Jose Barreras Valdez
“I was honestly really lost about what I wanted to do. The vibe when you are at camp makes everything feel achievable and like you can do it.”
Jose was born in Arizona to immigrant parents and grew up in the Maryvale community. His first language is Spanish, and his mom remembers him as early as three-years old pretending to speak English when he played with the other neighborhood children – always wanting to learn new words. In elementary school, as he gained proficiency in reading and writing English, his fondness for reading grew, and he immersed himself in literature, especially the mystery genre, whenever possible. Jose says, all of this is still true today – he loves to read, find new words, and then integrate them into his vocabulary. This fall, Jose is pursuing that childhood passion by majoring in Mass Communications with hopes of becoming a journalist one day. Jose took the time this summer to reflect on how Mr. Catanese and his Camp Catanese mentors have supported him in reaching this point of his academic career.
Jose was in sixth grade when he met Mr. Catanese while he was in detention. “Mr. Cat was supervising the period. He came over and spoke with me and started encouraging me, pushing me to stop goofing around,” says Jose. That conversation, along with some assistance in moving into the honors English class for 7th grade and gaining admission to Mr. Catanese’s algebra class, helped set Jose on a path to success. “I had the spark in Elementary School, and I feel like I got it back.”
Jose has attended Camp Catanese since 2019. While college was always on his mind as a possibility, especially because of Camp Catanese and some of his teachers at Bioscience High School, he showed up to camp this past summer unsure if he was going to enroll at ASU. High school was a rollercoaster for Jose, and he says, “I was lost in a way.” He wasn't sure if college was the right path for him.
However, at Camp, Jose met counselors that shared a similar passion for language and writing. “At the end of the day, I really found something that I wanted to pursue because of listening and going to classes at camp.” This year's career exploration classes featured a Journalism session that rekindled Jose's interest in pursuing higher education. The session was led by a volunteer who majors in journalism, and Jose had the chance to engage in a writing activity and talk to the volunteer more about the major and future career pathways. After that session and additional conversations with the volunteer mentors, Jose made the decision to enroll. “I was honestly really lost about what I wanted to do. The vibe when you are at camp makes everything feel achievable and like you can do it.”
Jose started ASU Online this fall. He plans to continue working at Starbucks and having his education 100% reimbursed through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Jose made sure to note how grateful he is for his friends within the Camp Catanese community, the foundation's supporters, and the volunteer camp staff. “Without them, my dreams would have been lost.”