Honoring Native American Heritage, Culture and Accomplishments in November

Honoring Native American Heritage, Culture and Accomplishments in November

November 1 kicked off Native American Heritage month, a month not only to celebrate indigenous cultures and contributions, but to learn about the rich history of all American tribes. This month also honors the indigenous people’s ability to overcome the unique challenges they have faced over the years.

The Boy Scouts of America were the first to have a dedicated “First Americans” day at the behest of Dr. Arthur C. Parkers, Director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed a joint resolution that called for the month of November to be designated as “Native American Indian Heritage Month.” In 2008, the language of the resolution was amended to include Alaskan Natives.

As of 2021, there were 574 federally recognized Native American tribes and 6.79 million Native Americans with their own cultures, traditions and histories. The historically known narrative of Native Americans, however, has been largely told through a Western perspective, not a Native perspective. The month of November highlights the chance to learn from the stories of those who lived history; however, we have the chance to respect and learn throughout the entire year.

November also gives us the change to acknowledge the trauma indigenous nations have suffered — from colonization to genocide — and their continued struggles with stereotyping and cultural disrespect. By taking the time to learn from the offered stories and history of Native Americans, we can shift the narrative to a more historically accurate perspective that allows Native Americans to speak to their lived experiences.

Restorative justice originated from indigenous communities use of peacemaking circles to address and repair harm within a group. Restorative justice focuses on the harm done, restoring relationships, and building community. It can be used in a variety of settings, including schools. At UP Partnership, we highlight the importance of healing circles in our Restorative Practices Collaborative. Circles can provide a safe space for students that allows them to heal from experienced trauma, while fostering a community of support and understanding.

“While the language of restorative justice is contemporary, the [Indigenous] foundation of it is always seeking restoration and renewal to find the well-being of the community,” one partner recently explained in an interview. These circles make up a large part of the teachings from our partners such as American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial MissionsEmpower House, and IDRA and engagement within three school districts in Bexar County – JudsonHarlandale and San Antonio ISDs.

Restorative justice is just one way UP Partnership and its partners are implementing healing within Bexar County’s young people. Healing — along with Access and Voice — are the equity pillars that drive Future Ready Bexar County, a community wide plan that serves as UP Partnership’s strategic plan.

By having practices such as peacemaking circles that help young people recognize and talk out their issues, young people in Bexar County are receiving valuable conflict resolution tactics that increase healing. The work our partners do in restorative justice will be key as we collectively work toward the North Star goal of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan — to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School’s graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030.

UP Partnership’s Communications Council aims to share best practices and messaging across network institutions

UP Partnership's Communications Council aims to share best practices and messaging across network institutions

In April of this year, we launched the Future Ready Bexar County Plan which brings together nearly 70 institutions, across various sectors. Through institutional agreements, our community partners have committed themselves to working together in a collaborative effort to reach a collective North Star — to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030. Enrollment in Bexar County currently sits at around 50%.

In pursuit of that North Star, our partners have agreed to aligned communications celebrating the progress of the Future Ready Plan. Led by UP Partnership, partners will serve as media spokespersons and share the story of the Future Ready Plan through their own marketing channels. Through this Communications Council, we will share, in one voice, the narrative of healing, access, and voice as it connects back to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan and that collective North Star goal. We will collect and highlight stories of success as we look at the bigger picture of why the work that we and our community partners do is so important to ensuring a bright future for the young people of Bexar County.

With a newly designed Communications Council, we brought together leadership and communications experts from across the various sectors for an inaugural meeting that was held on Aug. 19, 2022.

During this virtual event, community partners came together to define the purpose of the Communications Council which is for its members to share best practices, stories of success, and new opportunities so that we can comprehensively share widely. We also discussed Future Ready Bexar County Plan messaging and how we can support and elevate each other as we do the important work necessary to reach our collective North Star goal.

The Communications Council will meet once again in early November in a quarterly cadence.

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 or donate to the work here.

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

Restorative Practices Collaborative held its Principal Kickoff for the 2022-2023 school year

Restorative Practices Collaborative holds its Principal Kickoff for the 2022-2023 school year

On Sept. 1, 2022, the Restorative Practices Collaborative held its Principal Kickoff for the 2022-2023 school year at the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Wells Center located in historic Pearl. We brought together principals and community partners including Judson ISD’s Chief of Equity and Diversity Dr. Paula Johnson and Dawn Kulpa, Director of Restorative Practices for San Antonio Independent School District.

