San Antonio Express-News
"I Am Sam: A year of innocence and anguish at Sam Houston High School"
Sam Houston High School - an institution in San Antonio's predominately African-American East Side for 58 years‚ is under siege. Declining enrollment and poor academic performance plagues the school. The San Antonio Independent School District, following a nationwide downsizing trend for inner-city schools, placed the school on its school closure list in 2009.
As the school year began, students and staff expected the 2010 academic year would be the last at their beloved "Sam" as the school is affectionately known.
Nearly 90 percent of the students at Sam are economically disadvantaged. For many, the school is a place of refuge amid the chaos of life at home and the instability in their community. Its closure would reverberate far beyond the halls of Sam Houston.
But despite being called "The Pride of the East Side", Sam Houston High School failed to meet state academic standards four out of the past five years. The failing school went through five principals in nine years. It also missed federal benchmarks for seven consecutive years, including six when math performance posed a problem, requiring that the school be "restructured" in government parlance.
Daily life at Sam was, at times, literally a matter of life and death. A star culinary student was charged with stabbing and killing her boyfriend. Others had to deal with the difficulty of being teen parents and students.
Under the threat of closure, community outrage ensued and the school was granted a reprieve. Armed with a dedicated new principal and a renewed spirit to survive, the school was given the opportunity to turn itself around.
Milli Zepeda, 17, almost nine months pregnant, waits with her class for instructions on where to go from a substitute teacher on April 22, 2010. Zepeda attended school until the day before she went into labor, one week later.