Young mom graduates from San Antonio school that lets students bring children to class

Learn4Life Edgewood offers flexible schedule for young parents, other students struggling in school

SAN ANTONIO – On Monday evening, 20-year-old Savannah De La Torre walked across the graduation stage with her 2-year-old son, River, in hand.

It was an emotional moment for the room filled with students, families, and teachers who knew what it took for De La Torre to make it to that moment.

“I got pregnant around COVID, so I didn’t finish school, and I really wanted to finish school,” De La Torre said.

She was 18 years old when she had her son, River.

Soon after, in 2021, she enrolled at Learn4Life Edgewood, which at the time was a brand new program allowing students to bring their kids to school.

“My son was the first child here, a baby, here at Learn4Life. And the next day, when I came to school, they had a whole playroom for him,” De La Torre said with a smile.

Learn4Life classrooms are housed in a building on the JFK High School campus within Edgewood ISD.

The program is designed for students 14 to 20 years old who are behind in credits, need to graduate, or need to work at their own pace for personal reasons.

The classes have an average of 13 to 14 students.

There are almost 190 students in the program, and about six bring their children to class.

Those parents come to school to do their work and can break away and take care of their kids as needed.

School days are four hours long, with options in the morning, afternoon and evening.

“I was a teenage mother myself. I was 15 when I started, and by the time I was 18, I had three children,” said Learn4Life teacher Maryann Esparza-Padilla.

Esparza-Padilla said she fell through the cracks as a child, and she’s stopping that from happening to these kids.

“Miss Padilla, she helps me put him to sleep while I do my work, and he’ll sleep for like 2 hours, and then he’ll wake up, and we’ll play for a little bit,” De La Torre said.

The support allowed De La Torre to attend class during major life challenges, as recent issues at home led her toward homelessness.

“We were going to be homeless, but somehow God blessed us with the home. And now I feel comfortable being in my home, and I feel safe, and I’m very happy,” she said.

She said Esparza-Padilla would not let her give up during those tough times.

“I consider this my family and my home away from home,” De La Torre said.

That’s why she wanted Esparza-Padilla right by her side Monday when she gave a graduation speech.

“They’re like my babies,” Esparza-Padilla said. “They’re all my children. I still got very emotional when I saw her speech, and I cried because everyone deserves a chance. Everybody deserves a second chance.”

De La Torre is proud that her son watched her work hard, overcome obstacles, and achieve her goals.

She said River has grown and thrived within the Learn4Life program as well.

“He was tough. He just wouldn’t get along with other kids. Now he gets along with other kids. He has a best friend here. Her name’s Avery, and they’re crazy together,” De La Torre said with a laugh.

As River and Avery played in the classroom play area, the two moms told each other how proud they were of one another. They both graduated Monday and will be moving on, so they have already started planning playdates so the kids can remain friends.

“I’m not going to forget about this school, and I will always recommend any student that is struggling like me to come here,” De La Torre said.

De La Torre wants to go to college for business and become an entrepreneur.

“Create generational wealth, take care of my family, and not just my immediate family, my entire family. I want to help the homeless. I want to help people that are sick,” she said.

Learn4Life staff helps the students transition to higher education, even leading them to programs that cover tuition.

For information on the program or to apply, call (210) 898-4078 or visit the Learn4Life website.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.