This summer, CAST Med High School students embarked on a week-long journey during the “Mission in Me” Camp at historic Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo. Students explored the unique architecture, the land, and participated in team-building activities. More importantly, the camp provided students with the opportunity to better understand the past through the lens of Mission san Jose to help inform their present and future versions of themselves and their community.
A Mission-Driven Culture
CAST Med, built in partnership with the San Antonio Independent School District, the CAST Schools Network, and local medical professionals and community leaders, aims to add to the pipeline of much-needed doctors and researchers in the San Antonio area. Students attend CAST Med to pursue pathways in medicine, public health, and biomedical research. More importantly, to achieve their dreams of healing, caring, and nurturing those in need. As the only medically-focused high school on San Antonio’s southside, students take great pride in their community and their mission.
Creating a Community
This year, the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency School Relief Funds (known as ESSER Funds) provided SAISA with the opportunity to support jumpstart programs across the district. The district’s program provided schools with the support to create experiences for students to prepare them for the school year. At CAST Med, Principal Eddie Muzquiz Rodriguez and his team recognized the need to use these funds to build community among their diverse student population.
As an in-district partnership school in SAISD, students attending CAST Med come from different neighborhoods and schools across the greater San Antonio region and from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Principal Rodriguez shared that, “Students at CAST come from both public and private schools, home-schooled students, and from around the corner and beyond 1604. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, a number of them have been mostly virtual. Our diversity is a characteristic that makes our school unique and why we prioritize cultivating partnerships and teamwork among our students from the very start.”
See the Video to Experience CAST Med’s Mission In Me Journey
Launching An Authentic Learning Experience
To create a jumpstart experience, educators at CAST Med partnered with CAST Schools to develop a “Mini-PBL” or a Project Based Learning experience. At all CAST Schools, students engage in authentic learning experiences. Students tackle real-world problems, hands-on, and co-create solutions with their peers. They identify the opportunity, meet with experts and showcase their solutions.
Surrounded by History and Beauty
Located in Brooks, CAST Med is in the southern-most boundary of the San Antonio Independent School District and neighbors The Greenline Park, 43 acres of green space. It is common for teachers and students to move their classes outside to take advantage of the scenic pathways and calming spaces. Next door to the park is the historic Mission San Jose. Over 300 years old, Mission San Jose is commonly known as the “Queen of the Missions” and is one of five missions in San Antonio designed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Mission in Me Learning Journey
CAST Med students were welcomed to Mission San Jose by members of the American Indians of Texas. Sitting in a circle formation in front of the iconic, “Rosas’s Window,” students gathered around as members began drumming a variety of songs. John Hernandez, speaking for the group, shared that, “…the importance of these blessings and these presentations is to teach the culture and to let people know that we’re still here and that we never left.” Following the ceremony, members shared what life was like for their ancestors over 300 years ago and how their Native American culture, mission, and identity includes caring for the land and creating harmony with nature. “What I gained from the ceremony is that we should keep our culture alive and try to remember our culture as best as we can so that we can teach other people about our culture so that they can know about other cultures too,” stated Kayjia, a CAST Med Freshman.
In addition to the ceremony, students hiked the Yanaguana Trail, went bird watching with guidance from representatives from the San Antonio Audubon Society, and explore the stone carvings, art pieces, and buildings connected to Mission San Jose. Upon arriving back to campus, students read supporting materials, reflected on what they heard, seen, and experienced to better understand life “back then” and compared it to today’s roles and responsibilities and the evolutions.
To culminate the week, Vincent Huizar, the great, great, great-grandson of the original Mission San Jose architect and stone carver, Pedro Huizar, visted CAST Med and shared personal documents, stories, and actual stone carvings, to provide students with a historical perspective of what his grandfather may have experienced.
Students then reflected and wrote mission statements tied to their experiences. Then using glue and pastel chalk, students created simulated stained glass identifying their spirit animal.
I AM LIKE…
A selection of student responses to the prompt, “I AM LIKE…,” to reflect how their experiences aligned with what they discovered at Mission San Jose.
I am like the faded old paint on the church because I am covered by what may appear dull but I know there is bright color and value underneath.
I am like the faded paint on the side of the church – and it shows aging and weathering of the past but leaves a huge impression on what I am today.
I am like the stone carvings on the walls – they were hard to form but beautiful when displayed just like me and we both will not be forgotten.
I am like the 300 year old wooden doors of the mission church because like them I am strong and welcoming.
I am like the Mission San Jose church – always lending an ear and helping in high gear.
I am like the Coahuiltecans, a collection of non-waring native people who worked alongside each other to benefit everyone at the mission. I want to work alongside others to do good things.
I am like the wild rose bush growing from the concrete – I know this is hard but I can rise above it and bloom.
I am like the painting in the church. I make others feel good and I am beautiful.
Isabella and Gabriella were so inspired by their journey that they entered the Restored by Light competition sponsored by the City of San Antonio. Their beautiful artwork was projected at Mission San Jose.