Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Standing on the steps of the future CAST Tech, Tech Bloc announced the launch of “the largest local information technology industry campaign of its kind.” The tech advocacy nonprofit aims to add real dollars to its partnership with San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) and H-E-B to build CAST Tech, the new industry-led high school for technology studies in downtown San Antonio.
A $600,000 gift from Graham Weston’s 80/20 Foundation launched the TechBloc-4-TechEd Foundation and its inaugural capital campaign to build CAST Tech. The initiative is further supported by the San Antonio Area Foundation.
The new high school is designed to enhance the fabric of a growing downtown tech district so that San Antonio students can become part of the momentum.
“A progressive San Antonio can attract the next generation of talent,” said David Heard, Tech Bloc co-founder and CEO. “Perhaps our greatest opportunity is to grow our own (talent).”
SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez is confident that much of that homegrown talent is already walking the halls of SAISD schools.
“I can tell you from talking to our students, they will step up,” Martinez said.
The Fox Tech campus is perfectly located to be part of the downtown growth. The district is seeking to take advantage of this with CAST Tech and the Advanced Learning Academy, also on the Fox Tech campus.
“We want to be proactive,” Martinez said. “We want to stay ahead of (downtown development).”
The capital campaign will be made of two concurrent parts: an appeal to major tech employers and a crowdfunding effort called $10-4-Tech.
“We didn’t want Graham’s gift to just be an isolated event. We really wanted to leverage it as an opportunity to invite the entire tech community to help us build the school,” Heard said.
Heard and TechBloc-4-TechEd Co-chair Scott Meltzer hope that large corporate partners will match Weston’s investment dollar for dollar.
“Our matching grant today is a call to the rest of the San Antonio business community,” said 80/20 Executive Director Lorenzo Gomez.
“The 80/20 Foundation invests in the 20% of initiatives that will make 80% of the impact on San Antonio,” Gomez said. “We cannot think of an initiative more catalytic than the new CAST Tech High School.”
Its champions anticipate that CAST Tech will benefit not only the tech industry, where its students will job shadow and intern. Thanks to what Gomez called the “software revolution,” every business is at least partially reliant on technology.
With this broad reach, TechBloc-4-TechEd anticipates citywide participation.
The $10-4-Tech portion of the campaign is really about community buy-in.
Crowdsourcing won’t be the largest chunk of money, but it will be the momentum builder, Heard said. “When you limit engagement to the large check writers you give up this reservoir of energy.”
The campaign will “redefine the term philanthropist,” Meltzer said. It will give every citizen of San Antonio the chance to be part of the school’s support network. While they may not be moved by technology, he hopes they will be moved by the opportunity the school represents as it brings teachers and mentors under one roof.
Participants in the crowdfunding efforts are asked to donate at least $10. Those who contribute more than $100 will be receive an honorable, digital mention on the “Friends of CAST Tech” installation the school is planning.
“Every child in SAISD is one caring group of adults away from being a success story,” Meltzer said.
Kate Rogers, H-E-B Vice President of Corporate Communications and Health Promotion, alluded to the revolutionary future ahead of the “blank slate” Building C on the Fox Tech campus, from the design of the classrooms to the industry-led curriculum.
CAST Tech was announced last July at the annual Tech Bloc Summer Rally and is the first of several industry-led schools anticipated by Rogers and H-E-B. The school will open its doors to its inaugural class in the fall of 2017.
H-E-B and Charles Butt plan to provide startup money to subsequent schools in the Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) network, as partnerships with employers and schools districts solidify.
H-E-B contributed $3.6 million to start CAST Tech.
“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,” Rogers said.
To contribute to TechBloc-4-TechEd, click here.
Full disclosure: H-E-B and the 80/20 Foundation are business partners of the Rivard Report. Graham Weston is an individual donor, as is Tech Bloc Co-Founder and Rivard Report’s treasurer Lew Moorman.