Through a check in process, partners came to consensus that they hope to change systems to scale restorative practices in both classrooms and the community to increase a sense of belonging, which will help foster better practices in the classrooms and decrease unfair disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact young men of color through their efforts in the Restorative Practices Collaborative.

There are two components of the Restorative Practices Collaborative, the first of those being community building, through partnerships with organizations like American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AITSCM) and Empower House. Both organizations practice and teach community partners about restorative practices such as peace circles and peace corners and how to incorporate these best practices into their own organizations, including many campuses from the previously mentioned school districts.

Those campuses that have this knowledge can help further build campus capacity in these restorative practices, Ramon J. Vasquez, Jr., said, particularly within other schools in the participating school districts.

A major obstacle the Restorative Practices Collaborative sees is that not all schools within a district carry out restorative practices, which can particularly be challenging for students that are in participating alternative schools who gain some skills to help with the transition back to a home school, but may not necessarily be enough to ensure their success, Vasquez added in a conversation during the event on trying to engage entire school districts, rather than on an individual campus basis.

The second component is collaborative improvement which is led by the work that we do at UP Partnership as the collective’s backbone organization, which includes making space for these organizations to meet and further collaborate and holding partners accountable to the community framework laid out in the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. Through that plan, there is a keen focus on the equity pillars of healing, voice and access—the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people. Falling under the equity pillar of HEALING— Young people will be future ready when they all have the developmental relationships and healing they need— is the vital work of the Restorative Practices Collaborative.

Overall, this work feeds into the Future Ready North Star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030 (currently, this number sits at around 50%).

If your organization is ready to join the Future Ready movement or the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative, please contact admin@uppartnership.org 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.

UP Partnership executive chosen to be part of national leadership class by The Allstate Foundation

UP Partnership executive chosen to be part of national leadership class by The Allstate Foundation

UP’s Chief Impact and Strategy Officer, Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, is one of 35 leaders accepted nationally

UP Partnership’s Chief Impact and Strategy Officer, Emily Calderón Galdeano, Ed.D., will be a part of The Allstate Foundation’s Nonprofit Leadership Center Executive Leadership Program’s Class of 2023, a national leadership program aimed toward augmenting the skills of nonprofit leaders to further transform their organizations, their communities and the nonprofit sector.

Dr. Calderón Galdeano is one of the 35 leaders nationally selected to be a part of the highly selective program’s 2023 class. Leaders chosen represent a variety of nonprofit sectors roles, locations, experiences and perspectives. Dr. Calderón Galdeano is one of two nonprofit leaders from Texas that was chosen for the class.

Launched in 2014, the Executive Leadership Program is administered in partnership with the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School Center for Nonprofit Management. Through the program, academic practitioners provide in-person training to thought-leaders through classroom training, executive coaching and peer-to-peer training. Program participants build leadership skills including personal leadership, organizational leadership and nonprofit management.

In addition, the cohort will discuss different topics such as developing high-performing teams, negotiating for mutually beneficial outcomes, guiding difficult conversations and understanding a nonprofit’s financial position.

“I look forward to bringing back ways to further transform our community as we work toward our Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s collective North Star goal,” Dr. Calderón Galdeano, said. Through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, launched in April 2022, UP Partnership is working with a collection of partners, across varying sectors, in a collaborative effort to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030.

Annual Collaborative Social convenes partners from My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio and Diplomás networks to celebrate progress made in increasing equitable outcomes for students of color

Annual Collaborative Social convenes partners from My Brother's Keeper San Antonio and Diplomás networks to celebrate progress made in increasing equitable outcomes for students of color

In April, we launched the Future Ready Bexar County Plan which includes the collective North Star of increasing the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030. Currently, this number sits at around 50% in Bexar County.

The plan centers around three equity pillars — healing, access and voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

Specifically, institutions will assess and develop a strategic framework to align and improve goals, partnerships and strategies for postsecondary success with a focus on young people of color. Institutions have also agreed to revamp fund initiatives and policies to close disparities for students of color, track real time application and financial aid data to monitor current strategies and build a data infrastructure between secondary and postsecondary institutions for more efficient data sharing.

Rooted in the Future Ready Bexar County equity pillars of access and healing, the Equitable Enrollment and the Restorative Practices Collaboratives, two collaboratives that incorporate partners from My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) and Diplomás, respectively focus on ensuring the uptake of enrollment and students of color — especially young men of color and Dreamers—and instilling restorative practices such as peace circles and peace rooms to help diminish the school-to-prison pipeline in Bexar County.

On Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, we convened partners from these collaboratives for the annual Collaborative Social at Weathered Souls Brewing Co. where they were able to mingle, enjoy some great food and drinks, and learn more about My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Diplomás, and each other. We also honored our network chairs with a certificate of appreciation and a unique glass art piece from Garcia Art Glass.

UP Partnership extends its gratitude once again to those chairs: Rebecca Alejos-Sharadin, Dr. Edwin Barea-Rodriguez, Melissa Flores-Valencia, Dr. Abel Gonzales, John Martin, Kimberly Nanez, Elizabeth Ozuna, and Ramon D. Vasquez for their hard work and dedication in leading MBKSA and Diplomás work groups. We enjoyed sharing space and breaking bread with our community.

If your organization is ready to join the Future Ready movement or the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative, please contact admin@uppartnership.org 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.

Diplomás network has tangible impact on Latinx students in Bexar County

Diplomás network has tangible impact on Latinx students in Bexar County

Today we kickoff Hispanic Heritage Month—a month to appreciate and celebrate the culture, history and diversity of Latinx communities. Introduced in June 1968 by Congressman George E. Brown, the celebration was originally only one week long. It was extended to the now 30-day celebration by President Ronald Reagan and was formally adopted into law on Aug. 17, 1988.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year. While the Sept. 15 start day may seem odd, it is important and relevant considering Sept. 15 is the day of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico’s independence day on Sept. 16 and Chile’s independence day on Sept. 18. The month ends three days after Día de la Raza (“Race Day”), held Oct. 12, a prominent holiday celebration in many Latin countries that honors the rich history and culture of a pre-colonized America. 

As we begin this month of celebration of the Hispanic culture, we would be remiss to acknowledge the difficulties and disparities that continue to impact our Latinx communities.

At UP Partnership, our network, Diplomás, is a collective impact effort that unites 23 cross-sector partners to increase the college attainment and quality of life of San Antonio’s Latinx youth

Diplomás’s core beliefs center around economic viability as it ties to the success of Latinx students, college access for everyone and shared responsibility between community partners in student success. Therefore, at UP Partnership, we  focus on creating alignment between community partners, streamlining college admissions resources and supporting Dreamers in getting into, and completing, college. 

Providing ACCESS to postsecondary opportunity is the foundation of Diplomás, and is one of the three equity pillars, along with HEALING and VOICE, that our recently  launched Future Ready Bexar County Plan is rooted in. Those equity pillars have been identified as the must HAVES for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.  As we work toward our collective North Star goal, to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030, the work that Diplomás does is integral to reaching our goal. This work will take every member of our community, working together, to ensure the success of young people through the Future Ready Plan.

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 or donate to the work here.

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

Walking with a Future Ready Coach

Walking with a Future Ready Leadership Coach

UP Partnership's CEO discusses the benefits of coaching sessions to support organizations with Future Ready action commitments

There is a large, framed photograph in my family’s home that I absolutely love. It was taken years ago by a friend of mine while walking through a forest. The picture shows sunlight arriving at the forest’s edge, breaking through a thick collection of trees.

When looking at the photo, you can see yourself as the walker, as someone who pressed on even when light was hard to find, knowing it would appear again if only you kept advancing.

Similarly, leadership, almost by definition, requires walking into the unknown. To discover new possibilities, all leaders must enter the forest. They must leave behind the safety of the meadow, stepping beyond comfort zones to emerge on new ground.

At its core, coaching gives leaders someone to walk besides them to stay on course, especially when the woods grow increasingly dense.

However, it is key to not get stuck in the darkness.

This is why UP Partnership has trained several leaders in our organization as leadership coaches and started to provide coaching supports to our partners. It is also why we are offering coaching to institutions that have signed onto the Future Ready Bexar County plan, partners who are working together to make sure all young people are ready for the future. This offering is for executives, senior leaders and/or leadership teams.

UP Partnership is offering three free sessions per organization to support your organization with your Future Ready action commitments. Your designated leader or team could begin either this Fall or in the Spring. Sessions will focus on: individual leadership growth, strengthening team relationships, working together across departments, strategic planning, operational planning and/or organizational development. If this offering would be helpful, fill out this form to express your interest. Importantly, we will continue to offer coaching for youth development professionals through Excel Academy, which helps them to strengthen their program quality.

