Brentaro Yamane | Layout/Multimedia Editor
Dec. 1, 2022
As a high school student, Michelle Catão was looking for a college that offered a speech language pathology program.
“In high school, I spent a lot of time volunteering with special needs kids at a local organization,” Catão said. “Watching them grow and become more confident inspired me to pursue a degree in speech language pathology.”
When she discovered Duquesne, she loved how close the campus was to Downtown, while still having a campus feel.
Fast forward three years later, and Catão is a junior with an impressive accomplishment. She was recently awarded the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award USA by Prince Edward. It is recognized as the world’s leading youth achievement award.
The award is a global framework for non-formal education and learning, which challenges young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world.
Through developing transferable skills, increasing their fitness levels, cultivating a sense of adventure and volunteering in their community, the award helps young people to find their purpose, passion and place in the world.
“In high school I spent over 150-plus hours volunteering with special needs kids and developing meaningful relationships with them,” said Catão, who is also an athlete on Duquesne’s rowing team. “During my time at Duquesne, I [have] volunteered with Casa San Jose working as a teacher’s assistant in ESL (English as a second language) classes. I also have been doing research on social communication outcomes for lower-income families.”
Catão registered with the Duke of Edinburgh organization, in which she completed a series of activities and writing reflections on them. They are assessed by an assessor and an award leader. After spending her time putting in the work to meet the requirements, she felt good getting the honor and recognition that she deserved.
“I technically completed the award my senior year of high school (2020), so I got an email that all my sections had been approved,” Catão said. “It finally felt good to find out that it was approved since I spent four years working toward it.”
To many students, college is a period of time in which they start to learn more about themselves and what they can do to be more well-rounded people. For Catão, joining several clubs in which she learns about a variety of topics and managing the time of all those clubs has been very beneficial to her. She has no regrets about the number of clubs she’s involved in.
“On campus, I am also doing research with Dr. (Abigail) Delehanty in the speech language pathology department, I am the treasurer of DUASL (Duquesne American Sign Language Club) and one of the co-secretaries for HCSEE (Honors College Society for Engagement Excellence), in addition to being a member of some other clubs,” Catão said. “It can be hard to balance all of this at times, and it makes time management really important.”
While many college students do their best to do well in school and balance work and social/academic clubs, playing an NCAA sport would seem to be a lot to handle. That’s why Catão juggling school and being an athlete makes her work ethic even more notable.
“I love how supportive the team is, and how everyone pushes each other to be their best. I walked onto the team my freshman year and have learned a lot in the past few years,” Catão said. “I think the most important thing that I have learned is that the best way to improve is by setting attainable goals and slowly working toward them.”
“(In the future) I would like to help immigrants and ESL students,” Catão said. “One of my minors is Spanish and, through this, I have been able to communicate with a diverse group of people that I would have not been able to talk to otherwise.”