Jungle Disk, a San Antonio-based cybersecurity company, has announced it would donate up to $250,000 to CAST Tech High School, the new technology-focused school in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD).

Bret Piatt, Jungle Disk CEO and founder, announced a campaign Tuesday to donate $250 for each new customer signing up for services, up to $250,000, by Jan. 1, 2018. The company, which has been operating since January 2016, provides data security services for small to mid-sized businesses.

Piatt was motivated to support the new tech-oriented high school, which opened in August, as a way to help more students acquire information technology (IT) and cybersecurity skills. Piatt will look to hire some of CAST Tech’s graduates to work at his company. For some IT and cybersecurity jobs, specific skills and industry certifications can enable someone to qualify for entry-level jobs in the tech and cyber sectors without a college degree, Piatt said.

“In doing Cyber Talk Radio and reaching out to stakeholders to help develop a cyber- and IT-capable workforce locally, it made sense for us to focus on being proactive,” Piatt said. “Being proactive for us means taking concrete steps like helping CAST develop that talent pipeline.”

Jungle Disk’s donation will help bring CAST Tech within $2 million of its $15 million capital campaign goal, said Judy Geelhoed, executive director of the SAISD Foundation.

The school was developed under a public-private partnership among SAISD, TechBloc, and H-E-B. The school has received a $600,000 donation from Graham Weston’s 80/20 Foundation as well as gifts from H-E-B, USAA, the Walton Family Foundation, the Meadows Family Foundation, and the Frost Bank Charitable Foundation.

The City of San Antonio and Bexar County have each contributed $250,000 to the new high school, created to serve as a talent pipeline for San Antonio’s tech community.

Once established downtown, CAST – which stands for Centers for Applied Science and Technology – plans to reproduce the concept school in other districts across San Antonio.

CAST Tech offers students two possible curriculum tracks. One prepares students for technical industry careers such as those in cybersecurity, coding, gaming, animation, and digital media. The other track provides students skills in entrepreneurship, business analytics, informatics, business administration, banking, and finance.

Students sit for orientation in the science lab during the first day of school for CAST Tech.
Students sit for orientation in the science lab during the first day of school for CAST Tech. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Jungle Disk, which has 29 employees, has been involved with CAST since its beginning. Piatt and a handful of Jungle Disk employees interviewed teachers as they were hired to develop innovative tech curriculum and are providing industry mentors for CAST’s student mentorship program.

Teachers are taking a career leap themselves in developing innovative learning modules, Piatt said. Classrooms are set up for lecture, group collaboration, and one-on-one learning for students.

Construction of the high school in the previously vacant vocational shop buildings on Fox Tech High School’s downtown campus cost $2 million more than anticipated.

“Retrofitting an old building for new technology with the cabling layout and unique technology infrastructure cost more than anticipated,” Geelhoed said.

“Having the capital to deliver the curriculum is critical to these students,” Piatt said. “In-kind donations of time and expertise are appreciated, but the school still needs capital to close the gap.”

The school also has been gaining support from other private-sector companies. Recent donations have come from Rackspace co-founders Pat Condon and Dirk Elmendorf, Robert Miggins of Go Smart Solar, Scaleworks co-founder Lew Moorman, and Javier Uribe from Mobius Partners.

“We’re really excited about the creative ways that the tech industry is supporting CAST Tech,” Geelhoed. “We’re seeing more tech companies recognizing the need to support this effort.”

“We’re not H-E-B, but we’re trying to do what we can to step up and contribute,” Piatt said. “This is significant for us, especially for a company our size to commit to donate $250,000.”

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Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science and veteran affairs.