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San Antonio provides model education, sense of community

The Lions have something to roar about, because San Antonio High School has been named a Model Continuation School.

In order to nab the honor—which is awarded by the California Department of Education in partnership with the California Continued Education Association—the school submitted an application detailing the school’s strengths. These, according to Principal Sean Delgado, include the widespread use of technology, nurturing community partnerships and warm relationships between students and staff.

Once the board determined that the Claremont continuation school had a strong case, they paid a visit to the campus on November 13.

“At the end of the visit, they call all stakeholders together and tell the group yea or nay,” Mr. Delgado said. “In our case, they told us, ‘Yea!’”

The San Antonio community was delighted.

“The big reason why is it validates the hard work of a lot of people—the hard work of our teachers, who go above and beyond, of the kids who come here and transform themselves educationally and also parents,” he said.

Mr. Delgado says kudos are also due to groups like the Rotary Club of Claremont, which provides scholarships to San Antonio students as well as grants for school projects like the in-process construction of an on-campus student store.

The school’s relationship with the Claremont Educational Foundation has also been extremely fruitful. When Mr. Delgado was placed at the helm of San Antonio last year, he set himself a goal: within three years, he would see that an iPad was placed in the hands of every student. Thanks to the support of the CEF, that has already happened, with students using tablets for learning and to create media-rich presentations.

Another beneficial community partnership is that between San Antonio and the Claremont Colleges, he said. The colleges yield many volunteers eager to help with the continuation school’s Plant Justice program, who help guide students in their Food Justice Program, where students learn about the importance of healthy, locally-sourced food by tending a large garden.

Mr. Delgado is most proud of the on-campus relationships, something that definitely helped the school garner the Model Continuation School title.

“Holy cow, these kids love their school,” he said. “They love their teachers—they’d throw themselves under a bus for these people. There’s a tremendous amount of connection and warmth.”

And the enthusiasm of the teachers is palpable.

“In some districts, teachers are placed at the continuation school,” Mr. Delgado said. “But this staff chose to be here. They chose to work with this population. They let the students know, ‘I want to be here. I want to love you and help you thrive.”

There is, of course, a stigma attached to continuation schools. Many students are dismayed when they learn they must trade Claremont High School and other mainstream environments for San Antonio in order to graduate. They often expect to see a sub-par education among badly-behaved kids.

Nothing could be further from the truth, Mr. Delgado said.

“Our students are pumped. They look forward to seeing this level of teacher support,” he said.  “When they need help, they don’t have to compete with 35 other students. They’re learning like they never have before, and they’re learning in different ways.”

This includes an increasing level of Linked Learning, in which students learn subject matter across the curriculum, often in hands-on ways that show how education applies to success in the real world.

There have been two distinct focuses this year when it comes to achieving school excellence. One is the educational component, with San Antonio teachers working with district staff to implement the Common Core and to find iPad apps that help them achieve their goals. The other is a continued emphasis on school spirit.

From the start, Mr. Delgado has said that he wants San Antonio students to come to school not just for fear they won’t graduate but because it offers the same kind of camaraderie and many of the extra-curricular activities you’d  find at any high school. Last year, he reinstituted an ASB class and had a mascot contest. The Lions it was, and students have already made various shirts showing their Lion’s pride.

The school recently had a contest, asking students to find the most inspiring quote possible to emblazon on a T-shirt. The winning pick was words of wisdom by celebrated US General Douglas MacArthur. “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.”

The students also had a real grad night, which took place at Disneyland. Mr. Delgado was delighted to learn that even though he wasn’t there, the students didn’t take the opportunity to scatter to the winds. Instead, they opted to enjoy the Magic Kingdom together as a class and as a team.

That’s what San Antonio is about, a high-quality education and a lot of school spirit.

“As soon as kids come here, they say, ‘Oh my gosh, the stereotypes were so untrue,’” Mr. Delgado said.

Some kids stay at San Antonio through their senior graduation and others, often with a nudge from Mr. Delgado and his staff, return to Claremont High. For instance, a kid that wants to play football needs to return to CHS once his credits are up-to-par because that is where the Wolfpack resides.

Either way, the students say their experience at San Antonio has been unforgettable.

“Every kid pines for the special place they found while they are here,” Mr. Delgado said.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com