UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative works with community organizations to ensure access for Bexar County’s young people

UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative works with community organizations to ensure access for Bexar County's young people

Today, many young people in Bexar County still face significant barriers to enrolling in, and attaining, a postsecondary education. Disproportionately, it is marginalized student groups — students of color, students from low-income families — that are most likely to experience those barriers.

While it is clear that postsecondary education offers the greatest potential to alter the outcomes of young people and their communities, in 2020 only 50% of all young people graduating high school in Bexar County enrolled in a college, university or credential program after high school graduation.

Addressing those barriers is where UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC) focuses their efforts. 

The EEC supports the advancement of more equitable enrollment strategies for the young people in Bexar County. 

Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., UP Partnership’s Director of K12 and Postsecondary, the department that leads the EEC’s convenings said that “through EEC, leaders from two- and four- year higher educational institutions, representatives from Bexar County school districts and community based leaders work together to address the challenges to postsecondary enrollment,” in an effort to drive toward the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s collective North Star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030.

“Together, we can work through barriers that students commonly face when navigating their transition into postsecondary,” Hagelgans added.

The Beginnings of the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative

Initially started in 2021 as a joint initiative between Diplomás and My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, two of UP Partnership’s systems change networks, the EEC offered a space for secondary and postsecondary professionals to convene and begin building formal and actionable strategies to increase postsecondary enrollment and success for students of color — especially young men of color — and Dreamer students that would lead to a living-wage career and economic mobility.

During its first two years, the EEC supported local school districts, institutions of higher education and community based organizations in analyzing their internal data college application and enrollment data. 

By tracking the number of students completing college applications and the number of students completing financial aid applications (FAFSA or TASFA), EEC members could see where gaps and barriers existed within their own organizations and begin the shift in policies and programs to systematically close those gaps and remove those barriers. 

There were many successes during the initial work of the EEC including:

One local school district identified lower college-going rates among its Emergent Bilingual students and launched a strategy to deliver college advising in multiple languages.
Another partner led “Senior Saturdays” to help young people and their families navigate FAFSA applications and they were also able to meet with enrollment advisors from a local higher education institution building cross-sector bridges to support student success.
One university partner hosted six mini-summits engaging a total of 309 students from four EEC school districts. These mini-summits contributed to the university’s enrollment of 254 Dreamer students for that fall semester.

According to Texas A&M University – San Antonio’s Executive Director of Student Success, who is a member of the EEC, the efforts were “[creating] the kind of environment where high school Dreamers can picture themselves [in college],” and the work being done plays an important role in building “a direct pipeline to higher education.”

Evolution of EEC under Future Ready Bexar County

In 2022, UP Partnership looked in depth at the EEC and realized that the focus of the collaborative needed to change in order to meet the Future Ready North Star enrollment goal. While institutions were successfully implementing changes to increase equitable enrollment, that existing model of work could not be scaled to its full potential across Bexar County.

As part of EEC’s evolution, UP Partnership actively garnered input from its partners on what the next phase of the EEC should look like in an effort to reach a collective equitable postsecondary enrollment strategy.After much discussion, it was decided that, moving forward, the EEC’s way of thinking would shift from “what we can change in our own institution” to “what can we change together across institutions.”

The work to remove barriers 

The EEC is now heavily responsible for scaling the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s equity pillar of Access, which along with Healing and Voice, has been identified as the must HAVEs amongst Bexar County’s young people. 

To do this, they are addressing three major barriers young people face to postsecondary enrollment in Bexar County. These barriers were identified in discussions with EEC partners on the next phase of scaling the collaborative’s work:

1: There is no clear and aligned definition of what “college readiness” is in Bexar County.

As community partners began coming together to advance collaborative postsecondary work, a pattern emerged of students not being adequately prepared for postsecondary opportunities because different institutions used different formal definitions of “college readiness.” 

Local school districts refer to the definition of the Texas Education Agency, while institutions of higher education use the definition of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Those separate definitions are a major barrier to shared data measurement and strategic partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions.

To address this barrier, the EEC brought Future Ready community partners together in conversations that led to  the adoption of three established K12 and higher education metrics of “college readiness” to support the building of a shared advising framework and curriculum in an effort to create alignment in practices and policies across community partners. 

2: There is a lack of clarity around student pathways from K-12 to Postsecondary Education or Credential Training.


