How do you go from being a high school student on work study to a doctoral student? Ask Kailani Quichocho. Step one was walking through the doors of Brandman’s Lacey campus at age 17.
Now 25, Quichocho has become indispensable to the rest of the Lacey team and along the way she’s become not just a great person for students to talk to, she’s become also become a Brandman student.
Quichocho was in high school when she started working at the Lacey campus as part of a work-study program connected with her high school’s skill center. Her expertise using a variety of Microsoft products (she was in the skill center to get her certification) proved particularly useful to the campus.
Quichocho continued to work at the campus after graduating from high school, having a baby and starting community college. “I wasn’t taking it (going to community college) very seriously,” she said. Her Brandman co-workers convinced her to try again by enrolling at Brandman, even though most of the classes were filled with older (or older in the eyes of a 19-year-old) adults.
“In everyone’s eyes, I was just like them, trying to balance education and work,” said Quichocho.
Advancing with experience, education
Somewhere along the way, higher education started to make more sense. She completed her bachelor’s, majoring in social science. Then, with encouragement from campus Director Margo Deegan and academic advisor Michael Brouillette, she decided to keep going and get an MBA.
With more education came more opportunities for career advancement. Quichocho is now a One Stop specialist, working with Lacey students to make sure they get the right advice about financial aid, military benefits and student services.
“Going above and beyond is part of my job,” said Quichocho, who says her own experiences as a student help her connect with other students and whatever their academic and life histories might be. “I tell them, ‘You walking across the stage in a few years is my reward.’ Going through the programs has helped me manage all that.”
That focus on others adds to her value at the Lacey campus, said Deegan. “Kailani is one of the nicest, most gracious people I have ever met. She is emotionally intelligent/competent, what we used to call, back in the day, a wise old soul.”
On to a doctorate
This academic year brought some new challenges. Quichocho and Brouillette both enrolled in the Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) program as part of the Epsilon cohort. “Michael told me, ‘It was nice being your mentor but now you’re my peer. I’m going to learn just as much from you as you do from me.’ I found that a little hard to believe,” she said.
Being in the program has proved Brouillette right. “I think he is my peer. We’ve found a good balance. We can do this together. He’s been using me as his support, which makes me feel pretty good,” she said.
Deegan never had any doubts. “She’s intelligent, hard-working, dependable and tenacious – which are all good qualities for doctoral students.”
Ready for change
Quichocho is already bringing those qualities to the Ed.D. program’s required transformational change project. She is making plans to work with the Lacey YWCA on a woman’s economic development program that had been on the organization’s backburner. Quichocho and the women in the program have something in common – teen pregnancies.
Through her doctoral project, she’s hoping to revitalize the economic development program and build a community support system. Quichocho’s own support system of family, her son’s father – Nick Reynolds— and Brandman coworkers made her teen pregnancy less challenging than some. Even so, it helps her understand just how important that support is.
There’s one more twist to this new academic quest. Quichocho and Reynolds are expecting a new baby boy any day now to join their son Kekoa, 6. Quichocho will still be the youngest student at the immersion … someone else will be the youngest attendee.