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Emboldening the Next Generation

High School Catalyst

One of the most important things that can be done for a child is investing in their future. Helping the next generation hone skills and develop professional interests improves society. Locally, Southwest Michigan First is doing just that by assisting the youth of Kalamazoo in realizing their strengths through High School Catalyst.

To learn more about the event being held on June 19, KzooConnect sat down with one of Southwest Michigan First’s managing partners, Carla Sones.

In addition to serving as a Certified StrengthsFinder Coach, Sones has acted as a lead for Catalyst University for five years. Before holding this role, she worked with children at Prevention Works.

“I have a heart for youth and this job is a dream come true,” she said. “It is so important to have access to StrengthFinders for students prior to their graduation. We are so grateful to our sponsors for making this happen and really want to help this event grow.”

Inspired by Catalyst University, a regional leadership conference that hosts thousands of attendees who are looking to grow in their leadership at each event, High School Catalyst’s primary mission is to develop leadership skills in students throughout the Kalamazoo area.

“All jobs require leadership,” said Sones. “High School Catalyst is both a place for students to build community as well as a launching point for leadership.”

The event itself boasts several activities that will help students grow. Jon Acuff will be providing a keynote about several of his books including “Start” and “Finish". Recent graduates will also be in attendance, talking on a panel about their experiences entering the professional sphere in Kalamazoo.

A Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment Test run by representatives from Stryker will be available to help teens discover their gifts. PNC Bank will also be present at the event providing lessons in financial literacy.

Additionally, Jeremy Cowart, an accomplished photographer, artist, and entrepreneur, will speak to the attendees on how he realized his own potential despite facing obstacles like dyslexia. Sones is confident that Cowart’s story will help inspire high schoolers who have dealt with similar issues.

“Jeremy was told in high school that he was not smart and would not be successful, but passion fueled his success. He started companies and discovered that his inner voice and passion trumped what others thought about him,” she said.

Aside from partnerships with schools in the area, High School Catalyst is receiving support from community sponsors including The Kalamazoo Promise and Warner Norcross + Judd. So far, sponsors have provided support for nearly 300 students to attend.

High School Catalyst will be held on June 19 from 1:00-5:30 p.m. at Miller Auditorium. Schools that are partnered with sponsors can send students at no cost. Tickets for individual students cost $75 each for the one-day experience and $300 for the two-day experience. Make sure to register today!

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