SAN ANTONIO - As News 4 continues its yearlong commitment to explore inequality, San Antonio's Silent Crisis, we're learning how school administrators worked the phones to make sure kids from every walk of life could go to a competitive new high school.
"I'm currently working on a website I'm building for my professional communications class," says sophomore Alena Errisuriz-Chavez as she works in a computer lab.
She says it's work she never would have gotten to do at her old school.
"I added a blog where people can post and share their experience but also learn," Errisuriz-Chavez says.
CAST Tech High School, run by the San Antonio Independent School District and located north of downtown, prepares students for careers in technology and business.
"There's actually a need for this here in San Antonio," Principal Melissa Alcala says. "That's been part of the purpose of this school: to build a pipeline of citizens to fill the future jobs needs of San Antonio as we continue to grow."
The CAST school network is made possible in part by Charles Butt and H-E-B, who have collectively donated more than $5 million to the project, plus workforce development experts. Southwest ISD runs a second CAST school devoted to STEM. A third school, focused on medicine, will open next year and be managed by SAISD.
Kids from all over the city can apply to CAST Tech, and SAISD put parameters in place to make admission equitable.
"If we're going to provide best-fit school options for our students that tap into their interests and aspirations, then every kid deserves that," says the district's chief innovation officer Mohammed Choudhury.
He says when acceptances went out, the first students to sign up came from more well-to-do families. So Choudhury and his team worked the phones, making sure lower-income students knew they were welcome.
"The end result has been a school that is at least 50% economically disadvantaged," Choudhury says. "One of the things that I'm most proud of is that one-quarter of the economically disadvantaged side come from our most segregated, most disadvantaged, abject forms of poverty in the city."
Back in the computer lab, sophomore Kevin Castellano is looking into a computer's diagnostics. He says he likes to tinker, and has learned how to apply those skills to a real-world setting.
"So I can basically make like 400 virtual machines and put them all in a good network," Castellano says with excitement.
If that's all over your ahead, it's okay - the student from the city's east side is on a path to get a job immediately after he graduates.
"If kids want to learn something but it's not in their school, they should have the right to go wherever they want so they can learn the things they want," Castellano says.
If you have an issue related to the inequality crisis in San Antonio or a solution, you can reach out to our team at (210) 366-0711 or email us at email@example.com.
By EMILY BAUCUM