Cassata High School
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015, Cassata is a private, nonprofit outreach high school that provides young people with another chance at success. Cassata’s 219 students come from all over the city; last year’s graduating class was comprised of students from 82 schools across 43 different zip codes. In 2014, about a third of Cassata’s graduating students were the first in their family to earn a high school diploma, and 40% were former dropouts. Some Cassata graduates progress to 2- or 4-year colleges, while others enlist in the military or attend a trade school. Cassata’s diverse student body shares a commonality that unites them all: each student has a story of hardship and hope that has brought them to this place to learn – and grow – together.
This common thread is what distinguishes Cassata’s culture. Staff members say that the school’s students are like family; they truly support each other and want their classmates to succeed. A compassionate environment combined with one-on-one student attention means that students are able to grow academically and emotionally. The principal makes it a priority to know each student and their personal background. If kids who are falling through the cracks are attracted to Cassata, then it is because they know this is a place where they can stand on solid ground.
Cassata provides structure through a non-traditional learning environment. Whether originally from large public or private schools, students at Cassata experience new flexibility to meet the demands of their work and personal lives. Classes are divided into morning (8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.) and afternoon (12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.) sessions. Most students attend one or the other, although some do attend classes all day.
What is more unique than Cassata’s class scheduling is the class structure. There are virtually no lectures. When you walk into a Cassata classroom, you don’t hear the teacher talking or see students staring at a whiteboard. Instead, each student is working at their own pace, on assignments customized for their ability and grade level. The teacher helps each student individually to complete their syllabus.
In addition to focusing on their high school courses, many Cassata students also take advantage of a multitude of other resources offered through the “Cassata Connections” program. Cassata Connections provides:
- A dual enrollment program with Tarrant County College so that students may simultaneously acquire college credits,
- A mentoring program linking students to community role models,
- The “Cassata Closet” (donated professional clothes students may use for interviews and jobs),
- Local work/study internships to facilitate real-world work experience,
- One-on-one tutoring to ensure reading and math proficiency, and
- College preparatory services that include helping students with their college, financial aid, and scholarship applications.
Cassata Connections proves that Cassata takes their students’ futures seriously. Whether students are headed to a four-year university or a trade school, Cassata believes that investing in the whole student will help to solidify a productive future for each of its young people. This strategy is working: In 2014, 83% of Cassata graduates enrolled in 2 or 4-year colleges or trade school or enlisted in the military.