March is Women’s History Month, but needless to say, every day of the year is a chance to highlight women’s extraordinary achievements and to recognize the essential role that women play in our functioning society.
Women, today, comprise nearly half of the country’s labor force and outpace men in educational attainment. Yet, many women still encounter barriers to opportunity imposed by society, such as the gender wage gap and a disproportionate number of women who are unable to pay back student loans after graduating college.
Catrina Bowen, a star high school student and the eldest sibling of a generation of Elmont Memorial High School graduates, learned about the struggles of paying college tuition firsthand.
“Students are afraid of being in long-term debt for a piece of paper that may or may not get them a job that can cover their payments and living expenses,” Catrina told us in an email.
In our candid interview, Catrina talks about facing her own student debt challenges head-on, recalls her fondest memories of being an Elmont Memorial High School scholar-athlete, and sheds light on her newfound passion for Construction Project Management in New York City.
We hope you’ll enjoy our interview!
Interview questions by Karl Valere for The Elmont Excelsior. Answers by Catrina Bowen.
Full Name: Catrina Bowen
Year graduated: 2008
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about helping others. Whether it’s professionally or personally, I’m a firm believer in “lift as you climb.”
Elmont’s Lady Spartans and Spartans both won the County and Conference championships for basketball this year. Which sports did you play in high school, and what do you remember most about your athletic experience?
Since 7th grade, I stuck with and loved, both Volleyball and Softball. What I remember most is the relationships my teammates, coaches, and I had. Many of us were already friends and/or had our coaches as teachers, but there’s something special and completely different about the relationship with a teammate and coach.
It becomes something deeper than just education or being friends, it becomes about family.
[Teachers Mike “Indo” Indovino and John Squillace] were our softball coaches and it was always a comedy show, but you could feel how much Indo believed in us on and off the field!
Mrs. Flannory (back then Ms. Seeley) was not only my coach but also my mentor. I always looked up to her, even to this day with her beautiful family. She put me in my place when I became “overly enthusiastic” as captain (haha), but she also was empathetic to my sister and me when life was testing us off the court.
These coaches taught me about being reliable, giving 110%, and introduced me to the joy and pains of being a team player as well as a leader.
Who are at least three (3) Elmont teachers who taught you valuable life lessons?
What do you wish you were taught more of in high school?
In high school, I wish we were taught more about money management. Thankfully, I learned it on my own, but had I learned it earlier I would have had stocks before I was 18, probably picked a less expensive university to go to or been more serious about filling out more scholarships, and would have started different budgeting strategies.
As high school students, many of us have parents who put money in our pockets, but we don’t consider how it got there and how far we can make it go.
What are you up to these days?
These days I’m working for a Construction Management Corporation in NYC as a Project Engineer, and finishing up my certificate program in Construction Project Management at my alma mater, CUNY Baruch.
I am also Team Manager for my sorority, Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, Inc.’s Seven National Performance Team in Region One (North Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts) and Data Manager for Elmont’s new Alumni Network E.A.G.L.E.S.
At this point in your life, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my family and how we’ve all grown in our own way.
Would you live in Elmont by your own accord? If so, why, or why not?
I would. This is because for two generations my family has walked through these streets and schools. It would be kind of awesome to have a third.
Are there any issues in Elmont that you’re curious about? Name three:
Affordable living spaces for young adults, work/businesses in the area, and new and improved neighborhood amenities.
What would you say is a difficult challenge you had to overcome to get to where you are now?
A difficult challenge I had to overcome to get to where I am today was my decision to transfer out of Drexel University after my freshman year. When I got accepted, made the decision to go there, moved into my dorm, and started classes I thought I was set for the five years.
Unfortunately, towards the end of my winter semester (Drexel is a trimester school), I received a notice saying that I had to pay $24,000 for the spring semester. I was confused because I thought the scholarships and federal loans I took out covered the whole school year and scared because I was told by the administration that I should go back to NY and apply for school in the fall. That meant I wouldn’t be able to finish my freshman year.
As a 19-year-old with no job and a middle-class family, $24,000 doesn’t just fall from the sky. I was in Drexel’s financial aid office begging for some type of financial help and at the same time, scrambling to find a cosigner for a private loan. This was my first reality check.
I realized with that amount of money for school and that amount of stress, it didn’t make sense to go through with that for an additional four years. After that spring semester, I left Philadelphia and moved to Dutchess County for a year, along with my brother.
I finished my sophomore year at SUNY Dutchess, received my Associates, and stayed on track to receive my Bachelor’s at CUNY Baruch.
By the grace of God and the support of my family, all of my credits transferred to each school with no issue. Plus, I learned better decision-making skills when it came to large price tags like college. I’ve actually hosted a workshop for my chapter at Drexel on this topic and don’t mind sharing or helping others out.
How would you describe Elmont in just one sentence?
The foundation to an incredible journey called life.
Elmont has a legacy of ambitious and remarkable women. Share briefly why you think it’s important to empower young women, especially women of color, in this day and age.
Young women, especially women of color, in this day and age need to be empowered because we hold the future. Too often young women don’t realize their potential or worth and buy into who or what their peers and the media say they are.
It’s a hard course to travel, but if guided by the right people and focused on the right goals, we become unstoppable!
10 years ago, in my senior year of high school, I received the Women of Distinction Youth Award along with two of my fellow classmates. I didn’t realize the significance of that award until a few years ago.
Every day we need to remind young women of color how important they are to this world because we never truly know what they may become!
Talk briefly about why you’re so passionate about Construction Management or what about the field you find fascinating.
I am almost a year old in the Construction world and absolutely love it! My background is in marketing, but I was always on the Project Management and analytical side.
This made it an easy transition into the construction industry.
I love numbers and being able to use data to make sound decisions.
Being part of a construction management team as opposed to a General contractor or sub-contractor means being the decision-maker/owner’s representative.
We have the best of both worlds because time is split between the field office (on a construction site), meetings, and the actual field (where work is being done).
I’ve learned so much in a short amount of time thanks to the amazing team I have and my continuous desire to understand the projects. Another great part about being on my project is that Site Lighting comes directly from the Mayor’s Action Plan. The NYCHA developments that were chosen by the Mayor and his team had the “highest crime rates” in NYC. Our work helps to make those developments safer and it’s a good feeling knowing that!
The best advice you’ve ever gotten or could give:
The best advice I have ever gotten and could give is to ALWAYS TRY! I may have done a lot in Elmont and in life in general, but I always second-guessed whether I should try. If it wasn’t for my Mother’s constant encouragement and belief in me, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.
Many thanks to Catrina Bowen for granting us this interview!
#WeAreElmont #ElmontExcellence #HigherHeights