For the past three years, Savanna and Robert have been attending Por Vida Academy working hard to earn their high school diplomas. Both are graduating this May—an accomplishment they place squarely on the structure and staff at Por Vida. “If I hadn’t come to Por Vida,” said Savanna, who was encouraged by her sister-in-law to give it a try, “I would have just given up.” Small classes, caring teachers and counselors have made the difference for Savanna and Robert. Without a doubt, Robert believes he would have ended up embroiled in the “drama” of violence at the city high school he had been attending before coming to Por Vida. “I would very likely be locked up if I had not found my place here at Por Vida,” he firmly stated.
In 1995 Por Vida Academy Charter High School became one of the first charter school established in San Antonio. The school is hosted by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in the high school building on the campus of Blessed Sacrament Academy, 1135 Mission Road. For more than 20 years, Por Vida has been helping thousands of students tackle whatever obstacles are in their path to earning a high school diploma.
According to Matthew Lynch of The Edvocate, a student who does not fit the traditional classroom mold, or who falls behind for some reason, is more likely to lose motivation when it comes to high school and decide to give up altogether. Por Vida was created as an alternative to public school which would meet the varying educational and emotional needs of teens on the verge of permanently dropping out of school only to quite possibly face other disruptive and unhealthy situations. In addition to much lower lifelong earnings, more than 80% of the incarcerated population is high school dropouts — making this an issue that truly impacts every member of the community.
Initiatives from nonprofits such as San Antonio Education Partnership and and the combined work of San Antonio’s school districts have generated good results in increasing the graduation rate in San Antonio. Unfortunately, in 15 Bexar County ZIP codes more than 30% of their 18 to 24-year-old population haven’t attained a high school diploma. Areas of high dropout rates are concentrated in the downtown area and extend out to the southeast and southwest. See map here.
Many of the students who attend Por Vida have met closed doors and were turned away from every other option for a high school education. By opening its doors, Por Vida encourages and supports a better future for each student, their families and the community. Teachers and staff at Por Vida combine efforts to offer adaptive academics, three different paths of diploma attainment, nonjudgmental mentoring, and character building programs—always with a healthy dose of compassion. Por Vida is open to high school students and others up to age 21.
Savanna’s favorite subject is math; she aspires to be a pediatrician. Last summer, she and other members of Xinachtli, a youth leadership development program at the school, ran a campaign against cyberbullying. An apt description of Por Vida according to Savanna is “We have a good group here,” there’s no drama, we’re all friends.”
When Robert isn’t in school, he’s learning how to refurbish his ’82 Chevy Deluxe Custom truck. “I get a lot of support from my family, who encouraged me to do what I had to do to graduate from high school,” said Robert. “And, I found a school “home” at Por Vida which is also supportive.” Because he feels very strongly about serving his country, after graduation, Robert will join the Army.
We wish these and all the 70+ Por Vida graduates of 2016 the best with their future plans. And, acknowledge there may be others in our community who could benefit from the learning, supportive environment at Por Vida Academy Charter High School. For more information on enrollment and programs, call the front office at 210.532.9161.