CATALYST Global Youth Initiatives, Inc. a 501(c)3 was established June 2010 by the founder and CEO Felicia Benzo. The organization is committed to creating programs and initiatives that mobilize adults to inspire children and youth to greatness. CATALYST is an acronym for Children and Adults Together Achieving, Leadership, Inspiration, Success, and Trust. When children are provided with the social and emotional tools to be all that they can be, their circumstances will no longer define or imprison them but act as springboards to greatness.
Our programs are designed to empower and enhance the lives of children. We believe that children are created with the solutions to the problems that we face now and by providing them what they need to be productive adults, the future will be strong.
The CATALYST Effect
Another sign of success in this relatively young organization is that mentees who have completed the program and have finished high school are now returning to become mentors. They have experienced the positive impact mentoring has had on their lives and want to do the same for other children. That is the CATALYST Effect!
FOUNDER and CEO, C.A.T.A.L.Y.S.T. Global Youth Initiatives, Inc.
I created CATALYST Global Youth Initiatives, Inc. 501(c)(3) in 2010 in Deltona, Florida, to inspire children/youth to greatness! Children are precious beings. Without them there is no us. They are our future! All of CATALYST programs are created to address the social/emotional learning of children. When these skills are in place children navigate successfully through school and adult life.
As Frederick Douglas said, ” It is easier to build a strong child than to fix a broken man.”
CATALYST programs include CATALYST Mentoring, D.R.E.A.M. (Dynamic, Responsible, Educated, Achieving, Males and the Summer Literacy/Leadership Academy. All of these programs include self-development, health, social engagement, civic awareness, physical fitness and cultural/social diversity and career interest/ preparation. Just to mention a few. The goal is to serve 6400 or 10% of the students in Volusia County Schools. In 2018, CATALYST programs served a total of 506 children and was active in 35 of the 72 Volusia County Schools.
Who are we serving? There is a popular catch phrase “children at risk” which I do not use because it is commonly associated with certain racial and ethnic groups. All children are at “risk”. All Children!!! Why Ms. Felicia? Adverse childhood experiences can affect any child at any time. It results in disruptive behavior and hopelessness. The more adverse childhood experiences and circumstances in a child’s life the more stunted the social /emotional development is, and the more the need for intervention increases.
CATALYST has been created to inspire all children who find themselves in circumstances beyond their control. The children are referred to us by the schools, youth programs and occasionally parents call the program directly for mentors. We only mentor in the schools during school hours. We are a community partner with Volusia County Youth Motivator program which does the background checks of our mentors before they can mentor a child. We only mentor in the schools during school hours. We are a community partner with Volusia County Youth Motivator program which does the background checks our mentors before they can mentor a child.
CATALYST mentors are ages 19-82, and represent all races, ethnic groups, faiths, political persuasion, professions, businesses and experiences. The children that we serve are equally as diverse. We are focused on one mission: Inspire a child to his or her greatness!
So why am I so passionate about the success of our children? My father died of cancer when I was 11 years old. Yes. I experienced utilities being cut off during the winters in NYC and at times not having enough food although never starving. Being the oldest of four children quickly resulted in me becoming one of those child-adults, raising my siblings, responding to letters from the school, signing report cards etc. My mom was not able to go to my band/orchestra/drama performances nor was she able to go to my sports events. For that matter she did not attend my high school graduation! She was called into work! With the help of many adults, some family and mentors, and my fierce determination to overcome my circumstances I made it. So did my siblings. My passion and commitment emerges from the adverse childhood experiences of my own life.
Years later I have a MD degree and a Masters of Health Administration. I practiced 28 years of Emergency Medicine. was a financial adviser rep, authored Raising Kings about successful parenting and now completing a second book, Parent Boot Camp: Parents You Are Your Child’s Problem. I am a motivational speaker, sought after conference speaker/consultant on mentoring/male and minority achievement, and host seminars. Greatest of all, I am a mother of four successful sons and a grandmother of ten.
CATALYST was created out of love for children. I am determined and committed to ensure that children get what they require to be happy, healthy and successful adults.
CATALYST in the News and Related Links
Calling Men To Action Nov 2017, Felicia Benzo with Cameron’s Chronicles
Giving Back Podcast: Grassroots Efforts to Mentor Nov 2016 Interview with Felicia Benzo
Poverty in Volusia County Mentoring Needed, Nov 2014
CATALYST Program Grows in Volusia County March 2013