Future Ready Bexar County celebrates nearly $114 million in funding

Future Ready Bexar County celebrates nearly $114 million in funding

Participating organizations convene to organize and amplify efforts into 2024

SAN ANTONIO – Today, Future Ready Bexar County partners gathered to celebrate a historic almost $114 million in funding received by local anchor partners and national philanthropic investor Blue Meridian Partners. These investments will help the strategic community plan enter its next phase – which scales, deepens and strengthens initial community efforts to achieve the plan’s 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. Reaching this goal through this first-ever countywide alignment will significantly improve the economic mobility of San Antonio youth and can have positive ripple effects for the future. Local nonprofit UP Partnership serves as Future Ready’s convening and coordinating backbone organization and drives the strategic plan’s progress across more than 90 institutional partners aligned with the plan’s goals.

The event served as a convening of the plan’s Coordinating Committee and the Joint Leadership Table (JOLT), which will lead the community organizations through the next phase of the Future Ready plan. During the next six years, these efforts will be boosted with funding, enabling the aligned organizations to expand, deepen and strengthen initial countywide efforts.

“This is a monumental investment in Bexar County’s children and youth, which will, no doubt, have a positive impact on our region’s future,” said UP Partnership Chair of the Board Elaine Mendoza. “This private investment in Bexar County’s young people is geared toward strategic efforts of Future Ready Bexar County partners who are working together to increase San Antonio’s economic well-being.”

When the Future Ready Bexar County Plan launched in 2022, UP Partnership provided leaders across San Antonio and Bexar County with the shared vision, language, goals, metrics, support, and initial convenings needed to drive aligned contributions toward the Plan’s North Star. During this phase, more than 90 institutional partners made concrete action commitments to scaling Healing, Access, and Voice for young people who undergo their services. These three focus areas are mutually agreed upon must-haves for advancing equity.

“Through its equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice, the Future Ready Bexar County Plan is a national model for how we can strengthen every aspect of our city to better support children and youth,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Funding Specifics

Of the almost $114 million, $64 million of private capital comes primarily from four of the local Future Ready Bexar County anchor partner institutions – United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, the Charles Butt Foundation, the H. E. Butt Foundation and the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn), as well as additional support from USAA, the Greater Texas Foundation and the Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. 

Through successful implementation, this next phase of the Future Ready plan could unlock up to $330 million in public resources through 2030, which includes Pell Grants, College, Career and Military Readiness state funds, and local public dollar alignment. The City of San Antonio Department of Human Services will work with our youth-serving delegate agency partners to contribute to Future Ready Bexar County outcomes.

A catalyzing investment of $50 million is coming from national philanthropic investor Blue Meridian Partners, which identifies, invests in, and scales up strategies that target drivers of poverty from cradle to career.

“We believe that Future Ready Bexar County is poised to uproot multiple difficult challenges confronting youth and families in poverty in the San Antonio area,” said Othello Meadows, a Managing Director at Blue Meridian.  “The vision set by UP Partnership and its dozens of committed community partners exemplifies why we invest in place-based partnerships through our Place Matters portfolio

In 2020, Blue Meridian provided UP Partnership and the San Antonio Area Foundation an $8 million investment across two years, which was used for planning and to lay the groundwork for the current work, as well as invest in community-based organizations helping to ensure young people’s recovery from the COVID pandemic.

Anchor Partners and their roles

Today’s event formally introduced the Coordinating Committee of anchor partner institutions that will coordinate the private capital to create a shared operating environment for child and youth-serving partners across Bexar County to fulfill their Future Ready action commitments, uproot isolation between sectors and drive communitywide progress. Together, they will create a connected and relationship-rich city that helps young people thrive. The next phase will be supported by anchor partner institutions and intermediaries supporting the multiple school districts that will play a key ecosystem-level role in the plan implementation. These institutions are fully committed to achieving the Future Ready North Star goal and equity pillars, including embedding a postsecondary-going culture across Bexar County institutions and the community. 

Each anchor partner has a defined role in coordinating, organizing and advancing the work of the Future Ready Plan across the more than 90 partner institutions. 

