One Year of Future Ready Bexar County: Paving the way for a brighter future for young people

One Year of Future Ready: Paving the way for a brighter future for young people in Bexar County

In the News: An Op-Ed by Our CEO and Chair in the San Antonio Express-News

Here is a synopsis of an op-ed by our CEO, Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, and our chair, Elaine Mendoza, that was published on May 25 in the San Antonio Express-News titled: “Paving the way for a brighter future for young people”

UP Partnership’s Future Ready Bexar County Plan, launched a little more than a year ago in April 2022, is a way for our community to deliver on an equitable recovery pledge to help our children and youth recover from the many ills of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a plan to ensure all young people in Bexar County are prepared for the future.

More than 85 organizations across varying industries are working together to provide services and/or funding to our young people. Together they’re pursuing a north star goal of increasing, from roughly 50 percent to 70 percent by 2030, Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in post-secondary degree or credential programs. And the plan is to achieve this while also reducing racial and ethnic inequities in enrollment.

Although 20 percent may seem like a steep increase in a seven-year time frame, data show this goal is attainable. According to the latest available data analyzed from the Texas Education Agency, 4,449 additional Bexar County students from the Class of 2020 would have needed to enroll in a post-secondary program to reach that 70 percent enrollment goal.

For the class of 2030, who will be sixth graders this fall, about 17,059 of the 24,270 students will need to enroll in a post-secondary program to achieve our goal.

This plan builds on the existing strengths of many of our partners, which have made commitments toward equity pillars of healing, access and voice.

You can continue to read the entire op-ed by clicking here.

We did, however, want to continue to expand on further examples that our youth serving organization Future Ready Bexar County Plan partners are conducting per pillar:

Pillar One: Healing: Young people will be future ready when they all have developmental relationships and healing supports they need.

Through funding awarded by Corporate Partners for Racial Equity (CPRE) by way of the San Antonio Area Foundation, UP Partnership’s My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) and the Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC) were able to fund six long-standing community organizations all of whom are Future Ready Partners — 100 Black Men of San Antonio, American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, Empower House, Family Service Association and Rise Recovery — to provide direct training of restorative justice and social emotional healing in Bexar County. Currently, the RPC is in local school districts like East Central ISD, Harlandale ISD, Judson ISD and San Antonio ISD. These funds augment the power of the work being conducted within the RPC through the support of funders such as Blue Meridian Partners, USAA and others.

In addition to funds from CPRE, Rise Recovery was given funding from Self Financial, Inc. through a connection made by Spurs Sports and Entertainment, a corporate partner of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. This will allow the organization to expand healing in Judson ISD, a Future Ready school district, by providing a healthy space for youth to learn about the importance of mental health, as well as the tools and skills to support their peers at home, in the classroom and beyond.

Alongside our restorative practices work, there has been significant movement in upskilling justice-involved youth through Chrysalis Ministries, which includes a three-year partnership between them and Future Ready organizations such as SA Worx to advance equity and economic mobility through workforce development services providing quality internships and job placement. It is anticipated that around 20-25 students will be recruited for a pilot Justice Involved Youth Workforce cohort starting in 2023.

Pillar Two: Access: Young people will be future ready when they can access high quality education and career opportunities.

Starting in Sept. 2022, Alamo Promise, a comprehensive last-dollar scholarship from the Alamo Colleges District Foundation, expanded its free tuition at any college within the Alamo College District to ALL students in Bexar County regardless of income or high school grade point average. This monumental point of access for our local young people to get into college was only further expanded in November, when the Alamo Colleges teamed up with the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) on the Promise-to-Promise program. This program allows students who maintain certain eligibility criteria to not only transfer to UTSA but have their tuition and mandatory fees covered for four years through UTSA’s Bold Promise.

Keeping in line with expanding access to postsecondary opportunities for all students, UP Partnership’s Diplomás network provided $60,000 in scholarships for part-time and full-time students who identify as Dreamers enrolled in three Future Ready partner higher education institutions — Alamo Colleges District, Texas A&M University – San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio — through a program called the UPLift Dreamers Award. These institutions specifically distributed the funds they received to provide funding and scholarships to many Dreamers at these institutions throughout the 2022-2023 academic year.

UP Partnership through its MBKSA and Diplomás networks also hosted the inaugural Future Ready Youth Summit in November, bringing together approximately 400 students from East Central, Judson, Harlandale, San Antonio and Southwest Independent School Districts at Northeast Lakeview College. Programming at the Summit focused on providing college and career planning support to students in attendance, many of whom identified as boys and young men of color, Dreamers and/or Latinx students. In addition to those workshops, the students listened to inspiring keynote speakers, as well as fun visits from local mascots such as the San Antonio Spurs Coyote. This event is planned to be even bigger this year with a goal of increasing attendance to 1,000 young people.

