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Catalyst 2018: TepoztlÁn, Mexico

 

Are you a high-school student aged 15-17? Are you from a community that has been affected by the War on Drugs? Do you want to learn more about the history, politics, economics and science behind drugs and the policies that govern them? Have you ever wondered how young people can make their voices heard within discussions about drugs and drug policy? Are you interested in building skills that will help you become a better advocate for yourself and your community? Do you want to join a network of youth from across the Americas who are committed to confronting some of the most pressing and complicated issues that face the Western Hemisphere?

If so, Catalyst is the program for you! 

Catalyst is a bilingual (English/Spanish) UWC short course about the War on Drugs for high schoolers from across the Americas. This year, Catalyst will take place in Tepoztlán, Mexico between June 27th and July 16, 2018.  Full, need based scholarships are available for all participants. We are currently accepting applications for summer 2018. Read more below, or:

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“I would define Catalyst with three words: inspiring, revolutionary and motivating. Catalyst was a watershed moment in my personal, academic and professional development as a woman. It opened my eyes and inspired me in unimaginable ways. Being a part of Catalyst has been one of the greatest and most valued privileges I have ever been afforded.” 
— Michell, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Catalyst Participant 2017

The Catalyst Curriculum 

Catalyst will provide you with the tools to begin thinking critically about the War on Drugs. Through daily interactive workshops, lectures and discussions, you'll explore how your own personal stories are connected to those of your peers and to the larger historical narratives that have given rise to the War on Drugs. You'll also explore how the systems of your body help shape (and are shaped by) larger systems such as the global economy, the law and the government. To these ends, the Catalyst curriculum covers the following main topics: 

  • Drugs and the body: the neurobiology of drug use and abuse
  • The history of the War on Drugs
  • The geopolitics of the drug economy
  • The actors and institutions of the War on Drugs

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the War on Drugs, you'll walk away from Catalyst with new skills that will help you communicate the knowledge generated by you and your peers into thoughtful action and advocacy strategies. To this end, the  afternoons of the program will be dedicated to: 

  • Discussions with a broad range of experienced activists within the drug policy reform movement
  • Skill-building and advocacy training workshops through interdisciplinary arts programming
  • The collective creation of a final presentation that will be showcased at a public event in Mexico City
  • The development of a personal action plan to implement a year-long community project upon your return home

For Catalyst 2018, we are excited to be partnering with ENCARNE Festival who will provide students with hand on arts programming and skill-building workshops with some of Mexico's leading artists.

Your participation in Catalyst will not end at the close of your three weeks in Mexico. Graduating from our summer program marks the beginning of your ongoing involvement in a dynamic and growing network of young people from across the Americas who are committed to rethinking drug policy. In order to sustain the discussions that begin at Catalyst and to provide you with guidance as you implement your personal action plan, Catalyst will assist you in arranging: 

  • A year-long mentorship with an activist from your region upon your return home

Read more about our students' experiences at Catalyst 2017 on our blog.

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This experience was about more than discussing the historical components of the War on Drugs. It was a life experience that offered empathy, knowledge, and understanding.
— Isaiah, Brooklyn, Catalyst 2017
 

The Catalyst Team

  Theo Di Castri   Born in Canada, Theo is the founding director of Catalyst.  An alumnus of the Mahindra United World College of India, he also holds a bachelors degree in Neuroscience and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and a masters degree from Cambridge University in History and Philosophy of Science. Theo has worked as a facilitator for a youth radio program and as an educator at an after-school community gardening program in New York City. He is currently based in Mexico City. 

Theo Di Castri

Born in Canada, Theo is the founding director of Catalyst.  An alumnus of the Mahindra United World College of India, he also holds a bachelors degree in Neuroscience and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and a masters degree from Cambridge University in History and Philosophy of Science. Theo has worked as a facilitator for a youth radio program and as an educator at an after-school community gardening program in New York City. He is currently based in Mexico City. 

  Camila Ruiz Segovia   Born and raised in Mexico City, Camila Ruiz Segovia is an alumna of the United World College of the Adriatic and an undergraduate student at Brown University. She worked as a policy intern for the Drug Policy Alliance and served as a civil society representative for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016. Her research interests focus on militarization policies and human rights violations tied to the War on Drugs in Latin America.  She is currently working on a thesis on the War on Drugs in Mexico.

