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Looking for a school that cares? Catalyst may be right for you! (Click below to learn more.)


Catalyst High School may work particularly well for:

• The student who is struggling in a large school environment and needs personal attention

• The student who loves to read or wants to learn, but does not like school

• The student who is “floating along” in high school, but would thrive if given the opportunity to be in the “driver's seat”

• The student who has a career, an athletic or musical talent, or a health-related issue that makes it difficult to attend a traditional school on a regular basis

• The student who is extremely bright, creative, or gifted and feels personal academic needs are not being met

• The student who is highly sensitive and needs a comfortable, caring place to learn

• The student who deals with issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or school phobia

• The student who has experienced a traumatic loss or has been adopted

• The student who is transitioning from a wilderness program or residential school

• The student who has tried three or four other high schools and never found the right fit

• The student who is ready to take college classes before completing high school

• The student considered twice-exceptional or with asymmetrical cognitive development

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What Students Like Best about Catalyst

• Students build personal relationships and receive one-on-one attention from teachers.

• Many students tell stories about teachers calling home with encouragement, and steadfastly refusing to let the student fail.

• We think that learning skills, accessing information, logically discussing, and problem solving are more important than learning “stuff.”

• Discussion, research and learning labs are the norm, not lecture and regurgitation.

• With “classes of one,” students are actively involved in the way each class is structured and there is no need for lecture.

•Catalyst feels good. Students say they feel safe, welcome and happy here.

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The Student Takes Control

At Catalyst High School, the student is in control of all key decisions. For example, the student is responsible for calling him/herself in about an absence. It may take a few months for the student to realize just how much control he/she actually has. Being in control feels powerful, and genuinely builds self esteem.

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Catalyst Teachers

Each of our teachers is a facilitator of learning, not a “sage on the hill.” We love to learn from our students! Most Catalyst teachers have had working experiences outside of schools. Together, our teachers have had over 100 years of experience in public education, but we are rebels at heart. Outside of school hours, many of our teachers pursue personal passions such as dance, music, writing and acting. Working with resilient teens is very satisfying to us. We have found through experience that the most appreciative students are those who are actively recreating their high school experience after experiencing a personal setback. We enjoy helping adolescents regain the confidence, motivation, and desire to become personally, socially and academically successful, equipped with a strong arsenal of contemporary skills.

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How Catalyst is Different from Other Schools

At Catalyst High School, the student assumes control of what to study and when to take each subject and even takes responsibility for his or her own attendance. The pace is not steady – it starts slowly and accelerates over time. After regaining their self-confidence, Catalyst students become passionate learners, willingly engaged in hours of study each week, researching, creating and learning. During their final months before graduation, rather than catching “senioritis,” Catalyst students finish high school with a crescendo!

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How Catalyst is Similar to Other Schools

Catalyst offers a similar curriculum offered at traditional schools, while we take a different approach to the model of learning. Colorado State Content Standards and 21st Century Skills provide the framework for the classes to create a well-balanced academic program. Objective and widely-recognized assessment tools measure achievement and growth. Finally, the Catalyst transcript looks like a normal block-schedule transcript, with traditional course titles and letter grades.

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Students Can Start Classes at Any Time

Catalyst offers rolling admissions, so students can start classes at any time. We want to be accessible to when you need us. We don't make you wait until the beginning of a semester or for the start of the next school year to start. The best time to start is when the student is ready to work hard and to overcome the adversity that has interfered with progress in school.

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The Non-Traditional School Day

• Instead of taking 5-7 classes at a time, the Catalyst student takes fewer academic classes in short blocks to allow for focus and a faster rate of completion.

• Instead of each class lasting 18 weeks, most Catalyst classes are four weeks long.

• Instead of being given a schedule, the student chooses the time of day and the days of the week to take each specialized class.

• Instead of following a typical bell schedule, the student has a customized and variable weekly schedule.

• Instead of doing work in school, much of the student's learning takes place outside of school.

• Supporting our students' physical, mental and emotional health is of paramount importance at Catalyst High School. Wednesdays are devoted to health and wellness in a variety of settings and contexts beyond the walls of the school, as well as facilitating community experiences for students. Activities on Wednesdays will include physical activities such as hiking, biking, yoga, individual and team oriented recreational games. In addition, specialists, both in house and guests from outside the school, lead workshops and classes on subject such as nutrition and stress management. Also on Wednesdays, the students may engage in group oriented community service experiences.

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First and Second Session

The first shift is appropriate for seniors and more independent students, by administrative approval only. Students may qualify to be in the First Session by consistently earning good grades and consistently earning maximum credits. Classes meet Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. First Session students take Wednesdays classes as needed, 10:30-4:30, for Fitness/Health/Outdoor Education Program, or they may come into school for quiet study time. A typical credit load will include one 5-credit class and one 2.5-credit class. Course offerings will include all core subjects, counseling, advisory, college application prep, limited arts and electives. Participation in an afternoon activity outside of school is required, and Catalyst credit for this involvement available by administrative approval for activities such as college classes, working a paying job, volunteering, mentoring, etc.

