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A Classroom Education for the Real World

By SA2020 | Jan 15 2019

Amadeo Torres Ortiz, 15, rides 45 minutes every morning to attend Centers for Applied Sciences and Technology (CAST) Tech, and he’s not the only one who spends close to an hour in morning traffic. While the high school is definitely more rigorous than he expected, he also describes it as more fun. Students regularly hear from a rotation of community speakers, including business executives, nonprofit directors, and college presidents, and take field trips that put them on the front lines of top industries. “Most of the people they invite have backgrounds like us,” Amadeo said. “They come from the south side, from the west side, which is where I mostly grew up…I see that if I push hard enough, that I can actually make my life the way that I want it to be and do what I love.”

In 2015, San Antonio was producing one person for every ten IT jobs available, and one in two for healthcare biosciences (SA2020 Talent Pipeline Taskforce Report). Even more recent reports show our STEM Economy has flat-lined (SA2020 Impact Report, 2018). This network of career-themed high schools—CAST Tech, CAST Med, and CAST STEM—is making sure we maximize opportunities for high school graduates and invest in and develop our homegrown, future talent.

Founded by Charles Butt and H-E-B, CAST Tech opened its doors in the fall of 2017. Students are linked to careers in business, cyber security, gaming and coding, as well as digital design and animation. CAST Med, opening at Brooks in fall 2019, will connect students to medical, biomedical research, and public health careers, while CAST STEM focuses on engineering, advanced manufacturing, energy and power, and global logistics.

CAST Tech | Photo by Vanessa Velazquez

In their most recent Jobs Report, San Antonio Works showed that the largest change in job postings was web developers with a growth of 32%. More specifically, in 2018, over 32,700 residents in the San Antonio Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes New Braunfels, Schertz, and Seguin, worked in IT. The projected growth of San Antonio MSA jobs in target industries — IT, Manufacturing, and Healthcare — are all outpacing the national projected growth.

Intended to prepare students for career and college, CAST schools work with institutions of higher education to maximize college course credits in high school. CAST schools further leverage industry and higher education partners, like Tech Bloc, Whataburger, Geekdom, and USAA, to help shape the pathways offered to students at each school. The tuition-free schools are open to students across Bexar County, with no prerequisites to get in.

CAST Tech | Photo by Vanessa Velazquez

Alena Errisuriz-Chavez applied to CAST Tech because she was drawn to the focus on technology. Today, as a sophomore, she loves the project-based learning. “It’s basically doing hands on projects that we can apply to the real world,” she said. One of her projects paired learning Adobe Illustrator and vectors to design a therapeutic coloring book that students donated to patients at The Children’s Hospital. “Just the atmosphere at the school is set up like a business or a company,” Alena added, as freshman students gathered on the ‘learning staircase’ modeled after one at Google. “It’s intended to inspire out-of-the-box thinking.”

Alena is inspired when she talks about all the things that she wants to do after high school — travel and see the world, go to college, find a way to merge her passion for social causes with technology and give back to the community. “Instead of doing papier-mâché volcanoes, we’re thinking about how to solve problems we can apply to San Antonio and Texas.”

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