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Graduation Season Continues across CAST Schools


Friday night, we opened graduation season, celebrating the inaugural class of CAST Lea. Hearing the three student speakers describe their evolution over 4 years brought tears to my eyes.


Senior Bradley Ahr closed out the event with these powerful words: “I want to share that I am a high-functioning individual with autism, showcasing that differences should not hinder one’s ability to achieve greatness. My journey has been one of perseverance, growth and triumph over adversity, proving that neurodiversity should be celebrated and embraced. Each of us has our own story, and we all bring a unique perspective and value to the world, and it is through understanding, acceptance, and inclusion that we can truly create a more compassionate and diverse society.”


Bradley’s story brings to life a saying we have at CAST, that: “all students come to us with gifts; our job is to unlock them.”


His graduation speech echoed for me a graduation speech from two years ago, when one of the first graduating seniors from CAST Tech, James Goldblatt, shared his struggles with ADHD, recounting that whereas he had previously felt labeled as different, at CAST he began to see his differences as a strength.


“I used to hate my ADHD. I can’t sit still, the motor in my mouth has yet to run out of fuel, and I noticed how different I was compared to everyone else. But the moment I understood that I will never be like everybody else, and that’s all right, it finally felt like there was inner peace,” Goldblatt told his fellow graduates. “After that, I was able to utilize it, with CAST providing me an outlet to do so. For instance, due to my high octane nature, I was always super enthusiastic and animated, which made me a great tour guide for industry partners, or a natural speaker for large events.”


I am also reminded by a story from a CAST Nonprofit Board Member, Katie Chain, who interviewed and hired Joseph Rodriguez, another member of the first class of CAST Tech High School, as an H-E-B intern. He has Tourette’s syndrome, which he noted before beginning the interview, from her perspective, taking what some might consider a disadvantage and making it an asset.


I’m sure that there are many things we can continue to improve at our CAST Schools, but I am so proud to hear our students describe how our commitment to equity, relationships, student voice and authentic learning, as well as our undying faith in all students, has fostered a culture where students genuinely support and accept each other. Bradley Ahr was the CAST Lead valedictorian, earning 16 scholarships; James Goldblatt is studying mechanical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and Joseph Rodriguez is studying at Texas A&M College Station.


To give Bradley Arh the closing words: “CAST Lead HS fostered a supportive and inclusive environment where every student feels valued and empowered to take ownership of their education. This holistic approach has not only prepared us academically but has also equipped us with the essential life skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world.”


Jeanne Russell

Executive Director

CAST School


Image courtesy of East Central ISD


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