How do you imagine a typical applicant to the High School Explainer program? You might not imagine someone like Mitchell Castanon.
Mitchell didn’t apply because he loved the Exploratorium, or even science.
“I always thought I hated science,” Mitchell says. “In my education, science was more about memorizing than doing activities.” Nor was he looking for a stepping stone to college; in high school he took “the easiest way out possible.” Mitchell wanted an internship in the tech industry, hoping it would lead to a job. But a friend working at the Exploratorium encouraged him to apply here as well, and so Mitchell applied to the Explainer program as a plan B.
Being an Explainer was not what Mitchell had imagined.
As an Explainer, Mitchell rediscovered an early passion that, during high school, he’d almost forgotten—teaching. Helping people didn’t feel like an assignment to him; it was intuitive, and he loved it. After his first semester at the Exploratorium, Mitchell started spending extra time coaching, supporting, and teaching new Explainers as they joined the team. The joy of helping others grow and succeed returned, and he reconnected to his own love of learning.
He noticed that while friends dreaded getting up and heading to work, he woke up motivated and energized, and he soon added community college coursework to his commitments. A year and a half later, this student once intent on squeaking by was accepted to the University of California at Santa Cruz to major in education, becoming only the second person in his family to go to college.
Some Explainers arrive confident and sure of the path to their goals. Others, like Mitchell, start unsure of their futures. But through the program, Explainers learn about themselves as much as they do about the world around them, and they carry those lessons, and the friendships they make, with them for the rest of their lives.
Today, Mitchell is still Explaining—you can find him doing demonstrations and interacting with attendees at private events held at the museum. He expects to graduate from UC Santa Cruz in spring 2022.