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Mentoring CAST Students in a Time of Social Distancing
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See how the network continues to mentor CAST students in a time of social distancing. The Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) is a network of schools committed to providing every student with an educational experience that sets them up for their futures. Students at CAST map a pathway to their dream career through their connections with industry partners who act as mentors and motivators. Students are exposed to multiple careers through job-shadowing, internships and paid job opportunities.

As Partnership Director for CAST Tech High School, Amir Samandi leads the mentorship program for the school. Future CAST students and their families joined Amir for a panel discussion to learn more about the mentorship program. The panel included current mentors Selena Horn (Marketing Brand Specialist at Joeris General Contractors), Chris Flores, (Internal Management and Operations Consultant at H-E-B), and Brian Hawes (Chief Design Office, USAA). The mentees, CAST Tech Students, included Kimberley Samuels (Junior), Christian Gallegos (Junior) and Jason Salazar (Junior). The session highlighted how students are connected with a mentor, how mentors and their students collaborated pre-COVID-19 and how they adapted the program in a distance learning environment.

“Right now, with everything going on, it’s really been an honor to be a part of how we are reinventing and reimagining education – what it can be, what it needs to be to meet student’s needs.” Amir Samandi, Partnership Director, CAST Tech High School

Students and mentors discussed their motivations for joining the mentoring program, benefits of having a mentor plus how the program is working in a virtual environment.

“I used to love meditating like every day or when I could. But now, being at home, it’s difficult. You see your bedroom as the place where you rest and play games, but now, it’s like OK, this is the place where you have to do work, where you have to meditate, where you have to exercise and you just have to re-route your brain to change your field where you work and live at the same time. And, how he (Chris) has helped me with the trying to meditate again, is that we both agreed that on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we would both meditate for at least 5 to 30 minutes, if we can. And just do it together, and then, once we get back on the Zoom meeting, we tell each other how our meditation went and if it went good, if we could concentrate or not.” Christian, CAST Tech, Junior

What is a Mentorship Pod?

Through the mentorship program, three (3) students are grouped with one (1) mentor. These groups are called, “Pods.” Prior to COVID-19, pods would meet once to twice a month on campus, with lunch, typically provided by the mentor. Now, during COVID-19, the pods are meeting virtually and much more independently. Everybody has to be accountable to check their emails and to make their meeting times in order to make the mentorship program work. Some pods have nicknames. Selena’s mentorship pod is known as Protégé Pod while Brian’s team is called, “French Traffic.”

Are mentors assigned or do you have to sign up for a mentor?

Currently, the mentorship program is available for Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors at CAST Tech. There is an application process. Mentors are recruited from industry partners. They apply. There are some questions to better understand their style and learn what they can offer students. The students also submit an application to understand what they are looking for. Mentors range from professionals who can strengthen a skill set or provide career focus while others can provide guidance, coaching and foster reflection. The partnership director reviews each application, identifies what then mentor can provide and match him or her with a pod of students that will benefit from their contributions.

Can Freshmen students join the mentoring program?

The mentoring program is available to Freshmen. Upperclassmen are prioritized. Freshmen will be assigned to a pod and a mentor once a spot becomes available. Prior to joining a pod, all accepted students are taught proper work etiquette skills and provided with techniques on how to act in the workplace. This ensures the student is ready for a professional environment.

Do you keep the same mentor throughout your high school career?

The mentorship pods are kept together for the given school year. At the end of the year, both students and mentors have a choice to renew or change the pod.

To learn more about the mentorship program, how to enroll at a CAST school or to become a mentor, click here to connect with us.


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