In 2015, Ciudad Nueva’s Catalyst program for high school students was created in response to seeing students from Launch Pad approaching high school and grappling with the thought of what to do after high school graduation.
High school students at Ciudad Nueva who participate in the program receive skills training, learn about career options from guest speakers and set goals with an action plan to achieve them. Students receive a small stipend for participating in the program and are paid based on if they arrive on time, dress professionally, and participate in the classes. The goal of the program is to expose students to a variety of careers and help them gain the skills necessary to pursue them.
Building a vision for their futures
Guest speakers are a vital part of the Catalyst program, inspiring and encouraging our students. We have hosted doctors, nurses, surgeons, lawyers, real estate agents, social workers, cyber security engineers, and firefighters. Our students are exposed to a wide variety of career paths and encouraged to see themselves as a law enforcement officer, lawyer, businessperson, or anything else that they desire. When they meet people from a variety of professions face-to-face, they learn what steps they can take to set themselves up for a successful career.
“I love that Catalyst challenges our high school students to consider the advantages of long-term career goals and equips them with the tools to identify their career trajectory and stick with it.”
–Sophie Wozniak, current Catalyst program coordinator.
Skill-building as a key to success
When the Catalyst program was being formed in 2015, Lindsey Baker, then-program coordinator, researched and found that one of the biggest barriers to getting or maintaining a job for youth who are in economically vulnerable communities was a lack of access to specific career skills training.
In Catalyst classes, we work on many career skills such as interviewing, resume and cover letter writing, conflict resolution, and teamwork. Students have a chance 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 former students put this into practice while he was in Catalyst 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 so impressed with how he presented himself and researched the company that she gave him the job!
Creating vision and values
We encourage students to discover their 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
- Honesty and integrity
Role plays about how to handle conflicts with difficult coworkers and bosses, as well as ethical dilemma discussions, help to strengthen 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 off Catalyst with a college tour
One of the recent developments within the program is the summer college campus tour. All year, students look forward to going on the week-long summer college tour in Central Texas where they visit UT Austin, Texas A&M, Texas Christian University, as well as the Riverwalk and Six Flags in San Antonio. While the students have a blast, they also recognize the importance of the exposure and guidance they receive on the trip. During a UT Austin visit, a student exclaimed, “I’ll be here one day!”
Get involved at Catalyst
If you are in the El Paso community and are interested in visiting a Catalyst class to speak in person or virtually about your career experience or in volunteering with the high school students as they prepare for college and careers, reach out to us at ciduadnueva.org/contact!