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Today, on Veterans Day, we thank and honor all the men and women who have served honorably in the military. We invited our YES Prep staff members who are veterans to share their experience in serving their country. Here is what Ronald Castro from YES Prep White Oak shared with us. 

Meet Ronald Castro 

Ronald Castro, White Oak teacher
Ronald Castro is an AP U.S. History, Mexican American Studies, Government and Economics teacher at YES Prep White Oak. Castro has been an educator for 13 years, almost five of those have been at YES Prep. Prior to his career in education, Castro served three and a half years with the US Navy. 
 
Originally from Nicaragua, Castro’s family escaped civil war and devastation in the 1980s. Castro shared that his mom journeyed over 1000 miles on her own with four little boys, including him. “We crossed the river in the dead of night. My life could have been a tragedy. I could have been a statistic.” Fortunately, this was not his story. For this reason, Castro shares that “serving my adopted country is the best thing I have ever done in my life.” He sees his service as a way to give thanks for all the opportunities that this country has given him. 

Castro had never thought about joining the military but in his senior year in high school, he signed up on a whim. After some hesitation from both him and his family, given they were unfamiliar with the process and didn’t even know a veteran, Castro prayed on his decision and decided to follow through. “I kept my word and am a man of commitment.”  

In the Navy now 

Ronald Castro

After scoring very well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, Castro enlisted to be a hospital corpsman. Corps school was 14 weeks in Chicago and he mainly learned basic EMT and first aid. “As a Houstonian, I was very ill-prepared for the cold Chicago winter. I was at the top of my class in corps school, so they allowed me to choose more schooling, and more importantly the location of that school.” Castro chose Advance Medical Lab Tech in sunny San Diego, California. While the classes were very challenging, Castro learned everything he’d need to know about how to run a hospital laboratory. Once done with school, he stayed and worked in the blood bank, touring surrounding areas collecting blood for critical missions and at the hospital.  

Away from home and missing his family, Castro got involved with the YMCA. He signed up and tutored two young boys for over a year. He had volunteered a lot during his high school years and missed helping young people. When he joined the Navy, he did so without a career plan but now he realized that this was the career path for him. “Maybe I’d become a science teacher since that’s where all my knowledge had been.” 

Life after the military 

Due to the development of a rare eye disorder that prevented him from performing his job safely, Castro left the Navy and returned to Houston. Plugging back into life, Castro enrolled at Houston Community College and then attended the University of Houston. He obtained a job in Spring Branch ISD, in the neighborhood he had grown up in. “My little league baseball coach didn’t think twice about hiring me for my first job. Back then, he was an assistant principal at Spring Woods Middle School.”  

After teaching a few years at the middle school, he then moved to Spring Woods High School where he took on more challenges. He sponsored their volunteer organization and was all over Houston helping non-profit organizations with his students. Castro and his students also began moving into the space of activism. This is when he began to make connections into the education and Latino communities, paving the path that led him to YES Prep Public Schools where, as he puts it, “fighting for people of color is central to our DNA.”  

Ronald Castro with White Oak student volunteers

Teaching and Volunteering 

Regarding his experience working at YES Prep, Castro shared that it can be a challenge, but in a good way. “Our students and parents deserve the best teachers and that means we have to work harder.” For Castro, his passion for teaching goes together with his passion for volunteering. His White Oak Humanitarian Society has volunteered all over town for a variety of causes. Each year, his students surpass 1,500 volunteer hours. “My students get a real sense of the community with our work. My first students have graduated from college and I have seen them become mentors. I am proud of the people they have become.”  

Outside of school, Castro sits on a couple of non-profit boards and volunteers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post VFW 8790 helping raise money to feed homeless veterans and getting resources and clothing. “Just because my time in the service is over doesn’t mean that I have stopped appreciating what this country has given me. When I left service, I was blessed with a forever family with all my military brothers and sisters everywhere.” 

Where passion meets purpose 

Castro also credits his becoming a teacher because of the care and commitment they showed him when he was growing up. “I am a teacher because teachers are my favorite people. They adopted me, nurtured me, mentored me.” Just as his teachers and mentors gave their time to help him, he is committed to giving back to his students and his community. Therefore, he feels he can be his best self at YES Prep. “There is a sense of determination that goes beyond the classroom. And with YES Prep’s support, my students can help those in need. I am preparing the future because if I’m not able to get it done, I know that my students will be here to continue the mission.”  

Thank you, Ronald Castro, for the impact you are having on our students and our entire YES Prep family.