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CAST Med and Advanced Learning Academy Earn Top Honors at the 4th Annual CAST Schools Speak Up Speak Out Regional Civics Fair


Over 150 high school and middle school students representing seven different schools across San Antonio convened at Texas A&M University-San Antonio on Wednesday, January 19th, to compete in the 4th Annual CAST Schools Speak Up Speak Out Regional Civics Fair. The proposal, “Alter Eco – Caring for the Environment Can Take Care of You,” presented by the junior team from CAST Med won first place in the high school division. “Mask and Pollution,” presented by students from the Advanced Learning Academy took first place in the middle school division. The selected teams from the regional finals automatically qualify to compete in the state civics fair in February at the Texas State Capitol. Each participating school has the option to submit up to three entries.


Students arrive at the 4th Annual CAST Schools Speak Up Speak Out Regional Civics Fair Finals


Speak Up Speak Out, or “SUSO” is a statewide civic education program facilitated by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin in the Moody College of Business. The civics fair provides students with an opportunity to activate their voice and discover the power they have in changing their communities for the better. San Antonio holds the only regional Speak Up Speak Out competition in Texas and the CAST Schools Network has been actively spearheading the event for the past four years. Jeanne Russell, Executive Director for the CAST Schools Network shared that “At CAST, we are guided by our four pillars of Student Voice and Agency, Relationships, Authentic Learning, and Equity. Speak Up Speak Out connects to all the pillars, but most of all student voice. Young people identify community challenges, connect with experts, do research, and ultimately present their best solutions to make our community stronger to adults who care.”


The team from CAST Med presents at the CAST Schools Speak Up Speak Out Civics Fair


The civics fair regional finals culminate a 4-month long event for the CAST Schools Network that started in October with a virtual kick-off hosted by CAST Schools artist-in-residence Mark Menjivar where he challenged students to think about how to celebrate their community through the prompt, “A Monument for the People.” After the virtual kick-off, close to 300 teams applied to compete in the regional civics fair. In October, CAST Schools hosted a virtual speed interview day where student teams pitched their ideas to industry experts such as Police Chief McManus and Texas State Senator José Menéndez. The event helped students refine their proposals and get direct feedback on the viability and scalability of their ideas. In December, Mayor Ron Nirenberg welcomed over 150 teams who participated in the virtual semifinals. From there, over 40 teams were selected to compete in Wednesday’s regional finals.

First Lady of San Antonio and Sr. Director of Customer Insights for H-E-B, Erika Prosper Nirenberg, delivered the virtual keynote address, highlighting for students that, “…Your ideas all share one common purpose that’s amazing, and that’s to help San Antonio and the surrounding communities to get better, heal better.” Over 30 volunteer judges listened and scored presentations on the identified issue, research, solution, and overall presentation.



Schools participating in the regional finals included:

Texas A&M-San Antonio President, Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, welcomed students to campus and opened the awards ceremony, “We are looking for your passion to make a difference in the communities that you live in both now and in the future. It’s never been a more important time for our young people to bring awareness to create solutions and to set motions in place that are addressing real-world issues.”


Texas A&M San Antonio President Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson Announces Winners


In addition to advancing to the state civics fair, select teams will be able to pitch their ideas to their local school boards, the City of San Antonio, and, with the support and partnership of Our Tomorrow, some teams may be able to receive seed funding to activate their ideas.

Overall Winners include:

High School Division

  • 1st Place – CAST Med High School: Alter Eco – Caring for the Environment Can Take Care of You
  • 2nd Place – International School of the Americas: Racial Wealth Inequality
  • 3rd Place (T) – Advanced Learning Academy: Zero Hunger
  • 3rd Place (T) – Advanced Learning Academy: Food Insecurities in Schools

Middle School Division:

  • 1st Place – Advanced Learning Academy: Mask and Pollution
  • 2nd Place: Advanced Learning Academy: Feminine Product Accessibility
  • 3rd Place: Advanced Learning Academy: Problem Box – Student Voice

Select teams also received special recognitions:

Creative Expression:

  • Advanced Learning Academy: Climate Change/Global Warming
  • CAST Tech High School: Procrastination
  • CAST STEM High School: Homelessness
  • International School of the Americas: Sexual Violence
  • Advanced Learning Academy: Advocacy for Children with Special Needs
  • CAST Lead High School: Trauma and Homelessness