By creating space for intentional reflection, coaching helps leaders to navigate the unknown conditions around them as well as the many unknowns within themselves. It can help you to spot pitfalls, recognize patterns, understand biases, and integrate relevant feedback. Without this awareness, these are all forces that can keep you walking in circles for years.

At its core, coaching gives leaders someone to walk besides them to stay on course, especially when the woods grow increasingly dense. A great coach is a partner that helps leaders to step towards the forest’s edge; provoking new awareness until the light starts to shine through.

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Ph.D.
CEO of UP Partnership

Local nonprofits looking for high school-aged artists to submit artwork for an upcoming exhibit

Local nonprofits looking for high school-aged artists to submit artwork for an upcoming exhibit

SAY Sí and UP Partnership aim to showcase young artists’ during the WE ARE NOW 2022 exhibit in December

San Antonio, Texas (August 24, 2022): SAY Sí and UP Partnership’s network, Our Tomorrow, invite diverse young artists from local high schools grades 9-12 to submit artwork to be considered for a curated hybrid art exhibition now through Sept. 30. Art mediums accepted can range from items such as photography, painting, illustration, video, to poetry, performance and others.

Once all submissions are received, a committee of professional judges will review each piece and make decisions on what will be used for the exhibit. Final selections will be announced by November 2022.

Artists chosen will be featured at the WE ARE NOW 2022 art exhibit that will be held at SAY Sí’s headquarters at 1310 S. Brazos St. on Dec. 10, 2022.

Artists are encouraged to explore the following themes:
Self-Discovery: Since 2020, we’ve experienced so many changes. In the last couple of years, What have you uncovered about yourself or your perspective on the world around you? Consider how the changes around you have developed new views in your life: new perspectives on mental health, social injustices, cultural understanding, and more. Let your artwork be a reflection of yourself, who you are and what you believe in.

Social Activism: While youth around the world face socioeconomic, political and cultural struggles, how can artistic expressions explore some of the most relevant social justice issues of today? From COVID-19 casualties, gun violence, school shootings, police brutality, reproductive rights, and racial discrimination to financial loss, mental wellness and social unrest, youth have raised their voice to empower themselves and others through resilience, creativity and community.

About SAY Sí: SAY Sí is a national award-winning year-round, long-term, nonprofit arts-based youth development program for San Antonio area students in grades 6-12 that provides opportunities for these students to develop artistic and social skills in preparation for higher educational advancement and professional careers. SAY Sí programs serve over 200 students from all of San Antonio’s school districts – in addition to serving 3,000 youth in community programs. SAY Sí accepts diverse students from all areas of San Antonio, but first priority is given to students from inner-city schools and low economic households. SAY Sí’s unique approach to education has placed the organization on the national stage, with recognition as one of the top out-of-school-time organizations in the country by The Wallace Foundation on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. More recently, SAY Sí was one of seven international youth arts organizations chosen to receive an inaugural Creative Catalyst Award by Adobe Project 1324 on Tuesday, February 8, 2016. Creative Catalyst Awards are given to organizations across the globe that support and inspire the next generation of creatives. For more information, visit www.saysi.org.

About UP Partnership:
Founded in 2009, UP Partnership is a San Antonio-based nonprofit that convenes partners in Bexar County that provide healing, access, and voice to local youth to create equitable systems and ensure that all young people in the county are ready for the future. UP Partnership believes that making sure all of our young people are future ready is our entire community’s responsibility. This mission is ambitious, challenging— and achievable — if we organize our efforts. UP Partnership drives a countywide strategy through collaboration, data sharing and advocacy. Its work is conducted through collaborative efforts with its partners that focus on education and youth development initiatives through its networks of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Diplomás, Excel Beyond the Bell and Our Tomorrow.

Envisioning a Future Ready Community: 3 pillars that guide our plan

Envisioning a Future Ready Community: 3 pillars that guide our plan

It is the responsibility of everybody in the community to ensure that all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future. Through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, UP Partnership will work with a collection 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.

This is, without a doubt, an ambitious undertaking, but we also know that the framework of the Future Ready Bexar County plan will support and facilitate the differences required to attain that North Star. The plan is centered around three equity pillars — healing, access and voice, the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people. Throughout this article, we will address how each of these pillars will ensure that young people in Bexar County are future ready.

Pillar One: Healing — Young people will be future ready when they all have the developmental relationships and healing supports they need. By focusing on healing traumas and fostering positive relationships with adults, we will increase high school completion and participation in programs outside of school, while also reducing suspensions, expulsions and juvenile court appearances.

