Staff Spotlight: Lisa Laviolette

Lisa Laviolette founded Quest in 1999 after living in Copenhagen, Denmark for 5 years. While living abroad she experienced the amazing differences, as well as similarities, in people from around the world. Living abroad evoked such a profound change in her and she just knew that she wanted to find a way to give this opportunity to as many individuals as she could to pay it forward. She has now been pursuing that dream for the last twenty years and cannot imagine her life without international friends, students, travel, languages, cultural awareness, all of which sparked her quest to explore the world.

What has been the most interesting/meaningful/memorable story from a high school study abroad program, either from what you've seen or from what you've heard?


In 2011 we were contacted by a woman named Patty Decker from up state New York. She had met a boy in Zimbabwe and wanted to know if Quest could help her bring him to the U.S. for high school.

Bryton Chikukwa was from a small town in Zimbabwe called Marondera. He was a mature and responsible young man, juggling his studies, looking after his younger brothers, helping out on the family farm, and he loved playing basketball at school. We started working with a group of generous donors and volunteers to make Bryton’s travel and study program possible.

We gained acceptance for enrollment at Newcomb Central High School in NY, and the school principal Skip Hults and his family offered to host Bryton. As a non-profit organization we were able to set up a donation account to help pay for Bryton’s tuition, airfare, medical insurance, clothing and pocket money for a 10 month high school program.

We raised enough to provide Bryton with some extras including a laptop computer and an airline ticket to San Francisco so that the Quest team could meet him and show him our wonderful city.

Bryton graduated from Newcomb Central High school in 2013, Patty continued to sponsor him through community college and Quest has invited him to work as an intern during his summer break next year. This was Quest's very first student who came on a 100% scholarship. Bryton enriched all of our lives. Watching this young man grow and prosper and witnessing his gratitude to Quest and Patty has been one of the most inspiring and motivating experiences for me and my staff.

​How will a high school study abroad experience help with one's college application in the future? How will it impact the participant's life in a long run?

Participating in a high school year abroad will be full of amazing experiences, from learning a new culture and language to making new friends from diverse ethnic and national backgrounds.​ Universities want well rounded applicants: those with diverse interests, skills, and life experience.​ A study abroad program will help you mature and your experiences will help make your college application stand out.

Learning a foreign language through immersion will accelerate the learning process, and you will become fluent in no time. As an American who can speak a second language, you will be a more desirable candidate in the job market and you will gain a new perspective for the ever-changing global world we live in.

What are some things that high schoolers can learn while they are abroad and not while they are at home?

Studying abroad pushes students to get out of their comfort zone and it forces them try new things and be open to new ideas. Students mature and grow more independently as they learn how to manage their own schedules, money, transportation and other life skills they will need as they emerge into adulthood.

Studying a new language through immersion is a proven method for accelerated learning, it is a big advantage for students who chose to study abroad in a non-English speaking country. Students return from a high school abroad program with a new view of cultural diversity, compassion and a greater appreciation for life in America, friends and family.