High school student Cole Catalena shows sometimes the worst days are the best opportunities
Almost every high school student has a passion – whether that is an extracurricular club, a sport, or even a job. However, unlike some students, Cole Catalena, a senior at A&M Consolidated High School and student at Avant Garde - College Prep Services (AGP), isn’t limited to a few interests or dreams, but pours every bit of himself into making his many passions come to life.
“I love baseball,” Cole said. “It’s been a part of my life since an early age and it’s something I have so much fun doing.”
Cole was able to play varsity baseball starting his sophomore year of high school and loves the team aspect of the sport, the thrill of a well-executed win. But baseball has also been important in teaching Cole some of life’s hardest lessons in ways he would never have expected.
“During my second scrimmage this year I fouled a ball into my face during a pitch and broke my nose and also had a hairline fracture of my orbital bone,” Cole said. “At the time it was terrifying. My pupil had filled up with blood and a clot had formed there, so the risk was that if I opened that clot up again I would have to have surgery.”
Human eyes also move concurrently, meaning that at the risk of further damaging his right eye, he couldn’t allow himself to move or see out of his left eye, so he had to live without eyesight for weeks. At the time, he considered it the worst day of his life.
“That day I had been to three different doctors,” said Cole. “I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to see again. And then I got home and my mom read me this email that I got the Brockman scholarship.”
The Brockman Scholars Program is a highly competitive and unique opportunity, which the foundation selects 50 students per year. Available to eligible Texas A&M University students, it is a merit-based scholarship that covers five years of study at Texas A&M, which include four years of undergraduate study in a STEM discipline, and a one-year graduate degree program at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School. Cole will be entering the Engineering Honors Program this Fall at Texas A&M, with the hopes of one day becoming a civil engineer.
“It showed me that God works in mysterious ways and that sometimes your worst days can be your best days,” Cole said.
According to his family and teachers, it is with this sense of enteral optimism and opportunity that Cole approaches everything in life. In addition to being a three-year varsity athlete, Cole owns his own cattle company, works on the family ranch, is a bilingual Spanish speaker, and actively serves in multiple extracurriculars and service opportunities as a part of his high school career.
Cole takes the same full-hearted approach to his academics, according to Belinda Pruitt, his math teacher of two years at A&M Consolidated High School.
“He is the type of kid where if everyone was like him every person would want to be a teacher because he makes teaching a pleasure,” Pruitt said. “I teach a college level course and put a lot of responsibility on the students and he is one who is intrinsically motivated to do what he needs to do no matter what.”
As both a student and a member of a family with a deep-rooted Aggie legacy, Cole’s mother Lorin Catalena said that during Cole’s college admission process it was important for Cole to be able to exercise his own independence.
“I think Cole really enjoyed everyone’s enthusiasm through his applying to colleges,” Lorin said with a laugh. “It’s been great to have this support through what is a very stressful process, but I also knew I wanted Cole to decide for himself where he wants to go and am so glad this opportunity is working out for him.”
It was also during this process that AGP was able to help Cole with everything from his SAT test prep, to admissions applications, to preparing for his Brockman scholarship selection.
“Robb helped me through the entire application process,” Cole said. “He was also really great at helping me prepare for my scholarship interviews. He would ask me questions and I felt like the interviews with him were harder than the ones in real-life, which really helped me to do my best.”
According to Lorin, AGP was also helpful in taking the stress of Cole’s college application deadlines and removing that from her mind.
“Robb really kind of inspired Cole to shoot for the stars,” Lorin said. “They had a relationship together and it was all self-managed between them. Robb did a great job of having me involved but not forcing me to be a micromanager or a delegator.”
As Cole is looking forward to next Fall, he is reflecting back on what he has learned during the college admission process, the things that his experiences in high school have taught him, and all that he hopes to learn going forward.
“I think what all of my opportunities have taught me is that I enjoy being involved,” Cole said. “I don’t know what to do with extra time on my hands. I can’t just sit around and not do things. It’s the best way to live life for me and I look forward to applying that in my college career.”