Pillar Three: Voice: Young People will be future ready when their voices are heard and their leadership potential is nurtured.

After months of advocacy by UP Partnership’s Excel Beyond on the Bell (EBBSA) network youth development partners, successfully secured nearly $25 million for young people through the city of San Antonio’s American Rescue Plan Act funds in February. This funding will enable many of the plan’s partners to continue the work of growing their youth development programming and mental health services. Young people 12 to 19 expressed a need for mental health services in a spring 2022 survey conducted by the city. More than half of the respondents said COVID-19 negatively impacted their mental health.

This success exhibits the power of community members working together toward a common goal and why cross-sector partnerships are essential to the work we do in order to reach the North Star goal.

We also recognize that young people need to be a part of the leading team guiding the implementation of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. Their voice is vital in the process and in keeping us adults accountable. To ensure that their voices are heard, UP Partnership asked its partners to bring at least one young person into one of the quarterly leadership tables that is guiding implementation work for the Plan called the Joint Organization Leadership Table (or JOLT). In March 2023, the table met at Family Service’s Association The Neighborhood Place where cross-sector leaders and youth leaders convened to continue to drive forward the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s impact in an intragenerational manner for the first-time and is a commitment that we all continue to strive to grow as the implementation of this plan continues.

Future Ready partners such as the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology have also collaborated with many other Future Ready Partners to continue to grow their programming such as the annual SA Smart Challenge: The Mayor’s K-12 Smart City Challenge. SAMSAT in collaboration with the City of San Antonio’s Office of Innovation, Communities In Schools – San Antonio, Education Service Center, Region 20 and the San Antonio Area Foundation, have hosted the competition since 2018, bringing together 7th-12th grade teams from various Bexar County school districts to research a San Antonio-specific smart city problem and propose a strategy, product or service as a solution to the problem. All topics come from SA Tomorrow, San Antonio’s vision for 2040, and have included topics such as sustainability, digital inclusion, food insecurity, water resources and the 2023 topic of transportation.

To date, 1,155 students from 14 ISDs have formed 227 teams that have worked with subject matter and entrepreneur experts to present their proposed solutions to that year’s topic that include technical and marketing analysis at the Mayor’s Cup Competition Day which took place on May 24.

These examples are just a few highlights of the good work each one of the 85 Future Ready Bexar County partners do to help us reach that north star goal each and every day. With one year under our belt and three since our community decided to sign an Equitable Recovery Pledge, we cannot wait to see the progress San Antonio and Bexar County will continue to make with our education ecosystems’ continued aligned contributions.

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here.

You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.

100 Black Men of San Antonio is changing young people’s lives through workforce programming

100 Black Men of San Antonio is changing young people’s lives through workforce programming

May 1 was National Decision Day — a day that graduating seniors accept the offer of admissions to their school of choice — however  many of our Future Ready Bexar County Plan partners are celebrating with events across the month. 

While there are a lot of students we need to celebrate advancing into their postsecondary journeys, there are still a great deal of young people in our community who lack resources and opportunities that aid in enrollment to a postsecondary degree or credential program.

While there are Future Ready Bexar County Plan partners such as Workforce Solutions Alamo, San Antonio Growth of the Eastside and SA Worx that all work on aspects of readiness for, and access to, postsecondary programs, we are focusing today’s profile on the work that 100 Black Men of San Antonio is doing locally, particularly for young men and women of color. 

Nationally, 100 Black Men aims to improve the quality of life and enhance education opportunities for African-Amerians in their communities.  Our local organization does this through mentoring boys and young men and women of color through its programming. 

100 Black Men of San Antonio “focuses on education, economic empowerment, health and wellness and leadership development all anchored in mentorship,” the organization’s local Executive Director Dr. Milton Harris, DBA, told UP Partnership.

The organization specifically does most of their work by providing an alternative high school completion program for young people who have dropped out of high school which incorporates a workforce development credential component. This allows the young people going through 100 Black Men’s programming to have a say in their chosen career path.

Through a partnership with fellow Future Ready Bexar County participant, Communities in Schools San Antonio, mentorship is offered in Byron P. Steele High School, Clemens High School, John Jay High School, Oak Crest Elementary, Roosevelt High School and Sam Houston High School. The 100 Black Men also mentor with their Collegiate 100 of St. Philip’s College, a campus student success program in which mentorship is provided at the St. Philip’s College Early College High School with the intention of showing students that there are people outside of their family and school community that care about them and want them to succeed.

