Sunday, February 20, 2011

Emmanuel Catalan, dealing with a rough course toward college, appears to be making it.

 Former Writing Student Who Called Himself “Worthless” Receives Next-to-Full Scholarship This Summer in Washington, DC to Shadow an Attorney in the Criminal Justice System;
This Tells the Tale of Why the Boys and Girl Club College Bound Program Remains Fruitful; A College Bound Workshop Will Be Held Tuesday After School at San Pedro High
By Diana L. Chapman
When I received the phone call last week, my eyes welled up with tears and then I was near weeping.
“Really?  Really? You are kidding,” I kept saying, my voice breaking in two.
I couldn’t weep anymore for Emmanuel Catalan, who was about 17, when I first met him. He stood up in my writing class at the Boys and Girls Club, told everybody he was “worthless,” had a 1.8 GPA and had moved every two years of his life. There was nothing more to him than that, he said.
Today, he’s into his third year at the University of South Florida and was just awarded a nearly all paid summer summer  scholarship to  the Washington Center in D.C. where he will shadow an attorney in the criminal justice system. The scholarship does not include transporation or meals.
“It was such an exciting moment to hear that I got into this internship,” the 21-year-old e-mailed me. “I feel like I have the academic aspect of my career down. Now, it is about applying all that I know into a real-world situation. I believe that this internship would give me invaluable experience and help me understand how to apply what I  know a lot better than I previously did.”
Emmanuel has had no easy path to trudge toward his dream to become a lawyer first, and then a judge. When I met him, I was able to determine just how brilliant he was and see that his writing potential was magnificent. In the class, though, it was his friend Anabel, who saved him. After he told us all, standing up when he did so, of his heart wrenching insignificance, Anabel piped up that he just had earned the title of sergeant in the Junior ROTC.
“That’s not worthless,” I exclaimed! “That means you’re responsible and committed.”
That, I believe, was the moment his life changed. Emmanuel woke up hard and went to work, raising that 1.8 to 4.1 GPA in the next few months. His writing improved dramatically and he made a new family at the Boys and Girls Club. Seeing his overnight changes, the club employees threw themselves behind him – to make sure he got into college.
But the reason he was so troubled to begin with reared its ugly head again by the end of the school year. His stepfather told Emmanuel he was worthless – and let him know it many times. With only his senior year left to go and all going well, the stepfather, a military man, announced that he was being transferred and they were all moving to Florida.
Mike Lansing, the executive director of the Harbor-Area Boys and Girls Club, offered Emmanuel a place to stay to finish his senior year, rather than moving when he was doing so well. The staff feared they might “lose him,” if he didn’t have a support system.
His step-father refused. Nearly the moment they arrived in Florida, the stepfather then departed from the family, leaving Emmanuel’s mom to raise all three of her boys. This could have destroyed Emmanuel.
“For years, I’ve been impressed with Emmanuel’s abilities to turn things around and stick to his commitments,” I wrote in a reference letter for him to the Washington Center. “He sacrificed to help his mother when he could have returned to California and taken the offer that remained open for him. Emmanuel could have fallen apart when he was forced to move and drop all thoughts of college.”
Instead, he remained to help his mother and enrolled in university.  While it hasn’t always been easy, I am proud to say that he has not quit and will – one way or another – become a lawyer and a judge. I know this, because I’ve seen his grit, persistence and determination.”
Lansing, the Boys and Girls Club  lauded Emmanuel’s success thus far.
 “We are very proud of Emmanuel and the academic career path success he is currently experiencing,” Lansing said. “Emmanuel is a “poster child” for why the College Bound program is so very important for so many of our youth. He came to us at a time he was truly struggling and had much self-doubt – but the potential and capacity to learn and grow were most apparent.
“We were able to pick Emmanuel up, boost his confidence and get him on the right path which obviously has paid dividends given where he is today. I am most proud of Emmanuel and especially my staff who will give (youths) the helping hand they need and deserve.”
My volunteer experiences with students over many years tell me there’s so many more Emmanuels out there. College Bound is one way to find them. If you know any students who need help preparing for college, please send them Tuesday (Feb. 22) to San Pedro High School at 3:45. A workshop will be presented in Room 125 in the main building.
Let’s not even think about wasting anymore Emmanuels who have so much potential and so many gifts to offer our world.