Through its work in Bexar County, the EEC holds the closest focus on the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s North Star goal of reaching 70% postsecondary enrollment by 2030. To that end, the collaborative fosters partner-initiated policies and programs that secure pathways for all young people in the community to have access to postsecondary enrollment opportunities and success. 

Direct admissions initiatives are one pathway for postsecondary enrollment and the groundwork for successful initiatives that provide access for Bexar County’s young people to get affordable two-year and four-year degrees.  These opportunities are accessible through Alamo Colleges Foundation’s AlamoPROMISE, the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Bold Promise, both of the institutions’ Promise-to-Promise and Texas A&M – San Antonio’s Achiever Promise.

“What this work shows is that all community partners believe in graduating high school seniors in Bexar County as we help them move forward to postsecondary enrollment and success,” said one Future Ready partner at the Future Ready Bexar County Leadership Table held in July of this year.

3: There is a lack of alignment on how partners track and integrate data about postsecondary barriers and readiness.

Data is a vital component to drive collaborative work forward but often, cross-sector partners either don’t have access to others’ data or the data collection, metrics, descriptions and use vary by individual organizations. The EEC is striving toward standardizing data and data collection so that community partners can access it in one central location.

The ultimate goal for collecting, analyzing and sharing data is a real-time data integration model that helps community partners identify early indicators of at-risk students, evaluate the effectiveness of programs and interventions both in and out of school and track college and career readiness and students’ engagement with community youth development organizations.

Initial work on this model began this past January with the EEC leading a discovery phase with six local school districts to identify the presence of college advisors and resources across high school grades 9-12. This phase revealed that the current college advising system — grades served, content and models — is not the same across Bexar County school districts. Identifying these inconsistencies has allowed partners to begin advancing strategies to address those existing gaps.

Additional work continued through a needs assessment of Future Ready partners around a shared problem — how to transition more students into postsecondary programs starting in high school that will lead to credentials of value.

This included landscape mapping for two different school districts that examined high-quality advising and support and explored career centered pathway programs, such as dual credit, advanced placement and/or college prep, that lead to a postsecondary or credential enrollment.

The results showed that Bexar County has a rich landscape of pathway programs, which were particularly notable across the community partners that participated in this assessment. It also yielded ways to improve existing pathway programs, with the community partners using that information to scale their work in Bexar County.

By working together in collaboration, the work of the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative strives to better the future for all young people in Bexar County and these tests of change are a continuation of cross-sector collaboration, through which our community can  create more equitable access to postsecondary opportunities for our young people.

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact admin@uppartnership.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner.You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.

Meet UP Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon

Meet UP Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Ph.D., has served as the chief executive of UP Partnership for six years, ensuring alignment across UP’s board, staff, partners and leaders in pursuit of the mission of ensuring all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future.

Ryan identifies as a human development planner. He was drawn to UP Partnership and the work the organization does because of the “opportunity to help increase youth outcomes while working across sectors,” he said.

Prior to joining UP Partnership, he served as the executive director for Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio, which is now one of UP Partnership’s systems change networks, as well as worked at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Youth Safe and Violence Prevention department.

He is also a poet and an author. His poem, Vision, helps to explain some of the underlying motivation that drives him in this work daily…

Lugalia-Hollon is committed to working towards racial equity both locally and nationally.

Prophecies cannot restore the past,
yet each dream we cast
buries a secret weapon
in the not too distant future.

Our young ones
will soon need to dig them up
and use them for their defense.

Ryan’s first book, The War on Neighborhoods, was published by Beacon Press and tracks the devastating impact of mass incarceration on one Chicago community area. It helped influence the birth of the R3 Program in Illinois. R3 — Restore. Reinvest. Renew. — which provides a model for how to support those neighborhoods most impacted by the War on Drugs.

Ryan is committed to working towards racial equity both locally and nationally. He is an active leader in the national StriveTogether network and serves as the Board Chair for the Children’s Funding Project, a nonprofit organization that helps communities and states to expand equitable opportunities for children and youth through strategic public financing.

He was selected as the Outstanding Young San Antonian of 2020 by the Rotary Club of San Antonio. Ryan received his doctorate in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his bachelor’s in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

When not supporting social change efforts, Ryan enjoys time with his family, practicing Tai Chi, hiking, cooking, coaching, and studying the Enneagram of Personality types. He is a big fan of the book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, the show Foundation, and the rapper Lacrae.