Camila Ruiz Segovia

Born and raised in Mexico City, Camila Ruiz Segovia is an alumna of the United World College of the Adriatic and an undergraduate student at Brown University. She worked as a policy intern for the Drug Policy Alliance and served as a civil society representative for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016. Her research interests focus on militarization policies and human rights violations tied to the War on Drugs in Latin America.  She is currently working on a thesis on the War on Drugs in Mexico.

  Diana Rodriguez Gomez   Diana is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Universidad de Los Andes, in her hometown of Bogotá, Colombia. She holds an Ed.D. in International Educational Development with an emphasis on Human Rights and Peace Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her academic and teaching interests gravitate around the intersections of violence and education in Latin America. 

Diana Rodriguez Gomez

Diana is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Universidad de Los Andes, in her hometown of Bogotá, Colombia. She holds an Ed.D. in International Educational Development with an emphasis on Human Rights and Peace Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her academic and teaching interests gravitate around the intersections of violence and education in Latin America. 

  Nataya Friedan   Nataya is currently a PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford University and a co-founder of Catalyst. Before starting her PhD, she was a Program Manager at the Roosevelt Institute where she oversaw the Women and Girls Rising Conference. Nataya holds a bachelors degree in Anthropology and Political Science from Columbia University. She is a printmaker and painter and she loves her hometown of Philadelphia.  

Nataya Friedan

Nataya is currently a PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford University and a co-founder of Catalyst. Before starting her PhD, she was a Program Manager at the Roosevelt Institute where she oversaw the Women and Girls Rising Conference. Nataya holds a bachelors degree in Anthropology and Political Science from Columbia University. She is a printmaker and painter and she loves her hometown of Philadelphia.  

  Serena Hughley   Serena is an African-American Junior International Studies and Spanish major at Spelman College in Atlanta Georgia. She focuses on African-American solidarity with other groups of color in the Americas with a specific interest in drug policy, mass incarceration and restricted movement. She is an avid reader, enjoys writing short stories and loves photography.

Serena Hughley

Serena is an African-American Junior International Studies and Spanish major at Spelman College in Atlanta Georgia. She focuses on African-American solidarity with other groups of color in the Americas with a specific interest in drug policy, mass incarceration and restricted movement. She is an avid reader, enjoys writing short stories and loves photography.

  David Aristizábal Urrea   Born in Colombia, David is an educator, researcher, activist, and an alumnus of the Mahindra United World College of India. He is currently pursuing a PhD in anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research examines the relationship between environmental governance and processes of violence and marginalization in Colombia’s cities. David loves podcasts, poetry, salsa dancing and labor organizing. 

David Aristizábal Urrea

Born in Colombia, David is an educator, researcher, activist, and an alumnus of the Mahindra United World College of India. He is currently pursuing a PhD in anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research examines the relationship between environmental governance and processes of violence and marginalization in Colombia’s cities. David loves podcasts, poetry, salsa dancing and labor organizing. 

  Melina Gioconda Davis   Melina Gioconda Davis is an Ecuadorian-American performer, educator, and gender equality activist based in Mexico City. She is an alumna of the Mahindra United World College of India and graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University with a degree in political science. Melina has a background in social policy research, arts programming, and grassroots community organizing. 

Melina Gioconda Davis

Melina Gioconda Davis is an Ecuadorian-American performer, educator, and gender equality activist based in Mexico City. She is an alumna of the Mahindra United World College of India and graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University with a degree in political science. Melina has a background in social policy research, arts programming, and grassroots community organizing. 

  Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela   Of Guatemalan-American descent, Benjamin holds a BA from Columbia University and is currently a PhD candidate in cultural anthropology at Princeton University. Drawing on two years of research in Brazil, his dissertation is titled "Pedagogies of Occupation: Youth Aspiration and the Politics of Time." Benjamin is also interested in photography and re-thinking teaching and learning beyond the classroom.

Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela

Of Guatemalan-American descent, Benjamin holds a BA from Columbia University and is currently a PhD candidate in cultural anthropology at Princeton University. Drawing on two years of research in Brazil, his dissertation is titled "Pedagogies of Occupation: Youth Aspiration and the Politics of Time." Benjamin is also interested in photography and re-thinking teaching and learning beyond the classroom.