Community Engagement:

  • CAST Med High School: Alter Eco – Caring for the Environment Can Take Care of You
  • International School of the Americas: Racial Wealth Inequality
  • Advanced Learning Academy: Food Insecurities in Schools
  • Advanced Learning Academy: Mask and Pollution
  • CAST Tech High School: Normalization of Mental Health
  • Advanced Learning Academy: Community/School Safety and Neighborhoods

Primary Research Use:

  • Advanced Learning Academy: Mask and Pollution
  • Krueger School of Applied Technologies: Improve Opportunities for Girls in STEM
  • International School of the Americas: Racial Wealth Inequality
  • Advanced Learning Academy: Fighting Food Deserts in our Schools
  • Advanced Learning Academy: Zero Hunger
  • Advanced Learning Academy: Feminine Product Accessibility


Other proposals submitted by students include Speech Therapy, Teen Mental Health, Pollution and Littering on Campus, Child Abuse, Complacency and Dress Code, Homeless Healthcare, Clean Bathrooms, Trash in the Environment, Animal Cruelty, Littering, School Garden Expansion, Composting, Outdoor Learning, Environmental Education, Deforestation and Effect Over San Antonio, Food Waste, Gender Equality, Unemployment, The Heartbeat Bill, Grades vs. Learning, Sex Education, Homework Helpers, Social Workers in Our Schools, Awareness of Discrimination in Our Schools, Operation Respiration Rescue.


Student from Across the CAST Schools Network Celebrate Speak Up Speak Out

Thank you to the many volunteers for generously sharing their time and energy with us!

Volunteer Judges: Dr. Israel Guerrero, Heidi Pease, Ana Lopez Ward, Aaron Guerrero, Robin Escamilla, Al Perez, Lori Johnson, Steffi Ockenfels, Katie Chain, Beki Hutchinson, Carol Mendenhall, Amanda Sierra, Heather Plank, Lauren Geraghty, Ericka Olivarez, Julie Riedel, Dr. Cliff Zintgraff, Dalia Garcia-Castro, Diane Bacon, Dennis Campa, Christa Aldrich, Dr. Kirsten Gardner, Safire Rodriguez, Gerardo Villegas Juarez, Dr. David Johnson, Carisa Heiss, Martha Bizzell, Tim Bishop, and Corey Livingston.

Volunteer Room Facilitators: Joshua Bernal, Nikki Blacksalt, Sophia Shelton, Connor Bustos, Jaden DeLeon, Tim Huff, Destinie Sharp, Mariah Lane, Emily Iturbe, Kaleigh Cansino, and Julian Perez.

Volunteer Industry Professionals that provided guidance and research to help strengthen student proposals during the Speed Interviewing Day: David Robinson Jr., Christina Martinez, Krystal Castillo, Leroy Adams, Dr. David Johnson, Dr. Israel Guerrero, Noelani Cubillos-Sanchez, Janine Garcia, Dr. Amanda Holman, Crystal Royal, Katie Chain, Lorena Kaplen, Dr. Mike Villarreal, Coda Rayo-Garza, Police Chief William McManus, Texas State Senator José Menéndez, Gladys Hernandez, Tiffany Grant, and Dr. David Turner.

The event was made possible with the support of Our Tomorrow, Up Partnership, H-E-B, City of San Antonio, H.E.Butt Foundation, CPS Energy, T. Donovan Creative, Firstmark Foundation, Frost Bank, and Holt Cat.

Special thanks to the incredible educators and coaches who worked tirelessly with their students to prepare for this event, student masters of ceremony, Michael Hetler (CAST Tech High School) and Kaleigh Cansino (Advanced Learning Academy), the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life for their continuous support and guidance, and Texas A&M-San Antonio for hosting our event, especially the Jaguar Ambassadors and Hoyt Garner, Administrative Coordinator, Office of Student Affairs.

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Copyright © 2021 CAST Schools


The Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Network is a tax-exempt organization as described in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Service code. CAST Schools are partnership schools with a focus on STEM careers, project based learning and work-based learning. Key partners include public school districts, higher education institutions, and local employers from target industries.