UTHS student Chris Catino
Chris Catino, student with the UT Online High School (UTHS)

Chris Catino finds academic freedom and flexibility with UT Online High School


Like a lot of high school students his age, Chris Catino plays drums in a garage rock band, performing tunes made famous by AC/DC. Unlike a lot of high school students, Chris also finds time to conduct marine biology research, work as a scuba diving instructor’s assistant, and volunteer with Meals on Wheels. His research has taken him to such foreign locations as Costa Rica and Honduras to engage in cultural tours where he has met with indigenous people in their homes and villages to learn and experience their way of life. To date, Chris has earned five scuba certifications and has taken scuba diving trips to five different countries and over 30 exotic dive locations.

Chris credits the flexibility offered him by The University of Texas at Austin Online High School (UTHS) for allowing him to pursue these opportunities. By enrolling in UTHS for all four years of his high school career, he enjoyed a freedom and a flexibility to create his own semester-by-semester schedule and pursue academic, social and community interests on his own timetable.

Why did you enroll in UTHS?
Chris Catino: “When high school started, I decided to take a non-traditional route. UTHS seemed like the best fit for me. I could take challenging courses and have a flexible schedule while I pursued my extracurricular activities. Taking classes with UTHS drives me to be more of a self-starter. I can schedule my classes myself and decide when I do the work. By being self-disciplined, I enjoy being able to create my own schedule.”

How did UTHS courses impact your academic goals and your plans for your future?
“The most prominent impact I felt was during my senior year when I was allowed to take dual credit college courses from the University of Texas at Arlington. It gave me a head start and real insight into what is expected of college students.”

Tell us something about your scuba diving. How did it lead to your interest and work in marine biology?
“From a very early age, my family and I have traveled to many international destinations, and we’ve always scuba-dived. Through scuba-diving, I discovered a whole world of marine biology, which is much more than looking at pretty fish. The study of marine biology offered me an opportunity to discover a part of life that’s usually hidden from the rest of the world. It’s challenging and rewarding due to the research required to really understand the undersea wildlife from a scientific and biological viewpoint.”

What would you say has been your most memorable experience related to your research?
“I remember I was with a group from New College of Florida in Honduras, and we were studying sea mollusks and how their membranes excrete toxins into the water. We, as a group, were expected to start our research at 4 o’clock in the morning. It was eye-opening for me to see the deep commitment of these marine biologists. They did what they needed to do to pursue their research—even if it meant starting at 4 a.m. I was inspired by that commitment.”

What are your future goals?
“In the short term, I want to study economics and social sciences at a leading university. In the long term, I want to make a contribution to society by helping to create sustainable communities in developing countries.”

What would you say to a student who was considering UTHS?
“I would recommend UTHS to other high school students, but only if they are self-motivated and willing to put in the time, because it requires good time management. It’s up to you to succeed or not. The deadlines are your own.”


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