We are who we have been waiting for. Nothing sums up my belief in community empowerment more so than the latter statement. During my year of service as a School Coordinator at Catalina High School it came to my attention that there was a need to bring in more interactive and real-world experiences into Catalina to engage and motivate students of all grade levels, especially for expecting high school graduates. After settling into the position during the fall, I began the spring semester taking steps to motivate the students to believe in themselves and to feel empowered to take their future into their own hands. I wanted to create what I would call a Guest Speaker Series where professionals who look like the students could come to Catalina on a consistent basis. The professionals would be able to speak with the students about their careers and what they had done before their careers, which would challenge the students to reconsider or reevaluate what they believed they could do for themselves in order to better their circumstances. In other words, I wanted the students to believe that they were who they have been waiting for.
Almost all of the guest speakers were found through a website titled “CommunityShare” (https://app.communityshare.us/#/). This is a locally-based online network that connects the skills and experiences of passionate community partners in the greater Tucson region with the goals and needs of educators in schools and informal learning environments.
The Guest Speaker Series at Catalina began on Wednesday, February 3rd. Our first guest speaker visited from Pima County Teen Court to speak about legal/law and social work careers and we had 17 students attend. Our second guest speakers were local barbers and a cosmetologist in training who all came to visit on Wednesday, February 17th. There were 40 students in total who attended. This is 23 more students who attended than what our first guest speaker was able to bring in. Word has begun to spread and I expect more and more students to attend, especially since I was able to get a mini-grant of $500 from the Catalina High School Foundation to cover incentives.
When all is said and done, my goals with this Series are to use the momentum to entice other staff members to join the CommunityShare website and begin bringing guest speakers into the classrooms more often (building capacity). Students are more inclined to attend class if they see the real-world applications of the lessons being taught. Guest speakers can only help in this respect. Furthermore, increases in attendance will not be the only byproduct. I hope that students will actually begin to actively think about their futures before their senior year, which will put themselves in a better position early on to achieve post high school success. This will uplift them all from whatever circumstances they may have unfortunately found themselves enveloped in. This can be achieved when students believe they can be the person they have been waiting for.