Catalyst: For Hail, The Food Hooked Her; The Message Kept Her
It was pizza for senior Caroline Hail. Lou Malnati’s, to be exact.
For others, it’s ice cream, or candy, or some other yummy treat.
“They hook you with the food,” Hail said with a laugh.
“But obviously, there’s reasons why I stayed,” Hail confirmed. “A lot of them.”
Hail got convinced to explore Catalyst Club in junior high when one of her friends told her that fun snacks and delicious lunches, such as Lou Malnati’s pizza, were often served at the meetings that were held for the junior high kids at Stevenson.
But, turns out, Hail also quickly fell for the club’s message and mission…hook, line and sinker.
Now, Hail is a six-year member of Catalyst Club, a leadership group dedicated to supporting and encouraging a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle for youth in the community. She says that her progressive involvement from committee member to committee leader to now the club’s vice president has been one of the joys of her high school career.
“It has been really rewarding,” Hail said of her involvement in Catalyst. “This (drug-free) is how I want to live. I want to live by that message.”
And Hail has made sure to share that message as much as she can. Especially with younger kids.
She cherishes the work she has done with the junior high kids who come to Catalyst meetings at Stevenson once a month. Hail loves being able to educate them about the good work that Catalyst does, while encouraging them to become involved in Catalyst in high school, just as the Stevenson students did with her back when she was in junior high.
“When I first started (at Stevenson), I was most interested in being on our middle school committee for Catalyst,” Hail said. “I wanted to be a part of planning the meetings that the middle schoolers went to (photo left)...the ones that I used to go to when I was in middle school.
“What’s been really cool is seeing the impact that it’s making. You can see that ‘Oh!’ moment that they have…it’s like they get it, and it clicks.”
That sometimes happens after a few installments of fun games and…you guessed it: FOOD!
“One time, we actually got an ice cream truck to come to the middle school meeting and everyone got ice cream,” Hail said with a huge grin. “So when the kids went back to school, all of their friends were jealous and wanted to join Catalyst. The food…it works.”
In 2021, Hail took the food theme to a new level when she helped create a partnership with Culver's, which donated 1,000 free custards to middle school students who participated in activities during Red Ribbon Week, a national campaign to raise awareness and prevent drug abuse among youth and adults.
Hail has also created a virtual escape room as a fun activity for her young Catalyst kids. She’s planned activities with slime and stickers, and has organized murals (photo right) for the kids to paint, and safety dogs for them to play with.
Last year, she worked on a yard sign project with the middle schoolers in which they designed signs to put in their yards promoting their choice to be drug-free. The message for that campaign was "What's Your Why?" The question encouraged kids to think about their reasons for being substance free.
“I loved what I was able to do in middle school and I wanted to make Catalyst even more fun for the kids today, something that they look forward to so that they want to be members at Stevenson,” Hail said. “Substance prevention…it’s not always a fun or easy topic. You have to keep stuff fun in order to reach more people and engage more people.”
Hail is now hoping to keep some people of a completely different demographic engaged by her Catalyst knowledge.
Hail, along with two other Catalyst members, has been invited to give a presentation in April to the Stanford Medicine Conference.
“I am so nervous about this,” Hail said. “But we’re all excited, too. We are going to talk about how you can’t just sit in meetings with kids and talk about how alcohol and substances are bad.
“We want to show ways that people can be motivated to actually do something about it. We are trying to help build up leaders and help students take control. Whenever students have control, they are actually more engaged in what they are doing.”
It doesn’t hurt if they have a full stomach, too.