As UP Partnership staff can attest, Lugalia-Hollon also loves telling dad jokes. Including this gem: “When does a regular joke become a dad joke? When it’s a-parent!”

All joking aside, Ryan’s advice to the work is “Take it easy, but take it.” If he could be any dinosaur, he would be a Pterodactyl “for the views.”

Making Future Ready Moves – October 2023 Newsletter

Bexar County Receives Recognition for Transforming Systems for Young People 

In recognition of its impact on the lives of young people in Bexar County, StriveTogether has designated UP Partnership as a “Systems Transformation” Cradle to Career Network member, the top designation for communities in its national network, making it one of six total communities to do so in the country.

To achieve the “Systems Transformation” designation, UP Partnership alongside our community partners had to demonstrate a deep commitment to improving education outcomes, working collaboratively with key stakeholders and showing progress in multiple areas including increasing early childhood participation rates, improving K-12 attendance and increasing college and career readiness.

Through StriveTogether, UP Partnership is part of a national movement to help every child succeed in life, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance.

This “Systems Transformation” designation acknowledges the incredible work team San Antonio continues to do by aligning our efforts on the Future Ready Bexar County Plan but the work is being done by community partners to further equitable outcomes. 

By working together to leverage data, promote equality and engage the community, Bexar County is setting a positive example for other communities that are dedicated to improving student outcomes. Read more here.


Data Resource

UP Partnership’s Cradle to Career Dashboard allows users to assess progress towards the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s collective North Star goal. It’s there for you to use!

You can analyze community information on education and workforce system characteristics, track postsecondary educational attainment and education-to-career objectives, and benchmark community efforts against state averages.

  • Postsecondary education is essential to successful pathways to economic mobility in Bexar County with approximately 65% of employment opportunities requiring some form of postsecondary education, however only 33% of adults in Bexar County have an associate degree or higher. 

  • Between 2012 and 2021, the average postsecondary educational attainment for Bexar County has been lower than both the national and state averages with only 47% of 2021 Bexar County high school graduates being ready for college. If we let this trend continue, it would affect the next generation of high school students’ educational outcome, employability and livelihood.

Future Ready Leadership Table Meeting

On July 13, 2023, nearly 125 top executives and senior leaders from nearly 90 community partners came together at the Future Ready Leadership Table to discuss strategies that will drive forward the work of our community Future Ready Bexar County Plan.

The Future Ready Leadership Table oversees the progress of the plan as we strive together to reach our collective North Star goal of increasing enrollment of Bexar County High School graduates in a postsecondary or credential program to 70% by 2030 — a goal that will be accomplished when an additional 5,000 students from our community enroll in a postsecondary opportunity each year.

Leaders from cross-sector community partners shared successful milestones that have been accomplished under the Future Ready Bexar County Plan.

Partner Highlights Shared


The direct admissions program at Alamo Colleges District — which began in partnership with 25 public high schools, has since expanded to now include 73 comprehensive public high schools, including magnet and charter schools in Bexar County. As a result of that expansion, more than 15,000 students have reserved their spot at one of the five Alamo Colleges District campuses.

Direct Admissions Pilot

San Antonio ISD and a local university will automatically admit the top 25% of students at a pilot school into the university. More than 400 students were directly admitted from SAISD to this university due to the pilot. 

Comprehensive case management

Addressing other barriers to educational success, East Central ISD and Communities In Schools — San Antonio have partnered together to offer comprehensive case management to address the barriers that impact Bexar County’s young people both academically and out of school throughout their education journey. An example of the success of this partnership can be seen in the number of young people who are sent to counseling for mental health needs and supports, as opposed to behavioral supports, which has doubled the number previously. 

Shifting the treatment of justice referred young people

Recognizing the impact of adverse childhood experiences on Bexar County’s young people, Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department staff, whether they work directly or indirectly with youth, have adopted a trauma informed approach which allows them to address the root and causes of potentially adverse behavior, rather than entering young people into the justice system with a goal of seeing better results for those young people who are justice referred. The Department of Justice also spoke about successful legislation that reduces the likelihood of vaping leading to student pushouts.

SA Worx

SA Worx, the workforce development arm of the economic development organization greater:SATX, works to ensure San Antonio is the top choice for employers and community members to fulfill the employment needs of local and regional companies.

“Working with community partners toward a unified strategy will create systematic change in our workforce and economic sphere in our region,” said Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer. Read more about the impact SA Worx is having in Bexar County here.

