Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to Dallas and Austin to do something that warmed my heart: Listening to others from within our CAST Network.
CAST Program Director Jen Maestas and I participated in the first Transcend Texas Innovation Summit in Dallas. The Summit committed to centering the voices of young people and invited three of our CAST Tech Alumni attending school in the Dallas area to join a panel, reflecting on the ways they learn, what they wish they had learned prior to college, and what sort of support they need from adults and schools. IT WAS POWERFUL! Our alumni have some serious insight to share! (Many thanks to CAST Tech 2021 grad Terrance Patrick, CAST Tech 2022 grad Adrian Salinas, and CAST Tech 2023 grad Kat Castañeda for sharing their stories!)
(We were the only San Antonio-area schools invited to present; see article here.)
I also accompanied CAST STEM High School master teacher Bryanna Zamarron and CAST Educator Engagement Coordinator Anastasia Perez as they testified before the State Board of Educator Certification, or SBEC, about the exemplary two-year teacher residency program we have developed in partnership with Texas A&M-SA and their Institute of School & Community Partnerships, which has grown beyond SWISD to now include CAST Med, CAST Tech and the Advanced Learning Academy in San Antonio ISD, CAST Lead in East Central ISD, and CAST Teach in Northside ISD.
Hearing Bryanna’s story of growing up in Southwest ISD, attending Palo Alto College and Texas A&M-University, finding our 2-year embedded residency program, and feeling like that level of support prepared her to now become a teacher working on her national board certification and mentor other new teachers after just three years in the field, was inspiring. (You can watch their testimonies here and here.)
Finally, our student advisory spent a morning stocking the food pantry and clothes closet at St. Stephens on the West Side of San Antonio. This service project was a direct request from this group, who sought to incorporate more service into their work together as a group dedicated to leadership and youth voice across our 6 CAST Schools. We closed with kindness ambassador Mr. Jason Mims sharing his personal story.
Across these activities, I was an observer more than a participant, and it was such an important reminder of the power of team and collaboration. An early CAST supporter, Graham Weston says, “What we all want from work is to be valued members of a winning team on an inspiring mission.”
I am reminded of the strength of our team, from our students to our alumni, our educators, our staff, and, of course, our champions! Whoever you are and however you support CAST, thank you for being a part of our team.