At the five CAST schools, we believe that students are talented and can unleash their talents and further develop their strengths.
I remember the open house when I met the first students who applied for the new CAST Tech High School four years ago.
An industry partner asked them. “Who in your family will repair the phone?” The hand bounced.
The student there, now a senior at CAST Tech, said, “I finally found someone like me.” A long drive to school was also not important. Nor was it a problem that he didn’t look and dress like a companion. He found a companion.
Local business, education and citizen leaders have designed the school’s network (Center for Applied Science and Technology (CAST)) to bring the talent pipeline to San Antonio’s most paid jobs. CAST Schools has partnered with San Antonio, Southwest, East Central and Northside ISD to implement an innovative school model.
Business leaders recruiting from elsewhere wanted to give local youth a foothold in their work.
From day one, CAST Tech’s principal, Melissa Alcala, has opened the school door to mentors, judges, coaches, advisors, and professionals who provide feedback as hosting internships.
Timiera “TJ” Jackson arrived in San Antonio with his military family in August 2016, but wasn’t excited about the latest school. But by listening, she was able to find her voice. And that’s a beautiful voice.
“At CAST, teachers and faculty do their best to make students feel as if they are listening,” Jackson said. “They listen, take notes, ask questions …. They see you as a person, not as a grade or number, but as someone with a voice that you need to share.”
Our first school, CAST Tech, will graduate from its pioneering class on June 11th.
As a freshman, Nathan Casares read at the 4th grade level. He graduates completely from Trinity University as the first person in his family to go to college. He is more than a testament to his extraordinary work ethic. He is also an entertaining person, a talented dancer and a compassionate leader. “Fairness” means “creating a fair competitive environment by giving all students what they need to succeed,” said Casares.
A total of nearly $ 6 million in scholarships have been awarded to 133 graduates. 76% are university-bound cities, and less than 50% of graduates attend two- or four-year colleges. Approximately 20 percent (27 students) will go to work soon, and the market-valued skills and qualifications acquired at CAST Tech should provide better wages and promotion opportunities.
About 70% will stay in the state, the majority will be in San Antonio, and 57% will attend a public college or university. Many will work in their field while attending school.
What I can be optimistic about at times of uncertainty is how these students support each other. “At CAST Tech, we are not friends, we are family members,” said Thomas Gossman, senior at Hofstra University. “Whenever I lay down on my face and saw my peers struggling, I noticed one thing. They weren’t helped and were pulled back.”
Jeanne Russell is the Executive Director of the CAST Schools Network.
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