The anchor partner institutions include United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County, San Antonio Area Foundation, H. E. Butt Foundation, Communities In Schools of San Antonio, CAST Schools Network, Charles Butt Foundation, and Alamo Colleges District.

Our commitment ensures students will have resource-rich learning environments that drive high-quality learning experiences, pushing us closer to meeting Future Ready Bexar County’s North Star of 70% postsecondary enrollment by the year 2030,” said Chris Martin, the CEO of United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. 

Similarly, SAAFdn’s funding focuses on youth-focused grants supporting Future Ready initiatives.

“The Area Foundation will coordinate $25 million in funds to help Future Ready partners fulfill their action commitments to Healing, Access, and Voice,” said Lisa Brunsvold, the foundation’s interim CEO. 

Additional funding from the H. E. Butt Foundation has a similar focus.

“Our focus will be to invest in building the organizational and leadership capacity of Future Ready partners committed to advancing Healing, Access, and Voice pillars at scale,” says H. E. Butt Foundation’s President and CEO David Rogers.

Other anchor partners focus on campus-driven initiatives and coordination. 

“Communities In Schools of San Antonio is dedicated to coordinating resources and services between partners and campuses, ensuring the districts and post-secondary programs have the resources they need to meet the North Star goal by 2030,” said Communities In Schools of San Antonio President & CEO Jessica Weaver.

Additionally, funding from the Charles Butt Foundation will support anchor partner CAST Schools to strengthen and scale platforms for youth voice. CAST will ensure Future Ready strategies integrate the experiences and values of those most directly affected, young people themselves, in determining the terms of their future – thereby increasing local buy-in, engagement, impact, and sustainability of investment.

“CAST Schools advance Future Ready activities focused on youth voice by working to showcase, document, and expand practices that engage young people in shared decision making and co-creation,” said Jeanne Russell, CAST Schools Executive Director. “We’re looking forward to participating, along with our youth, in the Joint Leadership Table, growing signature community-wide programs such as Speak Up Speak Out, and supporting youth-led research, grantmaking, and advocacy.”

Anchor Partner Alamo Colleges District leads efforts for expanding multiple early pathways to post-secondary enrollment. 

The Alamo Colleges District is proud to advance the work of the Future Ready Plan alongside our partners. Our work will focus on enhancing economic and social mobility for our students by providing an expanded reach of our comprehensive advising services with partnering school districts and youth development agencies,” said Alamo Colleges District Chancellor Mike Flores.

To ensure these efforts meet their intended goals, bimonthly Joint Leadership Table meetings comprised of a senior leader, a youth leader and an additional institutional representative from each Future Ready partner promotes, shares and circulates successes in advancing goals tied to the plan’s equity pillars.

Meet UP Partnership’s K12 and Postsecondary Team

Meet UP Partnership's K12 and Postsecondary team

Our K12 and Postsecondary team members are driving the work by convening our postsecondary partners as our community aims to reach the Future Ready Bexar County North Star goal of increasing enrollment in postsecondary education or credential programs to 70% by 2030.

UP Partnership’s K12 and Postsecondary team works with our partners to adopt measurable outcomes and to create strategies to achieve those outcomes.

Specifically, the team works with partners to expand equitable access to resources and programs to increase postsecondary enrollment and success through the Diplomás systems change network and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC).

The mission of Diplomás is simple — it is a collective impact effort uniting 23 cross-sector partners to increase the college attainment and quality of life of San Antonio’s Dreamer/Latinx students. The work continues to be important and needed.

The purpose of the EEC is to dissolve barriers students often face when transitioning from K12 into postsecondary. 

Equitable Enrollment Collaborative is a space for ISDs, institutions of higher education IHEs and community-based organizations CBOs to work together to build city-wide bridges to postsecondary education that intentionally close equity gaps for all students and ensure they are ready for the future and the workforce.

The team spearheading the work of Diplomás and EEC consists of Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., Director of K12 and Postsecondary, Lowell Butler, Ed.D., Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation, and Jonathan Weaver, Senior Manager of Community Engagement.

