A major part of an SAS student’s high school career is taking part in a compulsory class named Catalyst. Catalyst is a class in which students in 11th or 12th-grade research and create a product that they believe reflect their passion or help society in its unique way. They are expected to reach out to a mentor in order to have a guide throughout the process and finally present their product at the end of the school year.
For most, the class seems like an excellent opportunity to spend time that they would otherwise not have in order to create something valuable for them. However, I was curious to find out exactly how useful this class ended up being for former Catalyst students and whether or not these students followed up on their projects after the class ended.
I wanted my results to be insightful and meaningful, so I chose to closely interview several 12th graders who took Catalyst already. James Stark, a 17-year old whose Catalyst project was to create a music album, is dedicated to his passion for making music. Felipe Jank, a student that is seen as “deep” by many of his peers, wrote a book about his views on communism. Christina McDougall, a senior dancer, choreographed a dance routine and performed it with three of her dance peers at a competition. Ethan Woodworth, a student-athlete at SAS, did not have a final product to present on presentation day.
I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a general answer being repeated for this question. I noticed that the deciding factor to whether these students found Catalyst useful or not was their desire and motivation to accomplish something in the class.
Christina McDougall, who choreographed a dance routine and competed in a dance competition outside the country, didn’t find much value in the class. She wishes the school could reform the class curriculum by focusing more on the creation process, saying, “I think the class could be very effective if we prioritized our actual final product instead of doing so much busywork every class. Some people really benefit from this class which is great, but personally, I didn’t need the class just to choreograph a dance routine”.
James Stark answered, “I mean, I wasn’t very dedicated to producing something out of the ordinary because I was already working on something before I started the class. I guess it helped me in the sense that it gave me extra time to work on my music but it didn’t give me any resources that I wouldn’t have gotten without the class”.
On the other hand, Felipe Jank expressed his appreciation for the class by saying that Catalyst allowed him to chase his passion for writing about the realities of the world. “I’ve always been interested in educating people with ideas that are not commonly publicized so I took the opportunity to write my own book about how societies function under communism and why I believe it is an effective system. I’m glad I took this class”, he says.
Ethan Woodworth, who didn’t have a final product to present, stated that the class is “useful for people who have something they genuinely want to pursue or try, but for people, like myself, who weren’t necessarily interested in anything, it was just a less productive class”.
For some, Catalyst allows the opportunity to expand on students’ projects well after the class is over. Felipe Jank is now taking another semester of Catalyst in order to finish his book and possibly create more work following his original piece. He stated that he obtained so many resources from the class that he now plans to “keep writing as an attempt to educate others as well as expand [his] own knowledge”.
James is continuing to work on his EP. He has publicized his first single on most known platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud. He plans to add several more songs on the album. Since Catalyst, he has also released another single, named “I Don’t Trust Nobody”. Although it may not seem hard, he emphasized the hard work it takes to produce a song and “get it out there”. He says, “It took me a while just to finish up one song and make it sound like what I wanted it to. I’m working a lot on my songs at the moment but it takes time and patience”.
Christina’s dance routine placed 3rd. She continues to dance and is currently part of the High School musical, “High School Musical”. She joined the cast as a ‘Cheerleader’ and learned various dance routines, a familiar concept to her. She will be playing the lead in the upcoming dance show, “Oz”.
“Try to do something that not only interests you but also is something that you wouldn’t be able to do had you not have gotten the opportunity to take this class. It can be very beneficial if you think outside the box and try your best to produce something you are proud of in the end”, says Felipe.
“It can be very beneficial if you think outside the box and try your best to produce something you are proud of in the end”.
Some students may feel like Catalyst doesn’t push them forward in any way. Ethan believes that “it’s okay to not end up with something concrete if you don’t find anything that interests you. Just try your best.”
James tells future Catalyst students to “do something that you genuinely enjoy because it can be a pain to be forced to work on something that you have no interest in working on. As long as it teaches you something or you simply get enjoyment from it, you should be able to do well.”
“I would say that you should at least try to get into doing a project that will keep you engaged so that you don’t lose interest halfway through the semester. Try doing something that you will love but will also allow you to keep it going even after the class is over, it can really help you accomplish something amazing”, advises Christina.
I was able to conclude that no matter how “successful” their final products were, Catalyst students realized that it’s important to choose a project that you will be engaged in, interested in, and will motivate you to accomplish something. You can create anything you want, so why not create something you will enjoy every single step of the way?