A Glimpse Into Student Experiences at Community Schools: Catalina Figeroa


During the weekly Community Night at Enka Middle School, Catalina Figeroa, an insightful 13-year-old, sat with her mother and shared her thoughts on the importance of adult support in shaping the lives of students. Catalina's perspective highlights how adults, regardless of their professional backgrounds, can significantly impact the educational experience and growth of our Asheville-Buncombe students.

Throughout our conversation with Catalina she repeatedly shared sentiments that underscore the essential role of emotional support in a student’s life, a role that extends beyond teachers to include parents, community members, and professionals from various fields.



Catalina envisions a school community where “families being involved in school and everyone is happy together. And figuring out problems or anything together, as one big team.” This vision calls for a collaborative approach, where diverse adult perspectives contribute to a nurturing and effective educational environment.

Recognizing the long-term impact of today's education, Catalina emphasized, “It’s important if they knew that us kids are the next generation and we will be the big smart people in the world one day. And it’s important for us to learn a bunch of things now so we can have it when we are older.” Her words remind us that investing in students’ education is an investment in the future leaders and innovators of our world.

Catalina believes that the involvement of adults from all walks of life can enrich the school environment. “If someone from a workplace that has nothing to do with the school thought about something that would be good for a school, then they could help a school become better,” she suggested. Professionals from fields that don’t work in education daily can offer unique insights and resources, broadening students’ horizons and enhancing their learning experiences.


However, Catalina also stresses the importance of empathy and understanding from adults. “It would be good for them [adults] to immediately remember that every student has a different life and students are going through things and they do things, and you have to try not to get mad at them. Because they have reasons, not excuses, but reasons for doing what they do if it’s not good or if it is good!” This plea for patience and empathy highlights the complex realities students face, urging adults to approach each situation with compassion.

In her reflections, Catalina also acknowledges the hard work of educators. “I think it would be important for students to know that these teachers are doing their best, and they should also be kind to teachers, other students, and staff members, like in what they do and what they say.” Her recognition of the efforts of school staff is a reminder that mutual respect and kindness are crucial in fostering a positive school culture.

To all supporters of the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, and to everyone committed to nurturing the potential of our youth, I urge you to listen to students like Catalina. Reflect on the ways you can contribute, whether through mentorship, volunteering, or simply offering a listening ear. Together, we can create a supportive and enriching environment for our future leaders.



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