Investing in Youth
Catalyst for Youth is a non profit, 501 (c) 3 public charity and educational organization that primarily targets at risk youth and young adults from 12 years old through 25 years old. Catalyst specifically seeks resources and opportunities for this population to help them gain new skills and form alliances and social connections with appropriate mentors within the extended community. By providing the means (whether it be transportation, legal aid, transitional housing, special training and apprenticeships, marketing of their skills and products, dental and health care, clothing, tuition, supplies, etc.) for these young people to explore their talents and interests and give voice to their unique calling, the program provides a springboard to launch their emergence as contributing members of society.
The seed idea of Catalyst comes from the work of depth psychologist James Hillman and his acorn theory. The acorn theory proposes that written into each person at birth is a blueprint or “calling. Just as the mighty oak’s destiny is written in the tiny acorn, so too in every person is there a definite, individual character with enduring traits. That character at the center of every life speaks to the fundamental question “What is it, in my heart, that I must do, be, and have”
Catalyst supports the whole person and operates from the premise that with proper relationships and support all youth can find the self-caring and self discipline to turn toward an inner purpose. From that turning within will come the self motivation to become a life long learner and undertake other learning challenges previously dismissed as unobtainable or undesirable. The real work then involves hanging in with these young people, teaching them, exposing them to the right experiences, guiding them, and tapping into the creative reservoir they all carry so that they can find the meaningful life they are meant to live.
Catalyst also heeds the advice of most experts in the field who tell us that youth is the time when the psyche is most susceptible to intervention and change. “The teenage and young adult brain is a work in progress,”said Sandra Witelson, a neuroscientist at McMaster Universtiy in Ontario. Youth is a time of making mistakes and learning to overcome them. Change is not easy. It is often a process of one step forward and two steps back. It may include self sabotage, but in the end personal trust in an adult that won’t give up on the youth and opportunities to develop their talents and learn new skills—supported by Catalyst resources—will help our most at risk youth find a lasting place to stand and an opening toward continual transformation and growth.
Strategies employed by Catalyst flow from extensive experience and research on how people become positive and active members of the community. For example, the program recognizes the arts as a major discipline with a powerful effect on human development and an area of participation that makes us most complete as people and gives us emotional intelligence. Youth, given opportunities to express who they are and what lends meaning to their life, become creative people who can work with others, solve real world problems and do it with civility and kindness. Such people, in turn, are more successful in getting and keeping a job then others who may score well on tests and have an exceptionally high I.Q. but lack communication skills and qualities like empathy and social awareness and sensitivity.
Finally Catalyst will integrate, employ, and enhance all existing programs and tests and behavioral data that currently identify and target at-risk students as well as forming strategic partnerships with community organizations that work with this population. Catalyst, however, is designed to reach young people not ordinarily reached, in ways not normally used and for a longer period of time than most existing programs and agencies that target this population.