The second shift is appropriate for underclassmen, new students, and students who will benefit from more contact time and more in-house program options. Classes meet Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: Classes 11:00 to 4:30. Most Second Session students take Wednesday classes, 10:30-4:30, for Fitness/Health/Outdoor Education Program. A typical regular block schedule will include three 2.5-credit classes, two core academic classes and one non-core class. All core subjects will be offered, as well as counseling, advisory, groups, etc. An expanded arts and electives program will be offered during the school day, instead of after school. While not required, student may earn credits by participating in a number of morning activities or programs outside of school.

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Catalyst “Intensives”

Every few months, the regular routine is broken up with a special schedule that is a called an “intensive.” During intensives, students meet as a community to take field trips, interact with guest teachers, and intensively study a subject such as arts and electives. Intensives usually last between five and ten days. During one favorite intensive, students spend the week at the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado.

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Elective Credit Options

At Catalyst High School, we help the student select and earn credit for many types of activities. Students may:

•Take elective classes such as: digital art, photography, film analysis, psychology, web design, and more as well as an array of lab-based physics electives

• Work with a mentor or be a mentor to others

• Participate in the Conference on World Affairs, an annual highlight!

• Volunteer to work with children or the elderly

• Meet regularly with a counselor or therapist

• Learn a martial art

• Participate in a sport or activity at a different school

• Commit to a program to support sobriety

• Take classes at a college or university

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College Preparation

The Catalyst learning model is based on the highly successful Chinook program that Ed Porritt, founder of Catalyst High School, developed in the public school system. Graduates of the Chinook program tell us that this high school model is excellent for college preparation. At Catalyst, the true variables are the student's motivation, innate abilities, limitations and goals. Catalyst is capable of supporting virtually any realistic academic goal. Chinook graduates have gone on to schools such as Metropolitan State College of Denver, Colorado State University, University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, George Washington University, Vancouver Film School, and University of Milan, Italy. Some of these graduates received full-ride scholarships, became teachers, or continued on to graduate school. Several Chinook students have completed college and returned to Catalyst as teachers, academic advisors, volunteers and mentors. A handful of Chinook parents are members of the Catalyst Board of Directors.

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Students with Disabilities

Catalyst may work well for a student whose disability is related to social, emotional, and some mental-health related challenges such as: depression, PTSD, phobias, anxiety, and self-harming behaviors. We will look carefully at each student's unique set of circumstances to see whether we can create accommodations to meet those needs. While Catalyst can be a proper educational setting for some students with mild learning disabilities, as a secondary issue, we do not have the capacity to conduct remediation with students.

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Catalyst High School Counselors and Therapists

Licensed counselors are available for students and their families as needed. Various types of counseling support are integral to Catalyst. Because supporting our students' ultimate health and well-being is of utmost importance to us, our counselors create a “bridge” between any therapeutic work a student is doing outside of school and their daily lives at Catalyst High School.  We communicate with students' therapeutic supports to ensure that we are all working as a team to support students as they work through social and emotional challenges so that they can succeed academically. Although licensed counselors are on staff and available for students and their families as needed, referrals may be made to outside services if more support is necessary. 

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Questions to Consider When Looking at Alternative High Schools

When considering a new school, give yourself choices, and look at several schools. Spend at least an hour talking to the admissions counselor at each school. Also, talk to students and spend plenty of time walking around each school. During your visits, think about these questions ( we think Catalyst will stack up comparatively well):

• Do I feel comfortable here?

• Do the teachers really care about me, personally?

• Will I be challenged here?

• Will I work directly on my most important needs first?

• How much control will I have over my educational life?

• When I have completed the graduation requirements, will I be prepared to do what I want to do next?

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Illegal Drug Policy

At Catalyst High School, illegal drug use/abuse is considered a health-related concern. Our students, parents and other stakeholders want Catalyst to be a safe and welcoming place that is free of issues related to illegal drugs, and it is the school's responsibility to provide that atmosphere. Catalyst may be a suitable high school for a student who has a history of illegal substance abuse if the student is committed to sobriety and if the student's primary support network (usually parents) fully supports our policy. All students are required to be screened prior to the start of attending Catalyst High School and periodically after starting school. For a student to begin attending classes the student's drug screen must be determined to be negative by a toxicology laboratory with whom we contract. A student who tests positive for illegal drug use will not be allowed to attend classes in the school with other students and must meet with a Catalyst counselor on a periodic basis throughout the screening period. For more detailed information, please contact the school.

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Reasons an Application Might Be Denied

A student who likely will not be accepted into Catalyst is someone who:

• Is likely to do harm to himself or herself or has had a recent suicide attempt;

• Exhibits violence or potential harm to others;

• Has been a dealer of illegal drugs;

• Has significantly limited intellectual capacity;

• Has exhibited troubling deviant, compulsive, sexual or psychotic behavior

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To learn more about Catalyst, or to schedule an appointment to visit the campus, give us a call today. (303) 604-6512.

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