The Luther Catalyze program works hard to prepare students for success in their college life. The program offers tutoring, peer-to-peer counseling, training, and other resources for qualified students. The Catalyze program came to Luther in 2018 as part of an effort by College Possible to bring the program to smaller schools across the country.
College Possible is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making college admission and success possible for low-income or first-generation students. Catalyze began as a high school-focused program designed to help students get into college, before moving on to help students succeed in college. The program was brought to Luther by former Vice President for Equity, Inclusion and Student Success Lisa Scott, who has integrated motivation into the Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success. Assistant Director of the Center for Intercultural Interaction Joshua Ratel Khan emphasized the importance of students’ contribution to the programme, saying that the primary focus of the organization is the health, happiness and success of the students they see.
“I want the program to be student centered and to have the students form what they want from their coaches and from the program,” said Ratil Khan. “As we continue to hold monthly meetings and support students with academic alerts, [we] I also like to craft programming according to what the students want – whether it’s social gatherings or professional development.”
Catalyze coaches Levi Bird (’21) and Cleo Garza (’21) were brought into the team after their graduation last year. Catalyze instructors are always fresh college graduates, and help students with everything from financial aid tips to help with tutoring. In addition, they act as a person to talk to about classes or social life on campus, and they provide a listening ear as students navigate the transition to college. Students accepted into the program are matched with a Catalyze coach who helps them navigate any aspect of their college experience. Sometimes a coach can help connect students to campus resources through the College Possible, such as tutors or other academic assistance.
“Our society pays a lot for high school graduates to go to college, but then provides little or no support in that transition,” Garza said. “Being able to be there and be that bridge to welcome people into college was so amazing. It’s a cliché but saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is very true in our higher education system.”
Baird’s biggest inspiration for his work was to improve the lives and mindsets of his students. Bird describes a large part of his job as being there to support and be there for students who might be struggling.
“I’m trying to sail [college] Catalyzed Coach Bird said, “I’ll be here with you to support you through that and we’ll come out on the other side. It might not be perfect and it’s It may not be the way you want it to, but we will succeed together.”
Both Bird and Ratel Khan emphasize how important their students are to them, and how inspiring their work is. Each student presents a new challenge and new goals for coaches and for the Catalyze program itself. According to Ratil Khan, students are the ones who keep the program running.
“Seeing the relationships Catalyze Coaches build with their students is always inspiring,” said Ratil Khan. “Knowing that students turn to their coaches in times of need, and that they are able to be a valuable resource for them, confirms my belief that the Catalyze program is making a difference in students’ lives on campus. Coaches who provide support to help students graduate will make a lifelong difference for these students. While they continue to look for work, earn increasing salaries and provide for their families.”
The resources offered by Catalyze are aimed specifically at eligible Pell Grant generation and first generation students. Students interested in the program can apply on the Catalyze at Luther webpage: https://www.luther.edu/catalyze/frequently-asked-questions/.