Week-Long, On-Campus Camp Catanese Helps Get Kids to College

Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Jason Catanese, M.Ed.

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Where a student goes to high school and where they live shouldn’t determine their chances of going to college. That’s the guiding principal behind Camp Catanese (CC), a one-week science, math and college preparatory camp held annually at Arizona State University’s West Campus where high school students receive information on how to access college in a fun and engaging setting.

Founded by Jason Catanese, a middle school math teacher in Phoenix who saw firsthand the disparities between his students who went on to attend different high schools and which ones went on to college or career training. The camp aims to bridge the opportunity gap that exists for many youth in Arizona and is offered at no cost to students and their families.

Camp Provides Typical College Experience

Held at ASU West Campus, CC welcomes high schoolers, many of whom come from low income areas of Phoenix. In the morning, campers learn about everything from completing the FAFSA to coding. One day they may dissect a pig, and the next might bring hands-on engineering. The lessons are all things they might not be getting in high school, while also exposing them to varied careers. In the evening, students are included in fun activities, including dances, pool parties and more.

Participants get to stay in the dorms at ASU, which gives them an opportunity to visualize themselves in college. This is an important part of the experience, since half of Arizona’s high school graduates currently don’t go on to higher learning after graduation. The Arizona Education Progress Meter goal for post-high school enrollment is to increase that to 70 percent by 2030, so the camp is providing them a path to higher education and even enlightening them about career options. The camp’s founders understand that these students are fully capable, and only require the right resources to succeed.

The Impact on Students

Having launched four years ago with help from Arizona State University and local business leaders, CC is still relatively new. But it’s already growing and having a big impact. In its first year, CC was host to 130 students but just last year, that had grown to a whopping 300 high schoolers and 85 volunteer staff members. Coming to the camp, only half of students view college as an option, but by the end, nearly all do. And among the first two cohorts of campers, 100 percent are either in college or have joined the military.

To ensure that students can pursue their dreams, CC recently held a senior weekend and invited past campers onsite to work on college applications. Most who attended even applied to more than one institution. It’s a program that is having a real impact on students and moving them toward a lifetime of success in whatever they pursue.

For more information about Camp Cantanese, visit campcatanese.com.

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