Be the Change: Cathy Taylor – Unlocking Futures

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Cathy Taylor believes in second chances. As principal of the Redding-based California Heritage YouthBuild Academy (CHYBA ) and executive director of the school’s YouthBuild program, she opens doors for young adults that otherwise might remain locked to them.

CHYBA provides education and career training for people ages 16-24 who need a high school diploma and other comprehensive services to transform their lives and become productive contributors to the community, says AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Chantal Krystiniak.

“Cathy believes wholeheartedly in restorative justice and the fact that our students need second chances. Many of the students at CHYBA have faced difficult personal challenges and some have made poor choices in the past. Cathy is the kind of person that is able to still see the silver lining in a young person. She will fight tooth and nail for students and for her staff as well. She is so devoted to this school that I often worry about her burning out. She spends countless overtime hours working on grants and trying to drum up partnerships to help keep our program afloat,” says Chantal.

We spoke with Cathy about the joys and challenges of working with at-risk youth, and here’s what she had to say.

Cathy Taylor with student Sierra Abbot at California Heritage YouthBuild Academy. As a school principal, Cathy champions innovative programs that help students develop self-worth and leadership skills.

Cathy Taylor with student Sierra Abbot at California Heritage YouthBuild Academy. As a school principal, Cathy champions innovative programs that help students develop self-worth and leadership skills.

What do you think is the most important wisdom to share with youth today?

As our school pledge says: ‘We pledge to focus on our educational goals, to become stronger leaders in our communities and to help others along the way. We will become respectful citizens, raise our level of consciousness in all aspects of life, and choose a positive road to success. As young adults we must enhance the opportunities given to us, therefore, we will adhere to all of the above with appreciation, pride, determination and commitment.’

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the young people who transform their lives and overcome so much trauma in order to get their own lives in order… and then they reach back or forward and bring their families along and also give back to other young people who are coming along behind them. I’m very proud to say I see examples of that behavior regularly!

What are the rewards of your job, and what are the struggles?

The rewards are seeing staff and young people work together to transform systems and lives so that the young people can work together to build a better community.

My biggest challenge is trying to find the resources to provide a free, unapologetically comprehensive program for “opportunity youth” on a very limited budget. Sustainability is always our biggest hurdle to overcome. It is hard running this kind of program, where the young people have so many needs in terms of time and resources, while at the same time trying to find the funds to keep it going.

Up to this point, I’m happy to say that many community partners and donors have helped us further our mission to provide high school diplomas, industry-recognized career certifications, and the comprehensive services young people need to transform their lives. Staff members continue to make numerous personal contributions and sacrifices to allow the program to move forward. Balancing time with my family and time with the young people is an ongoing stress for me.

Can you share a little about your family?

art-0116-btc3I am married to Dave Taylor and we have six amazing children: Tommy, Kathy, Jeremiah, Zach, Melissa and Jordan. The members of my family are the ones who taught me that to love is all that is needed to make things work out for the best. Life won’t always be perfect, but it will always work out. My family has also helped me learn that every path has puddles, but you just have to jump in feet first and have faith … the miracles will come, but not always according to our own timetable.

What is your current favorite quote?

I think it is ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Also, ‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself,’ and ‘Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.’ Probably most of all, not a quote per se but a philosophy: Love is the most powerful change agent in the world and life is full of a thousand tiny miracles created by that kind of love.

Skye Kinkade
About Skye Kinkade

Skye Kinkade is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and mother of four lively children. She enjoys being part of a close-knit community that is so generous and kind in difficult times.

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