Another example of this is the work 100 Black Men of San Antonio has done includes work they are doing with the Broady Academy located in Kirby, Texas on the far eastside of Bexar County, which gives young people who are disconnected to school or workforce, also known as opportunity youth, the chance to obtain a high school diploma, not a GED diploma or certificate. 

This distinction in high school diploma attainment is important for those young people that would want to enter the U.S. armed forces, Harris explained, as “the U.S. military does not always allow entrance with a GED” and that through his organization’s experience they have seen the military frequently not accept candidates with a GED credential. 

Last year, 14 young men of color who were considered opportunity youth or who were underemployed were able to get this diploma through that mentorship program. Those young men will no longer be considered high school dropouts and are now reconnected to the path of potential postsecondary or credential programming, which is another part of 100 Black Men’s programming. 

Currently, the organization also offers several credentialing programs; two in-house workforce credentialing programs and other collaborative credentialing programs:

Home Building Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (HBI-PACT) and the National Center for Construction Engineering Research (NCCER), both are performance-based learning curricula that incorporate academic skills training, life skills, career development and on-the-job training in construction. Participants in this program receive curriculum built by the National Center for Construction Education and Research on construction and maintenance and receive a certificate of completion that is accepted across multiple states.

•  Google Professional Certificate Program, which offers outside IT certification to any member of the community who would like to take the training. In the upcoming years, the hope is to bring this program in-house when qualified instructors are hired and the program expanded.

Certified Nurse Assistant Program (CNA), which offers CNA skills and development training and certification to opportunity youth in partnership with the School of Excellence Certified Nurse Assistant training program.

100 Black Men of San Antonio also offers many other programs to the community that focus on healthy well-being of its programming participants, creating mentorship relationships and establishing access to credentials and workforce readiness, a key component of the the Future Ready Bexar County Plan — whose collective North Star is to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030. The plan is centered around the three equity pillars of healing access and voice, the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

While 100 Black Men of San Antonio’s mentor and workforce development programs are firmly rooted in the access equity pillar — young people will be future ready when the can access high quality education and career opportunities — the organization recently received funding from the Department of Labor Education and Training YouthBuild grant and Corporate Partnership for Racial Equity (CPRE) to expand high school completion and workforce credentialing programming, as well as healing restorative justice practices in their community.

“YouthBuild literally saved my life,” said one participant.

While another participant stated that the programming they went through “was the step I needed to finally move forward in life.”

A total of 49 young men were enrolled across the organization’s programs. This work continues to combat the number of opportunity youth in Bexar County by ensuring young men who have either dropped out of high school or are underemployed have access to opportunities that can offer them a different future.  

Uniquely, 100 Black Men of San Antonio is a membership organization for those men who want to be a part of the work being done by being mentors. Prospective members must submit an application, letters of recommendation and be able to pass a background check. Final approval of membership is determined by the Board of Directors membership subcommittee. Once membership is approved, an annual fee of $300 is required before a new member becomes active in the organization.

For Harris, it is vital that those being mentored see people who are like themselves because “what they see is what they will be,” which is why the network of mentors come from various professional backgrounds including entrepreneurs, finance, banking, the military and more. The organization’s membership include successful men who often identify as Black, African American or Indigenous who are positive, loving and caring people that share their struggles and their successes with their mentees. The organization’s mentors are men and women who come from diverse backgrounds and demographics in order to offer the greatest exposure and opportunities to the youth served.

Looking to the future, Harris is looking to scale the certification from pre-apprenticeship programs, serve more participants and expand their workforce development to include electrical, plumbing, HVAC and welding training. Additionally, the organization is looking to not only solidify their relationships with current employment partners but to expand to new employers in the community.

When asked about any challenges or obstacles from the community or schools, Harris says that has never been an issue. Rather, “the biggest hurdle we face is the demographic we work with,” Harris acknowledges. “We work with young people who have dropped out of high school, or are living a rough life, causing them to have low self-esteem or low-self worth. That is the biggest hurdle that we face.

To overcome that hurdle, Harris and his team believe that cross-sector collaboration provided by UP Partnership is necessary to the work being done. They have been able to connect with other community organizations, school districts and so many more community members who have helped propel the work forward.

Discussing if he ever sees an end to the work, Harris doesn’t believe that will happen anytime soon. “Unfortunately, the need for the work has been around for decades and I see it being around for decades to come,” he said. “In the current system of education there are too many barriers that lead to young people dropping out. Ultimately, as long as there is poverty in our society, the work we do will be necessary.”

To learn more about 100 Black Men of San Antonio, please visit

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here.

You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.