Get to know the K12 & Postsecondary Team

Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., is a first generation college graduate and the oldest of four siblings. She is proud to say that two of her siblings have also obtained a postsecondary degree with one still in medical school. She obtained her Associates and Bachelors degrees in Business Management before she found her passion within the postsecondary field. As a first generation college graduate, Briana experienced first- hand the transformational power that a postsecondary degree holds and how it impacts not only students but their families. Briana has also earned her master’s degrees and doctorates in educational leadership and has held a variety of roles within postsecondary at the 2-year and 4-year level. Prior to her position at UP Partnership, Briana was a member of the Diplomás Network and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative. 

Briana is an avid reader who loves to garden. One of her personal goals is to own land where she can build her homestead that has an abundance of fruit and vegetable plants, as well as an array of flowers, including native varieties. Of course, her homestead would not be complete without friendly ducks, egg-laying hens and gorgeous views in all directions.

She finds joy in cleaning, which she admits scares most people. However, for her, if she is thinking through a challenge, doing a load of dishes or laundry usually helps her work through that slump.

Briana’s advice to all is: “if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t learning.”

Lowell Butler, Ed.D. spent his early years in Louisiana before moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast when he was a teenager. He obtained both his Associate and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi. After college, he got involved in national service through Americorps where he worked on social issues ranging from integrating technology in Mississippi high schools to hunger insecurity and reducing poverty in San Antonio.

He loves all things Southern Mississippi and is always on the hunt for the best soul and New Orleans style restaurants in San Antonio. He spent last year as a Texas Education Policy Fellow, hosted by the College of Education, at Texas Tech University, and recently earned his Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration.

Lowell is a McDonald’s superfan! He was unsuccessful, though, in getting a McDonald’s meal named after him, which he called the McLB that includes two plain McDoubles, large fries, large Hi-C Orange and BBQ sauce.

His advice to all is: “we really need to understand and fully accept that the young people of today are our future consumers and producers of all our goods and services, whether it is education, housing, employment, etc. Intergenerational conflict occurs because we expect young people to engage in systems, have the same motivators, definitions of success, and even the same challenges as we did. When they don’t, they’re penalized or denigrated. This leads to disconnection. It’s time for new models, new ways of thinking that are informed by young people, and that’s what Future Ready is about!”

Jonathan Weaver was born and raised on San Antonio’s south and southeast sides of town. He is the product of San Antonio ISD, having graduated from Fox Tech’s Law Magnet program in 2010. He continued his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio, obtaining a bachelor degree in Global Affairs.

Having always known that he wanted to serve his community, Jonathan has worked in the nonprofit sector for almost 10 years. He previously worked in various organizations, but it wasn’t until his time at Good Samaritan that he started to think of the inequalities that exist in our community and the systems that keep them in place, which is what drew him to UP Partnership’s work.

In his free time, Jonathan enjoys doing home improvement projects, such as plumbing, yard work, concrete, and wood work, and he also plays the drums and piano. He always likes smoking BBQ the “hard way” — burning the wood before sunrise and managing the heat over many hours. For 15 years, Jonathan has collected various Marvel items that, to this day, remain unopened.

Jonathan’s advice to all is: “do NOT waste your time or energy on what others think about you or things that make you upset. Focus on what you can control. Enjoy the small things; they often get overlooked in the present and are the things you miss once they are gone.”

For more information about Diplomás and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative, please visit www.uppartnership.org or donate to the work here. You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and by following us on social media.

Bexar County’s impact on young people presented on a national stage at annual collective impact conference

Bexar County's impact on young people presented on a national stage at annual collective impact conference

In a standing room only session at StriveTogether’s 2023 Cradle to Career Network Convening in San Francisco, Calif. Future Ready Bexar County partners Amy Contreras, Assistant to Director at the City of San Antonio’s Workforce Development Office, Dr. Jeniffer Richardson, DM, MAOM, Senior Vice President, Strategic and Policy Initiatives at United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, Ed.D., Chief Impact and Strategy Officer at UP Partnership, led a panel session entitled “Working Together: How Government Leaders and Community Organizations are Collaborating for Long-Lasting Change.” 

The session focused primarily on how Bexar County is working collaboratively through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan to increase economic mobility for young people through a shared 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. Team San Antonio shared how cross-sector community partners have come together to help address the postsecondary barriers faced by young people in our community and improve their opportunities and outcomes in life.