Pillar Two: Access — Young people will be future ready when they can all access high quality education and career opportunities. By ensuring young people have crucial resources and support, we will increase postsecondary enrollment and success, as well as access to key technology needed for success.

Pillar Three: Voice — Young people will be future ready when their voices are heard and their leadership potential is nurtured. By uplifting the voices of young people, we will give young people ownership of problem solving and policy making at the tables addressing the very issues that they face.

We are all in this together. It will take every member of our community, working together, to ensure the success of young people through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, and this list continues to grow with more and more partners signing up to be institutional agreement partners to the plan.

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 or donate to the work here.

Follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media @UPPartnershipSA.

Leaping Forward Together: Reflecting on Seven Years of Partnership

Leaping Forward Together: Reflecting on Seven Years of Partnership

My family and I made the leap to San Antonio seven years ago this July. We wanted to be closer to our parents and we wanted our parents to be involved in our children’s lives. We were also excited to escape Chicago winters, even knowing we were trading them for the unrelenting heat of Texas summers.

This was a leap that led to many others. 

I was fortunate to get a job supporting Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio. Two years into that work I took on the executive role with UP Partnership, known at the time as the  P16Plus Council. We then merged Excel Beyond the Bell and UP in service of making San Antonio the “top city in the country for youth to learn, grow, and thrive.” 

These roles connected me to collective impact – the art and science of working across institutions to solve big population level problems, such as educational equity. Collective impact quickly became my professional home. It gave me a way to combine my commitment to young people and my passion for urban planning, largely by building new structures for focused partnerships. 

I love how collective impact constantly draws us into the unknown, calling us forth into new possibilities. It helps us to see that there is an infinite pool of solutions waiting to take shape: Connections that need to be built. Agreements waiting to be formed. Collaborations ready to take root. And so many of these possibilities require enhanced versions of ourselves, new ways of showing up in the work.

Throughout these years, I’ve had the great fortune of working with more than two dozen staff and hundreds of passionate volunteers. Together, as one friend said, “we have thinned the walls that separate our institutions.” We have built a growing community movement by embracing emergence at each step of the way. 

While some benefits of this movement are intangible, many of the results are concrete. 

Through the leadership of Diplomás, we’ve built breakthrough training resources and large-scale convenings for educators. Through My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, the Restorative Practices Collaborative has scaled restorative justice tools such as peace circles and corners, reducing several school districts’ reliance on punitive discipline. Through Excel Beyond the Bell, youth serving agencies have gained unprecedented access to program data and Excel Academy has helped dozens of agencies build higher quality relationships with those they serve, a key to strong program outcomes. 

Working alongside many other contributors, our collective has helped the larger San Antonio community to deepen its commitment to racial equity. We were among the first communities in the country to commit to an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, we have set a shared North Star of attaining 70% postsecondary enrollment for our high school graduates by 2030, a goal that will help to uproot longstanding racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic disparities.

Together we’ve helped bring tens of millions of new dollars to the table to support young people. This has happened through: multi-million dollar increases in how the city funds youth violence prevention, a dedicated $10 million youth recovery fund through ARPA, $4 million in new community grants we’ve facilitated through Blue Meridian Partners, and $14 million in gifts we’ve helped shape through the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity in partnership with the San Antonio Area Foundation and the United Way. 

Importantly, we haven’t settled for just using our own voices. We have prepared young people for future waves of advocacy. This was initially accomplished by revitalizing the San Antonio Youth Commission and more recently through youth-led research, policy training, grantmaking, and storytelling in conjunction with partners such as SAY Sí.

Collectively, we have treated the unknown as a stepping stone to discovering what’s possible. As a result, we have found new ways of leading together, built a movement that is now more unified than ever, and many of us have made close new friendships along the way. 

The next phase of our work will be anchored by the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, which supports our new bold North Star goal. This plan is backed by nearly seventy institutions, including local government departments, school districts, universities, non profits, and funders. These partners have all made explicit commitments to scaling Healing instead of punishment, Access instead of disconnection, and Voice instead of isolation, the must HAVEs for our young people to shine.  

Today, so many leaps later, I am proud to walk alongside so many of you brilliant community champions. Thank you all for your dedication to this work and for allowing UP Partnership and myself to support along the way. I am excited to continue leaping forward together and, in so doing, breaking down the walls that separate us.

In very serious cahoots,

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon