'MAS has really made me feel comfortable transitioning from high school to college and getting me used to the HCC program and HCC community. '
Zhane (pronounced "Shaun-A") Catala, of Westfield, is an 18-year-old, first-year student at Holyoke Community College and a member of the Multicultural Academic Services program, also known as MAS, which means "more" in Spanish.
moved here from Puerto Rico in about sixth grade and went to North Middle School and Westfield High School. This is my first semester at HCC.
I heard about the MAS program from my hairdresser, who knows Myriam (MAS progam coordinator Myriam Quinones) and Denise (MAS academic counselor Denise Salgado).
They recommended that I take a three-week Accuplacer English Practice class and Math Mini-Prep class over the summer. Those courses helped me get higher grades on my placement tests.
I actually developed more math skills in those two weeks than I had in like 12 years of education. I jumped up two levels in math, from Math 075 to Math 095. They recommended the whole program. I liked it and I joined. I've been part of MAS ever since.
Right now I'm taking a combined English 095 and English 101 class called "Us and Them: What Makes Us Insiders or Outsiders." The great thing about the combined class is that if I have a B or an A I can jump right into English 102 next. I'm also taking Introduction to Psychology.
MAS has really made me feel comfortable transitioning from high school to college and getting me used to the HCC program and HCC community.
Myriam and Denise have showed me a lot of the different resources that HCC has. A lot of my friends from HCC don't know their advisors are and they have trouble picking their classes – I haven't had problems with that. It's been super, super beneficial being in this program cause I'm not confronting the problems that they're having with their schedules and stuff. I have my classes all picked out. They recommend for me the classes that I should take and who I should talk to.
I'm also getting involved outside of classes. I signed up for the Visual Arts Club and I made a ceramic bowl for the Empty Bowls fundraiser and I'm also going to join the Christian Fellowship Club on Wednesdays, and I'm hoping to do the Beekeeping Club too.
I am very interested in bees. Bees are having a decrease in their population and they're very important pollinators for our food supply. Many bee colonies are getting weaker because of pesticides and pests like wax moths that put their eggs inside the honeycombs. We need to keep that in mind and help them.
I was going to do sustainability studies but I changed to biology. Since I was little I've always liked medicine and science and my grandma is a retired nurse. My mother is a radiology technician.
I've always been surrounded with science and math. After HCC I want to go to UMass Boston or UMass Amherst. My end goal is to be a medical examiner."
PHOTO by CHRIS YURKO: Zhane Catala