How Catch the Next Changed My Life

By Nicholas Valerio

Growing up as a child in a tough neighborhood without a male role model to guide me was a devastating handicap.  Nevertheless, I was proud of my mother’s efforts to discipline me whenever I stepped out of line. Being a single-parent, my mother’s home language was Spanish and every grade level in elementary was taught in English thereby adding to my struggles in school. Because Spanish was my dominant home language, my grades started dropping and then I didn’t care much as long as I was barely passing.  Regardless of this fact, my mother never gave up on me and always pushed me toward college. Before Catch the Next, I didn’t care much about people and headed home after class, afraid to socialize because I was a loner. But everything changed in August 2015 when I officially became a member of CTN Dream Catchers. Having a cohort of 25 students for three classes for a year was intense. Before long we became a close-knit family, like brothers and sisters.  This bonding made for a strong familia with a support group that reinforced the idea of success. From the start and until the end, my mentors and professors have always been there for me. The transformation occurred slowly and then I became a stronger person, changing from being isolated and worried all the time to slowly enjoying the little things in life, together with other students my age and sharing each other’s company and laughter. As a group, they always made me realize to stay focused with a positive attitude.  CTN allowed me to become a better thinker because the program taught me the value of broadening my inner perspective and how to think outside the metaphorical box. They helped me think like an adult and expanded my empathy for other people. Although the CTN activities gave me the tools to think for myself, it was the Dream Catcher Club that helped me hone my skills and increased my capacity to problem-solve and work closely with other students who shared the same vision. As a CTN Dream-Catcher at Palo Alto College, less fortunate students have to understand what the program is capable of accomplishing with a support group committed to college success.  I truly believe that CTN should be incorporated in all Texas community colleges because it will intensify the college experience and provide guidance and support for those who truly need it—first generation college students. As a first-generation student, I couldn’t have made it this far without a caring staff and a strong faculty to push me forward and encourage me every step of the way. CTN is not just a college organization; it is a second family that teaches you wisdom and knowledge to guide you throughout life. Judging from Palo Alto College’s participation, our future with CTN Dream Catchers will continue as more students become involved with the program, and students themselves become mentors for the next generation.  As I move forward after CTN, I will contribute to my community by donating time and volunteering on a daily basis. While my major is nursing, I plan on continuing my career, helping people in need and telling my story so that future listeners will see how CTN impacted my life. This will educate them into becoming part of CTN so that the program gets bigger and provides a roadmap for our future legacy.

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