Catalyst is a year-long fellowship for adolescents and educators from across the Americas who are committed to exploring, expressing and advocating their visions of more just and humane drug policies.
Catalyst is a year-long, bilingual (English/Spanish) fellowship program for high-school students and their teachers from communities affected by the War on Drugs.
Over the course of the year teacher+student teams from across the Americas will come together both online and in-person to exchange their experiences, build knowledge and generate strategies of resistance.
The fellowship is designed to equip each student-teacher team with:
a critical, transnational understanding of the War on Drugs
tools to foster productive, intergenerational collaboration
new artistic skills to explore, express and transform their experience of the War on Drugs
skills to launch local initiatives of their own design that respond to the negative impacts of the War on Drugs within their communities
creative strategies to bring back knowledge about the War on Drugs into their classrooms, schools and wider community
opportunities to participate in the wider drug policy reform movement
The Catalyst 2019 fellowship consists in three phases:
Phase 1: E-learning (April-June, 2019)
Before arriving in Mexico, Catalyst fellows will gain a basic knowledge of the War on Drugs through our newly developed e-learning courses. With the generous support of the Enlight Foundation, Catalyst is excited to be collaborating with the Crew Platform on developing and launching our e-learning materials and online community.
EDUCATOR FELLOWS (12 HOURS)
Through a 6 module course, educator fellows will gain a basic knowledge of drugs, drug policy and the history and politics of the War on Drugs as it has been waged across the Americas, while learning innovative pedagogical strategies for bringing a difficult topic like the War on Drugs into the classroom.
STUDENT FELLOWS (20 HOURS)
Through a 10 module course, student fellows will gain a basic knowledge of drugs, drug policy and the history and politics of the War on Drugs as it has been waged across the Americas. Student fellows will also be guided through the initial steps of articulating the community project that they will work on for duration of the fellowship.
In the event that fellows do not have regular access to computers or internet, an off-line version of the e-learning curriculum will be made available to them.
Phase 2: In-person Incubator (July 2019)
Dates: July 1 - 21, 2019
Location: Tepoztlán & Mexico City, Mexico
Over the course of their three-week incubator, students will deepen their knowledge of the War on Drugs and learn how the conflict has affected the Hemisphere. Student fellows will build community organizing and advocacy skills via workshops, arts programming and guest lectures from local activists. Once the educator fellows arrive, student fellows will work collaboratively with them to further develop and refine action plans for the community projects they will launch upon their return home.
Dates: July 8-20, 2019
Location: Tepoztlán & Mexico City, Mexico
Over the course of their two-week incubator, educator fellows will work in parallel to their student fellows to deepen their knowledge of the War on Drugs, to explore how the Catalyst curriculum can be adapted to their specific educational setting and to learn how to be more effective adult allies to their students. During collaborative sessions, each educator will work with their student to develop and refine an action plan for the community project that they will launch upon their return home.
Both incubators will culminate in a collaborative exhibition in Mexico City featuring the work generated by both student and educator fellows
The Catalyst 2019 incubators 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 student incubator 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. The location of the educator incubator is TBD, but will be in close proximity to the student incubator.
During the last weekend of the program, fellows will travel to Mexico City to present their final exhibition to the public 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.
Phase 3: Community Project Implementation (2019-2020)
After the in-person incubators, student-teacher teams will return to their communities and launch the community projects they developed in Mexico.
Educator fellows will experiment with adapting portions of the Catalyst curriculum to their classrooms and developing new lessons plans using the skills they honed during the incubator.
All fellows will join an active and dynamic online community that will facilitate keeping in touch with their peers, providing updates on their projects and sharing information and opportunities to get further involved with the drug policy reform movement.
Ongoing support will be provided to fellows upon their return home in the form of additional e-learning modules, webinars, speaking opportunities, access to seed grant funding, etc.
The Catalyst Team
Brenda Gisela Garcia
Brenda Gisela Garcia was born in Mexico City and grew up in Calgary, Canada. She currently is a PhD Candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her research examines the contradiction of the legal system in times of violence, specifically , how those held accountable to the law are judged on moral basis of “doing the right thing” and not the rationality of the law itself. While she is not reading or writing, she is either rock climbing, playing classical guitar, or making puppets.
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.
Benji Fogarty Valenzuela
Of Guatemalan-American descent, Benji holds a BA from Columbia University and is a PhD in cultural anthropology at Princeton University. His research explores how ideas about of free time as a 'gateway drug,' authorizes efforts to keep youth constantly busy, and how this compulsive concern for time opens and forecloses horizons of aspiration, personhood and political action. Benjamin is also interested in photography and re-thinking teaching and learning beyond the classroom.
Guiet Zuun Ortiz López
Guiet is a feminist psychologist and holds a Bachelors Degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She specializes in gender issues, human rights and psychotherapy with a focus on gender and respect for sexual diversity. She collaborates with civil society organizations in the delivery of workshops, presentations, trainings, monitoring of public policies, orientation, operation and coordination of projects, accompaniment, and emotional containment. She is currently an independent consultant on issues of integral security, self-care and collective care for human rights defenders.
Theo Di Castri - Benjamin Fogarty Valenzuela - Nataya Friedan - Atenea Rosado Viurques
Aida Conroy - Theo Di Castri - Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela - Nataya Friedan - Diana Rodriguez Gomez - Atenea Rosado Viurques - Camila Ruiz Segovia
David Aristizabal - Ana Cureño - Melina Davis - Theo Di Castri - Nataya Friedan - Marco Guagnelli - Serena Hughley - Suleica Pineda -Justin Oswald - Rebeca Roa - Diana Rodriguez Gomez - Camila Ruiz Segovia - Guiet Zuun
Catalyst grew out of a series of conversations between a group of friends from across the Americas. Albeit for different reasons and from different disciplines, 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 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.
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.