Our Story

Catalyst grew out of a series of conversations between Theo Di Castri (Canada), Nataya Friedan (US), Atenea Rosado Viurques (Mexico) and Benjamin Fogarty Valenzuela (Guatemala)--a group of friends from across the Americas. Albeit for different reasons and from different disciplines, all four of our university careers had lead us to study drugs, drug users, drug policy and drug related violence. Looking back on the drug education we had received as teenagers, we shared a common frustration about the lack of information and space we had been given to grapple with the full complexity of the issues that surround drugs and drug policy.

Why had it taken us getting into university to access the histories and the critical analyses of the War on Drugs that had finally helped us begin making sense of the ways in which drugs operated within our different communities? Why did our drug education focus purely on  considerations of individual use without including analysis of the sociopolitical dimensions of drugs, drug users and the policies that govern them? Why had we not been encouraged to think about the transnational drug supply chain and the effects of our governments' drug policies upon different parts of the world?

We thus set about imagining the drug education curriculum we wished we had been taught when we were in high school--a curriculum grounded in social justice; a transnational curriculum that provides students with a framework to understand seemingly disparate phenomena in different parts of the world as connected; and a curriculum that moves beyond moral dogma and taboo to give young people a space to ask honest and difficult questions about a topic that is often off-limits. The result was Catalyst. 

In 2017 we were grateful for the support that Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela, Aida Conroy & Atenea Rosado Viurques offered to the team and welcomed to our team Diana Rodriguez Gomez and Camila Ruiz Segovia who continue to contribute to the development of the program in invaluable ways. In 2018, we were happy to add Melina Davis and Serena Hughley as the newest members of the Catalyst team.   

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I’m glad that my son attended Catalyst. Since his return, I’ve noticed that he is more dynamic and more open to sharing his knowledge with others. It makes me happy to hear about his experiences and all the new people he met in Mexico.
— Esperanza Ordoñez, Mother of Catalyst Participant 2017

Location

 

Catalyst 2018 will take place in Tepoztlán, Mexico. Tepoztlán is a small and charming colonial town an hour's drive south from Mexico City. Known for its tranquility and safety, Tepoztlán is home to an ancient archeological site, a beautiful ex-convent and many breathtaking hikes. 

The program itself will take place at Casa Cueyatlan, a comfortable, gated facility with ample green space, a swimming pool, a common eating area and four residential buildings. Male and female participants will be housed in different buildings. Gender non-conforming students will be accommodated according to their preference. During the last weekend of the program, students will travel to Mexico City to present their final presentation at one of the city's leading art venues and to take in some of the city's rich cultural landscape. From the time that students are met by facilitators at the airport upon their arrival in Mexico they will be under adult supervision.  

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I support and encourage my daughter’s involvement in anything that helps her become a better, more tolerant, caring and inclusive person and that engages her in the creation of a better society. Participating in Catalyst was precisely such an opportunity for her.
— Bertha Ramirez, Mother of a Catalyst participant 2017
 
 

ABOUT UWC

UWC (United World Colleges) is a global education movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.     

The United World Colleges (UWC) movement has been at the forefront of international education since it was founded during the Cold War in 1962. The movement has brought together several thousand students from different nations and backgrounds within stimulating, critical learning environments that push them to rethink their cultural biases and grapple first hand with the complexities of the globalized world.

Central to the ethos of UWC is the belief that education can bring together young people from all backgrounds on the basis of their shared humanity, to engage with the possibility of social change through courageous action, personal example and selfless leadership. To achieve this, UWC schools, colleges and short courses all over the world deliver a challenging and transformational educational experience to a deliberately diverse group of young people, inspiring them to become agents of positive change in line with UWC’s core values:

  • International and intercultural understanding
  • Celebration of difference
  • Personal responsibility and integrity
  • Mutual responsibility and respect
  • Compassion and service
  • Respect for the environment
  • A sense of idealism
  • Personal challenge
  • Action and personal example

In order to extend its values and mission to a wider audience, UWC offers short courses such as Catalyst that focus on a variety of themes from youth leadership to sustainability, from conflict/post-conflict to migration, gender and cross cultural understanding. In accordance with the UWC ethos that education should be independent of the student’s socioeconomic means, Catalyst guarantees full, need-based financial aid to all participants. 

UWC fosters a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and, to date, it has inspired a worldwide network of more than 60,000 alumni, who believe it is possible to take action and make a difference locally, nationally and internationally.

 

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CONTACT

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us with any questions or concerns. We are also always on the look out for collaborations with schools and teachers who are interested in working with our curriculum. Likewise, if you are interested in mentoring a Catalyst student, drop us a line. 

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