In May of 2022, UP Partnership was named one of six implementation partners by Corporate Partners for Racial Equity (CPRE) in which the organization was awarded $125,000 annually through 2024, to support My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio’s Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC). The RPC is a long-standing collaborative effort and the funds received will augment the power of its work, and that of many of its partners, through grant funds beyond what was awarded to UP Partnership.
CPRE was formed a year ago in 2021 by leading local executives such as RC Buford, CEO of Spurs Sports & Entertainment, Phil Green, Chairman and CEO of Frost Bank and Kevin Voelkel, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, among other industry leaders. Committing nearly $14 million over five years, funding focused on three key focus areas — education, economic opportunity and safety and justice.
UP Partnership’s CEO, Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Ph.D., was invited in January 2021 to Chair the Justice and Safety Resource Group. He recruited national experts and leaders from My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio to shape the investment strategy for reducing racial inequities in and around the justice system. Through extensive background research, national interviews and literature reviews, the priority strategy was formalized and approved by the coalition CEO’s and corporations in the collective.
The funding received from CPRE enabled UP Partnership and key community partners to continue the important work of fostering healing in our community’s young people. We believe that healing, along with access and voice, are the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people, and are the three pillars of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, launched in April. Through that plan, we are working with a broad coalition of partners, across varying sectors, in a collaborative effort to reach a collective North Star goal, which is to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030.
Through year one implementation phase work, UP Partnership created a rigorous selection process alongside the San Antonio Area Foundation to provide further funding to six community partners. Those community partners are 100 Black Men of San Antonio Inc., American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, Empower House, Family Service Association and Rise Recovery. Each partner will provide direct training of restorative justice and social emotional healing in Bexar County.
Many of these partners have a longstanding relationship with UP Partnership’s RPC providing restorative practice training on tools such as peace circles and peace corners to community partners such as local school districts like Harlandale ISD, Judson ISD and San Antonio ISD.
Launched in the 2019-2020 school year, across 21 schools in our partnering districts, the RPC was a response to community outcry to do something different than punitive discipline in order to break the pipeline-to-prison. Based in Indigenous practices, restorative justice works to build the community as a whole and hold community members accountable to each other. The belief is when a community is more connected, the more likely it is to repair harm when it occurs.
In Bexar County, there are 710,000 young people ages 0-24 years and, of that, 84% are young people of color. Restorative justice is a cost efficient strategy that works on improving the quality of life for all those involved. Outside of the school, restorative justice allows families to heal from daily and life-long trauma.
In the two school years since its implementation, schools using restorative justice have seen positive shifts in discipline and school attendance. The benefits of restorative justice are noticeable and tangible. Changes can be seen in schools as everyone — students, teachers and administrators — embrace restorative practices. School communities are seeing the benefits of a healthy campus culture and students are learning the valuable life skills of how to process their thoughts and feelings and to use their voice to express themselves in a positive way.
As one Tafolla Middle School student said, “To me, circle is life because it helped me become the person I am today. It helped me grow.”