For too long the disastrous policies of the War on Drugs have been justified in the name of protecting young people without granting them space to speak for themselves. Catalyst is the first program to bring together youth from across the Americas to join the growing debate around drug policy reform.
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. Check back in early 2019 to apply for the next session of Catalyst.
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 provide you with:
A year-long mentorship
The Catalyst Team
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, 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 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, David Aristizabal Serena Hughley as the newest members of the Catalyst team.
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.
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 Catalyst team works under the auspices of the United World Colleges. 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.
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.