High School Catalyst

A Transformation Experience to Inspire Our Region’s High School Students for Years to Come.

Stay tuned: News about our 2020 program is coming soon!

At Southwest Michigan First, the power behind Catalyst University, we believe that the greatest force for change is a job. Our nationally-recognized approach to economic development focuses on empowering the community from every angle to provide opportunity for all through the generation of wealth and jobs, reducing poverty as well as the burden on government to sustain a vibrant and growing community.

As we look to the future and work to proactively strengthen our region, we know we must do more to empower our youth and ensure the strength of our future generation to ensure our region’s ability to remain relevant and compete in a global economy.

Not only do we owe it to our youth to provide them quality educational opportunities, we know that their success has a direct financial and economic impact on the future of our community. As Southwest Michigan First looks to the future of our region, we anticipate a significant gap in our talent pipeline of over 35,000 unfilled jobs in the next decade. Leaders make success possible. Quality people allow companies to thrive and grow. Our inability to retain and grow a robust talent pipeline will threaten our future.

Drumroll, please… introducing High School Catalyst!

By popular demand and after studying a careful, targeted approach, Southwest Michigan First has identified key areas impacting our youth’s ability to thrive as they reach higher education opportunities. New in 2019, we’ll be offering a special day event for Fall 2019 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors that is intentionally designed to engage, inspire and prepare youth in a way that compliments their education and spurs them to strive toward achievement. This transformational experience will share tangible lessons, tools and inspiration for pursuing a college education and preparing to contribute meaningfully to the world for years to come.

To accommodate schedules, we are offering two exceptional experiences. Day 1 Only for $75 per ticket or Day 1+2 for $300 per ticket.

Day 1 | 1:00 PM TO 5:30 PM
June 19, 2019

Registration Opens at 12:00 PM
Miller Auditorium, 2200 Auditorium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Curated content specifically for high school students, this tailored programming will include a unique half-day experience exclusively for students to gather on Western Michigan University’s campus before attending the main Catalyst University event. Students will dive deep into better understanding their individual strengths, be inspired by motivational speakers, learn how to manage finances and witness role models of young leaders whose higher education paved the path toward opportunity.

Day 2 | 7:45 AM to 5:00 PM
June 20, 2019

Registration Opens at 7:00 AM
Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Attendance at the main Catalyst University event includes the full day of programming, including nine nationally-recognized speakers and entertainment, lunch, snacks and auxiliary materials.

Enrollment Requirements

Open to juniors and seniors as of Fall 2019 who are aged 15 or older.


Tickets are non-transferrable. Registrants must be entering their junior or senior year of high school in Fall 2019. Choose your experience below.

Interested in sponsoring a group?

If you are interested in giving the gift of leadership to a group of high school students, please contact Nick Riashi.