by Natasha von Kaenel
Katia Navidad Rallon first came to The Crucible on a field trip with her class from Fremont High School. She remembers being blown away by all of the different departments, but most of all Woodworking. The machines in her woodshop class at Fremont didn’t compare, and she immediately wanted access to the lathes and the newer band saws to work on her own projects.
Originally from Mexico, Katia moved to West Oakland when she was seven years old. As a high school student in the Oakland Unified School district, Katia had priority for Crucible scholarships and was able to take Youth Glass Blowing, Youth Leather Working, and Youth Intro to Welded Sculpture for free. After graduating high school, she applied for The Crucible’s Pre-Apprentice Program, and was part of the group that installed the larger-than-life wrench, torch, and anvil sculpture found in front of our building.
Katia started out majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Laney College, but as her involvement with The Crucible increased–as a student, faculty member, and now, staff member–she realized she enjoyed the more hands-on aspects of engineering and the joy of sharing her knowledge with students. She has shifted her studies to Machine Technology and is considering pursuing a teaching degree.
We sat down with our Youth Program Assistant and one of our youngest staff members, to see what the last three years of being part of The Crucible community has meant to her.
How has the community of The Crucible impacted you?
A lot of the people I have met here are just trying to support me and make me get better at many things. And I feel like because of all of that support, I can also support other students here in Oakland. I actually want to go back to Fremont High School to teach in their woodshop, because I have gained a lot of experience here as a teaching assistant and as a lead teacher, and I want to take those skills and apply them somewhere else.
Why is it important for you to give back from the school you came from?
After high school, I didn’t know what to do with my life, so I want to show them that if they don’t want to go to college, they don’t just have to work. They can pursue something else, they can go to trade school.
Do you feel like there aren’t enough role models in high school demonstrating alternatives to a four-year university?
Yeah, especially for young females. I feel like I will be a role model to some of the high school girls, especially because I’m so young, I’m a girl, I’m a Woodshop technician, and working with machines. I want to give them that inspiration, because they don’t get exposed to that. There’s not a lot of women in the trade, and I want to get girls to do this. It will make me feel better to know I inspired some girls to do what I do.
What’s something people don’t know about The Crucible that they should?
If they came back to volunteer, there’s more chances of them being hired. People who stick around get more TA-ing opportunities and free classes.
What the best or worst thing that’s ever happened to you on a project?
Getting burned or cut is always the worst. But other than that…when I feel like I’m not really motivating the students to work on something, I get this terrible feeling like I’m not doing my job as a teacher. It doesn’t happen that often–thank god–but sometimes, there’s just that one student who needs more motivation, and I have tried and tried, and can’t get them motivated. And it’s like, ‘Oh I don’t know what to do.’
What could you not live without?
The Crucible. [laughs] No seriously, I just feel if I had not gotten the scholarship, I probably would have never come here. And I feel like I would have nowhere else to go that has all of these departments, all of these areas. I wouldn’t have that somewhere else.