By Melody Mendoza
Recalling two men who have been in the political limelight in the last few months, a high school peer remembers Mayor Julián Castro and state Rep. Joaquín Castro as reserved, studious, polished and respectable.
Jacob Valenzuela, 1992 Thomas Jefferson High School class president, said even after 20 years, he, the Castros and other peers have been able to maintain connection, frequently gathering since graduating from high school and establishing careers.
But the Castros may not have always been as social as they are today, traveling on the campaign trail, giving interviews and delivering speeches.
As a student at Jefferson in the San Antonio Independent School District, Julián admitted that he talked to two or three other people. “And one was my brother,” he laughed.
Valenzuela said although they were reserved, they were well-liked.
Although a busy time for the Castro twins, they will be attending their 20-year high school reunion this weekend remembering the early education that continues to influence them today.
The mayor’s education has led him to travel the United States, most recently to Florida campaigning on behalf of President Barack Obama’s re-election. And maybe the biggest event for Julián in which his education played a role, was his Sept. 4 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Joaquín also shares the spotlight, campaigning for his spot as Democratic candidate for Congress and serving his fifth term as a state representative of the Texas Legislature for District 125.
The two also recently celebrated their 37th birthday.
Julián and Valenzuela both agreed that their teachers at Jefferson were influential in the lives of the 1992 graduating class.
Julián said his education has enabled him to focus on education as mayor resulting in the launch of early educational initiatives such as Pre-K 4 SA initiative, which provides full day pre-K education to eligible 4 year olds. Read more
“My education at Jeff was important. It provided a good foundation for college,” Julián said. “It’s one reason, along with my entire education, that I’m very focused on everyone having a great education opportunity.”
After graduating a year early in 1992, the two brothers attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School before returning to San Antonio in 2001.
Julián earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford University with honors and distinction in 1996 and earned a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 2000. In 2001, at the age of 26, Castro became the youngest elected city councilman at that time in San Antonio history, according to the City of San Antonio website.
Joaquin graduated with honors from Stanford University in 1996 and attended Harvard Law School where he also received a Juris Doctor degree in 2000. When he returned, Joaquín was elected at 28 years old into the Texas Legislature. He is running against Congressman Lloyd Doggett.
As Julián referenced in his DNC keynote speech and Joaquín has said in his campaign videos, they’ve said that their peers at Jefferson High School had the same talent and dreams as those at Stanford University and Harvard Law School. Though they’ve both recited the difference in opportunity.
“I have no doubt that many of the folks I went to Jeff with could have done just as well or better than I did,” Julián said.
He said there was a sense of aspiration, belonging and tradition at Jefferson.
“I think that helped make me believe I could achieve beyond high school,” he said.
Valenzuela said there was something about attending an inner city school that strengthened them.
He said they had teachers who believed in them, a great social environment and, because they were middle class, they were able to learn from an array of professions.
As a result, Valenzuela said city leaders, engineers, many educators, communication personnel and doctors have emerged from this class. He said although many city leaders have graduated from Jefferson, there are only a few from the class of 1992, including himself, a member of the Historic and Design Review Commission, and Jeffery Salaiz, liaison to ISAF joint command of the Embassy of the United States.
“Many of us are doing well,” he said, “but most of all, we’re giving back.”
And Valenzuela said Julián and Joaquín are leading the way.
As a small business owner of Deco Pizzeria, also where the high school reunion mixer will be held, Valenzuela said the Castros support him by eating at his restaurant when they can.
“They preach what they believe,” he said. “They practice what they preach.”
In response, Castro said, “It’s important for us to support small businesses in our community,” adding that, “They make great pizza, so that helps.”
Just as the Castro brothers returned to San Antonio, Valenzuela said many of their peers have come back to the city, and some are even back in the same neighborhood.
“It’s close to the heart,” Valenzuela said of the community. He added that because many are back in San Antonio, they have been able to support each other.
“I’m glad to see so many folks choose to make San Antonio home,” Julián said. “It’s easy to understand; This is a very culturally rich city, our family is here, it’s a great place to raise your own family and it feels great to be a part of a city on the rise.”
“That’s the big reason that I came back,” he said. “Of course, because my family is here and I saw opportunity in San Antonio.”
In celebration of Jefferson’s class of 1992, a mixer will be held on Oct. 5 at Deco Pizzeria in the neighborhood of the high school and is open to any Jefferson graduate. A formal gathering will be Oct. 6 at the Grand Hyatt, which is a private event.