Meet UP Partnership’s Finance and Ops Team

You probably know the names and faces of the team members who help advance our work everyday, but we want to shine a light on the team that keeps UP Partnership running.

The Finance and Ops team shares responsibility for the internal systems needed for organizational operation so every member of the team is rooted in UP Partnership’s values, engaged as a team in our collective work and have the capacity to drive impact.

The team consists of Brandon Henson, Director of Finance and Operations, J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations, Patrick Farris, Manager of Development and Grants, Rodnekka Hall, Human Resources Manager of Training and Development and Kristen Kitler, Human Resources Manager of Team Success. Read more about them here.


Latest UPdates

Meet UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development Team

UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development team collaborates with community partners through the Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio (EBBSA) network San Antonio network and Excel Academy to strengthen the student experience in Bexar County. The team consists of liz moseley, Director of K12 and Youth Development, Shelby Drayton, Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation who leads Excel Academy and Sarah Hinojosa, Manager of K12 and Youth Development who leads EBBSA. Read more about them here.

UP Partnership and Community Partners visit Harlem Children’s Zone

In early May, Harlem Children’s Zone hosted a cross-sector of Future Ready Bexar County Plan community partners including Alamo Colleges District, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, Communities in Schools of San Antonio, San Antonio Area Foundation, United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and UP Partnership. The lessons learned on the trip will help community implementation of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan.


June is Pride Month. At UP Partnership, we know that racism and bigotry can take a psychological toll on marginalized people. We stand with the LGTBQ+ community against the homophobic and transphobic bills that could block vital care and access to LGBTQ+ young people. Every child, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves to have the support of their community.

Partner Spotlights

Future Ready partner organizations that empower girls and women

In March, UP Partnership celebrated Women’s History Month by highlighting Future Ready partners organizations that empower girls and women to be the leaders of the future. Included in the story were Empower House, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, Girls on the Run Bexar County, Lemonade Circle and YWCA San Antonio. Read More.

How 100 Black Men is changing young people’s lives through workforce 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 works in the community by offering programs that focus on alternative high school completion, workforce credentialing, creating mentorship relationships, among others. Read more about the impact 100 Black Men is having in Bexar County here.

Excel Academy and Restorative Practices Collaborative Recruitment

Applications for the new cohorts of Excel Academy and Restorative Practices Collaborative are now open! If you are interested in Excel Academy, contact Shelby Drayton at Shelby@uppartnership.org. If you are interested in Restorative Practices Collaborative, contact Suzette Solorzano at Suzette@uppartnership.org

Want to be spotlighted? Contact Carrie Ballard-Banuelos at Carrie@UPPartnership.org with your story to potentially be featured in our stories!

Advancing the work

Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio

EBBSA had the annual CEO retreat on September 14-15th. Thank you to the CEO retreat committee for their hard work and dedication in creating an intentional and relationship building focused event. Martha Ramos Duffer, founder and owner of Quantum Possibilities, presented on “Nurturing Cultures of Belonging” with an open discussion after dinner.

Excel Academy

Excel Academy welcomed its newest class on August 31 at the Boeing Center at Tech Port, with programming starting in September 2024. Welcome to the program Class of 2024!

Restorative Practices Collaborative

Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC) Cohort 3 started  the final leg of their restorative justice training on August 31 at San Antonio ISD headquarters. This cohort will complete the RPC program in March of 2024.

Applications for Cohort 4, which will begin in August of 2024, are currently open. Please contact Suzette Solorzano, Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation for K12 and Justice, at suzette@uppartnership.org for more information.

Moving the needle forward with a national lens

In July, Sara Dunn, UP Partnership’s Director of Data and Information Management, in community with staff from Future Ready community partners Communities In School – San Antonio and East Central ISD  advanced work during William Julius Wilson Institute (WJWI) and Harvard EdRedesign Lab’s Transforming Place Through Neighborhood Leadership Summer Training Institute. The sessions further equipped the team with the tools needed to think through and advance our work using data insights.There was also a presentation on research about Communities In Schools’s program and the long term financial impact that their integrated support systems have on youth who as adults make $1,500 more annually than the average person and over $50,000 over their lifetime.

 “We definitely learned a lot and all feel inspired and ignited to come home and continue to sustain this work,” Natasha Richardson, Strategic Partnership Manager at Communities In Schools of San Antonio, said after the trip.