In the King James Version, Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
The Catalyst program for high school students at Ciudad Nueva is a college and career readiness program designed to give freshman and sophomore 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.
At the end of the year, students who have completed the program are invited on a college tour to Texas A&M and UT Austin. 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.
The goal of the program is to help students see a different vision for their futures and help them gain college and career skills. Most of our students do not have many positive role models to show them that they have the potential for high achievement beyond high school and what they see around them. Just like the proverb implies, all they need is a bigger vision, and we have seen how they begin to see their opportunities expand!
A new vision for their futures
All it takes is for our students to be 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 who simply worked toward a goal.
Guest speakers are a huge part of the Catalyst program and one of the most inspiring parts for our students. This year we hosted doctors, nurses, surgeons, lawyers, real estate agents, social workers, engineers, and firefighters.
The students also tour various workplaces so that they can see what it is like to be on the job. This year our students visited an engineering class at UTEP, a women’s shelter (for those interested in social work), and a nurse practitioner’s office.
Youth development is also a prevention program.
Through our research, we have also discovered that holistic youth development is also an important key to teen pregnancy 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 for staying on the right track.
Soft skills are one of the keys to success.
One of the contributing factors to young people not being able to get or maintain a job is the lack of soft skills. In the Catalyst classes, we work on many soft skills such as interviewing, resume writing, and organizing.
One of our students from this last year, Sofia, says that the organizational skills she learned are one of the most important take-aways from the program.
“I realize that I need to be organized for school this year,” says Sofia. “Especially with the tough classes that I have this year, I need to be organized, patient, and positive.”
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 practice role playing interview scenarios up in front of the class!
Students also develop research skills so they can learn about a company before they go to an interview and understand why this is important. One of our students recently put this into practice when he applied for a job at Burger King. He had researched the company and commented to the manager that he liked their old slogan from the 80s. She was impressed with how he presented himself and that he had researched the company, and she gave him the job!
Vision and Values
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
Role plays about how to handle conflicts with difficult coworkers and bosses, as well as ethical dilemma discussions, help to flesh out these values in the classroom. Inspiring guest speakers who are truly passionate about their careers also provide opportunities for the students to explore these themes.
Capping it off with a college tour
At the end of the program, all of the students look forward to going on the College Tour. This year we visited UT Austin and Texas A&M. We also took the students to the Riverwalk in San Antonio and to Six Flags. Hearing one student say, “I’ll be here one day!” when we visited UT highlights the reason why the trip is so important—although we also have a lot of fun!
Be sure to check out our post about Sofia’s experience on the tour and what she learned in Catalyst this year!