San Antonio Mayor
Meets with LASER Students
For many of the approximately 40 attendees, joining Julián Castro, Mayor of San Antonio, for a moderated discussion was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Mayor Castro, a rising star on the political landscape and youngest mayor of a Top American City, met with Ohio State University LASER students, faculty, and staff to share his thoughts on leadership, education, and the future.
During the discussion, which was moderated by Yalidy Matos, PhD candidate in political science, and Delia Fernandez, PhD candidate in history, Mayor Castro spoke of his journey into public service that began with the political rallies his mother made him and his brother, Joaquín (a U.S. Representative), attend when they were young children. Castro’s mother was a well-known political activist in San Antonio in the 1970s, and raising her sons as a single parent, they went where she went.
The son of a mathematics teacher and married to an elementary educator, Castro spoke of the importance of a good education early in life, stating: “The best way to make sure that students get ahead is to never let them fall behind.” But being able to have a good education requires access. Castro credits affirmative action for giving him the opportunity to attend Stanford where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications before going on to Harvard for a J.D.
Education has likewise been an important item on the mayor’s agenda for San Antonio. Castro talked about the San Antonio Education Partnership, which provides scholarships to high school and college students. Part of this initiative is San Antonio’s Café College, a “one-stop-shop” for college access advice, guidance, and workshops, all provided free of charge and available to anyone who lives in the City of San Antonio. Higher education retention rates are an issue, especially for Latinos; while many Latinos enroll in college, their college completion rate is very low, a nationwide pattern. In 2012, San Antonio voters passed a referendum to expand pre-kindergarten education, which studies show can have the most impact on improving overall education outcomes. The plan, Pre-K 4 SA, provides high-quality, full-day Pre-K for eligible four-year-olds in San Antonio and was funded by an increase in the local sales tax.
Castro also shared an overview of the SA2020 project, which started as a series of public forums to craft a vision and goals for the city. A partnership of public and private sector agencies was formed to implement SA2020 goals that included more civic engagement, increased college enrollment, and a lower unemployment rate.
After the session, Mayor Castro spent time talking informally with students one-on-one and posing for photos.