This was just one of many examples of San Antonio shining its light at StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Network Convening. For the past 12 years, StriveTogether has convenednational partners and community leaders for three days of connecting, learning and collective thought partnership focused on creating positive changes for young people across the country. 

This year, UP Partnership staff was joined by several key Future Ready Bexar County partners including the San Antonio Area Foundation, United Way of San Antonio, CAST Schools Network, City of San Antonio Workforce Development, and Bexar County Juvenile Justice. Along with Contreras and Richardson, Team San Antonio also included Jennifer Cook, Director of Strategy and Impact at the San Antonio Area Foundation, Andrea Figueroa, Senior Program Officer of Youth Success at the San Antonio Area Foundation, Jennifer Maestas, Community and Educator Engagement Manager at CAST Schools Network and Holly Pompa, Trauma-Informed Program Manager at Bexar County.

Team San Antonio joined over 500 national participants for plenaries, sessions and workshops designed to further align on the importance of continued collective impact work — ensuring that all young people have equitable pathways to the best possible successes in life.

It was also a celebration for Team San Antonio, as UP Partnership and Bexar County were once again recognized for becoming one of the most recent communities in the StriveTogether national network to receive the Systems Transformation designation, joining six other StriveTogether communities in the country: Appalachian Cradle-to-Career Partnership (Berea, KY), E3 Alliance (Austin, TX), Higher Expectations for Racine County (Racine, WI), Learn to Earn Dayton (Dayton, OH), Northfield Promise (Northfield, MN), Promise Partnership of Salt Lake (Salt Lake City, UT) and Spartanburg Academic Movement (Spartanburg, SC). 

Through the StriveTogether’s Theory of Action™, communities complete an assessment of their civic infrastructure and progress toward aligning resources around better and more equitable outcomes for young people. The Systems Transformation designation is the top designation a community can reach as it advances through Exploring, Emerging, Sustaining, Systems Change and Systems Transformation designations.

The Systems Transformation designation, and the continued work in Bexar County, could not have been done without the hard work of the partners who have made actionable commitments to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan that are rooted in the equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

Team San Antonio partners appreciated the convening for providing “opportunities to learn more about youth development focused work and connect with others who are engaged in collective impact work,” said Richardson.

Contreras added that she was pleased with the “large number of trainings offered, which provided a variety of best practices from which to learn.”

Pompa looked forward to the convening and “meeting with, and learning from, people who are working toward similar advancements of opportunities and equity for young people.” Ultimately, “the convening was a joy to attend. I only wish there had been more days so that I could attend more sessions.”

While partners learned and celebrated accomplishments, UP Partnership staff shared insights, challenges and achievements of work being completed in San Antonio. Three additional sessions highlighted the work that is being done both internally, and through two of UP Partnership’s continuous improvement collaboratives that support and scale the commitment to young people in Bexar County. Those sessions included:

Fostering Organizational Change Through Communities of Practice,” led by Shelby Drayton, K12 and Youth Development’s Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation at UP Partnership and Dr. Miray Seward, PhD, Research Scientist at Search Institute. Participants learned about UP Partnership and Search Institute’s partnership within the Excel Academy to catalyze a youth-serving ecosystem that centers around developmental relationships, racial equity and the Results Count Framework to promote organizational change.
Internal Systems Transformation: HR, Finance and Development,” led by UP Partnership team members Kimberly Sama, Chief Finance and Operations Officer, J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations, Patrick Farris, Manager of Development and Grants, Brandon Henson, Director of Finance and Operations and Kristen Kitler, HR Manager of Team Success. Together, they created a unique space for backbone staff focused on internal organizational health to share best practices, tools, and resources. This session provided a foundation for relationship-building and collaborative internal systems design and operational experience-sharing, responding to universal challenges facing non-profit and collective impact organizations.
Journey Toward Equitable Enrollment in Bexar County,” led by UP Partnership team members Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., Director of K12 and Postsecondary, and Lowell Butler, Ed.D., K12 and Postsecondary Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation. They discussed the creation and evolution of the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative, which consists of 20 partner organizations representing K-12, higher education and nonprofit organizations, as it works to actively dissolve barriers in postsecondary enrollment for young people in Bexar County.