eighth grade. His first tryout was nerve wracking, but when he crossed the finish line he know that he had stumbled upon something truly great. When he joined the Boston Public Schools-based running club, Sole Train, his sophomore year of high school, he had no idea what kind of impact that community would have on him. Through Sole Train, Quay met his future foster family. The connection was fast and profound and her generosity has made a lasting impact on him. As a self-proclaimed “track star” he has ran 3 half marathons, never any longer than in an hour and a half, and is soon to complete a fourth. Even while getting good grades, working and applying to 13 colleges, Quay has found time to train for next year’s Boston Marathon, which he plans on running with Sole Train.
An eloquent 18 year old, Quay is the farthest thing from shy. He exudes an easy wit and a subtle confidence. He knows that he’s strong; he’s had people complimenting his resilience all this life. His ability to overcome so many obstacles is remarkable. He has the courage to run races through shin splints and cramps, to step up and give speeches in front of audiences that include the Mayor of Boston, to bounce back to his full self when changing schools and families. But to Quay, his strength is truly in his adaptability. “I live in the moment,” Quay says. “If something doesn’t happen the way you want it to, you just have to work around it.”
One way that Quay has worked around his problems is through art. His diverse portfolio features graffiti, tattoo designs and caricatures of his classmates. He has experience in graphic design; boasting credits include an internship at The Boston Harbor Association over the summer and designing the logo for Sole Train’s annual race. When thinking about the future, Quay is unsure of where he will go to college and what he will be doing. But one constant is his passion for art. His eyes light up as he readily whips out a sketchbook to demonstrate his talents and it is clear that this is a boy who knows what he loves.
Quay leaves for the Dominican Republic in 3 weeks. He’s not nervous at all, even though this will be his first time out of the country. “I’m just curious as to what it will all be like,” he says, “The people the culture, the language, everything that they consist of, and how it’s different from us.” As one of two upperclassmen on his team, Quay will play a large leadership role for the trip, something he’s grown quite used to as a running coach and big brother. We here at Quest know that this experience, giving and serving in the Dominican Republic as a steward for the environment, will be unforgettable for Quay. He puts it best himself; “I don’t know how this trip will change me, but I know that it will change me.”
We checked in with Quay recently to learn all about his trip to the Dominican Republic and the service work he did for local communities and the environment. Right after arriving, Team DR from Boston Green Academy joined a beach cleanup in Santiago. The students threw themselves into the work, chatting up locals while distributing garbage bags.
It was a week filled with nonstop environmental service. Besides the beach cleanup, students also studied pollution and turbidity of the Yaque River alongside local environmental experts on river quality from the organization Plan Yaque. Quay, along with his peers were taken aback by the amount of trash on the streets and in the Yaque River, the sister river of our local Charles. The Yaque River is the sister river of our local Charles and before departure Team DR learned all about the problems of urban rivers. Yet somehow the shock of personally encountering pollution in that intensity stuck with Quay even weeks after his trip. During their stay in Jarabacoa, a rural region of the Dominican Republic, Quay learned how to assemble composting beds and transfer seedlings in a nursery. Working with a local environmental school, he met students his own age, practiced his Spanish, and learned that humor knows no language. But what sticks with Quay the most was the first sunrise of the trip, peaking over the trees and coloring the ocean’s waters.
Waking earlier than everyone else, Quay bonded with his roommates Chris and Alex, fellow BGA students he had known but wasn’t close to. But there, in the Dominican Republic they connected over the breaking horizon. Throughout the trip they helped each other overcome every challenge from a fear of bugs to the sadness of witnessing poverty and the aftermath of flooding in La Barranquita. Seeing children without shoes wander around streets that smelled of human waste was eye-opening for Quay. “It was the first time that I knew that there are other people in the world and you don’t realize it until you go out there. You can see it on TV, you can see it on the internet; we can talk about it 24/7 in school but you don’t fully understand it until you actually go out there and see it for yourself. ”
For the first time in his life Quay had to reason with himself the injustices of the world. But he isn’t the type of student to sit idly by. This trip was more than an experience; it was a call to action.
It’s just a spark right now, but he finds himself pretty seriously considering Peace Corps after he graduated college, sticking with his passion for helping the environment and working with hands. We hope to watch Quay continue with service work as he sets off to Brandeis University in the fall! He promises to speak up for himself, others and the environment into the future. Quest Adventure is proud to have heard his voice.