The Catalyst program for high school students at Ciudad Nueva is a college and career readiness program designed to give students exposure to different career options by meeting professionals from various career paths. They learn about the educational requirements for different career paths and then practice soft skills, such as research and interview skills, in the classroom.
The goal of the program is to help students see a different vision for their futures and help them gain college, career, and most importantly life skills. Our students are well aware of the steps and actions that need to be taken in order to make their futures successful, though often times they do not have a foundation to build upon. With parents working hard and not being able to invest in children as much as they would want, the students are given an opportunity to interview and become a part of the Catalyst Job Training and College Preparatory Program. Through guest speakers and community service, the Catalyst students hear stories from people in fields they only thought they could dream of.
When our students are exposed to the possibilities for them to begin to see they can go to college and become a law enforcement officer, lawyer, businessperson, or anything else that they desire. When they meet one of these professionals face to face, they realize that they are regular people, just like them, with a drive to be successful and foster hope.
Through our research, we have also discovered that holistic youth development is an important key to teen pregnancy and crime prevention. Prevention that is solely based on behaviors often ignores the factors that contribute to teens’ risky behaviors in the first place. By giving young people a new vision for their futures, college and career readiness programs like Catalyst provide them with motivation to stay on the right path.
Given the different needs among the students, the program is broken up into three parts for the year. The first topic is Life Skills: Budgeting, and How to Buy Your First Car; the second topic is Jobs for Now: Interviews and Resumes; and the last topic is Colleges and Careers: Shaping Your Future, wrapped up with a college tour and an end of the year celebration. Students are allowed to choose which quarter they believe best fit their interest and that they would like to grow most in, but many decide to be a part of the program for the whole year.
This Year’s Theme
Our students were asked to give us their definition of success, one student, Jackie, a junior at El Paso High School said “Success to me means no matter the things you’ve gone through, the struggles, you will always succeed, even if others put you down.”
Success has been a theme throughout the year. The idea of wanting to do well and succeed in a system that seems as if it is against them, our students have expressed their desire to succeed. The students have grown in ways they never thought they would, and have learned things many high school students don’t learn until college or post-graduate. We not only teach the skills, we also give students the opportunity to practice them through mock interviews and other activities. It is amazing to watch the students build confidence as they ask professionals questions and practice role playing interview scenarios in class.
We encourage students to discover their own unique passions and skills and help them imagine careers that will make the most of those individual qualities. In addition to helping these students believe that they really can achieve these goals, we try to incorporate the following values into the activities in the program: respect for others (e.g. coworkers), honesty and integrity, passion, and drive.
It is one thing for our students to learn about success, but it becomes much more tangible when they get to experience it first-hand. Our students have ideas of where they want to go after high school, and what they want to do throughout the program, and end of the year events allow them to feel, see, hear, and experience the path that they can take. As the Coordinator, my job is been to give them a platform of hope. A desire to want more and perform beyond what they think they can.
At the end of the year, students who have completed the program are invited on a college tour to various schools in Texas or the surrounding states. The trip is an exciting way for them to end the year and definitely an inspiration for many of our students to pursue their studies beyond high school.