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H-E-B and Tech Bloc announce first ever industry-led, career-themed high school for san antonio

SAN ANTONIO, TX (June 17, 2016) – H-E-B and Charles Butt are providing startup funds to create a network of industry-led, career-themed high schools known collectively as the Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST), which H-E-B and other key employers plan to establish across San Antonio in partnership with local school districts. The inaugural school, CAST Tech, will focus on technology and entrepreneurship and will be operated as an in-district charter of the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD). Tech Bloc, a technology economy advocacy movement, will serve as the lead industry partner. The first of its kind in Texas, the CAST network will use innovative curriculum and technology to prepare students for career fields where talent is in high demand.

"The active participation of industry throughout the development of the CAST schools and the student experience is what will set them apart," said Kate Rogers, H-E-B Vice President for Corporate Communication and Health Promotion. "To be successful, we need companies willing to dedicate time and resources to designing curriculum and providing opportunities for real-world experience outside the classroom."

CAST schools will redefine the high school experience by offering college coursework embedded in classroom curriculum, internships for credit, job shadowing, mentoring, summer job opportunities, guaranteed interviews for graduates and project-based learning. Students will graduate with a high school diploma and a minimum of 30 hours of college coursework, with the opportunity to earn an associate's degree along with industry-recognized certificates.

CAST will also deliver some content and instruction digitally, allowing students to control their time, path, place and pace. This will enable teachers to act as coaches and mentors, with class time structured around research, labs and projects.

"When students are provided with role models and a concrete pathway to achieving their goals, both their motivation and performance skyrocket. It's important for business and industry to play an active role in providing a seamless path from school to college or career," said Charles Butt, Chairman and CEO of H-E-B. "If we are truly interested in cultivating talent, we'll need to open our doors to young people and offer them meaningful jobs and shadowing experiences, in addition to internships. The future of our city, state, and nation depends on it."

CAST Tech, the first high-tech high school, will be operated as an in-district charter SAISD, but will be open to students across Bexar County. CAST Tech will open its doors to the first class of 125 to 150 ninth graders in fall 2017 and will be housed in the downtown tech district.

Tech Bloc will serve as one of several key industry partners for the school along with H-E-B, USAA, Rackspace, Geekdom, the Open Cloud Academy, Frost Bank and Firstmark Credit Union. With a mission to build a San Antonio that can grow and attract the next generation of technology jobs and talent, Tech Bloc is supporting the school with industry engagement, facility location support, curriculum development, fundraising and student internships and mentoring.

"This school will be an educational opportunity like no other in our region," said David Heard, Tech Bloc co-founder and CEO. "Locating this school in the heart of downtown's emerging Tech District will allow kids to get inside San Antonio's growing tech scene through internships, project-based learning and out-of-classroom experiences."

CAST Tech will feature two pathways for students, one focusing on cyber security, coding, gaming, animation and digital media and the other focusing on business analytics, informatics, business administration, banking and finance. Students targeted for CAST Tech will be diverse in terms of past academic performance, income and geography. There will be no academic requirements for entry and students will be chosen by lottery.

"This new school exemplifies the type of real-world learning opportunities that put students on a higher-level playing field when it comes to college and career readiness," SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said. "The experiences, knowledge and skills that Bexar County students will gain from working closely with industry professionals will position them for success after high school."

The idea for CAST originated from a committee led by H-E-B and comprised of industry leaders, school superintendents and workforce development experts from the Alamo Colleges, the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. The committee met for a year to study innovative high school models across Texas and the nation.

Industry partners are working on a second CAST school, with an announcement about the site and career pathways expected later this year.