UP Partnership and San Antonio Area Foundation announce youth leadership development grantees and artist fellowship grantees

UP Partnership and San Antonio Area Foundation announce youth leadership development grantees and artist fellowship grantees

Uplifting San Antonio’s youth takes a village. So together, with the San Antonio Area Foundation, UP Partnership is investing $500,000 in non-profit organizations who are amplifying youth voices through its first-ever Youth Leadership Development grants and Artist Fellowship grants.

Twelve youth-serving community nonprofit organizations were selected for first-ever Youth Leadership Development grants, and four community nonprofit organizations were selected for the Artist Fellowship grants. These grants are part of a large-scale $8 million effort to ensure that young people in Bexar County are future-ready.

These non-profits were selected for the critical work they do to support and uplift young people in Bexar County. Four were selected for their focus on the arts.

Below is a list of these organizations and highlights of the work they do with Bexar County young people.

Youth Leadership Development Grantees

Who they serve: Girls and young women of color
What they do: Empowering and engaging young women of color to help them achieve their highest potential through intentional engagement activities. These activities include civic and public service; mentorship; and community outreach and volunteerism. Additionally, several women serve as empowerment leaders over seven “Empowerment Circles” in the program to move younger women on Leadership Development. The circles include: Boss Up, Mirrors and Windows, Heart to Heart, Nonprofit Connections, My Sister’s Keeper, and Senior Round Up.

Who they serve: Youth in the Southside of San Antonio
What they do: This local San Antonio chapter of Boy With a Ball uses its after-school program, Velocity Cross Age Mentoring Program, to recruit and train high-school students to mentor middle-school mentees. In an effort to break the mold of generational poverty, mentors also have access to community volunteers who coach them in practical needs such as college-readiness, job training and other life skills. These high school-aged students also spend 6 weeks in the summer designing and executing a weeklong summer camp for younger students in low-income government housing units on the city’s South side

Who they serve: Women and other minority and underserved students
What they do: With a focus on developing women and other minority and underserved students, the Dee Howard Foundation exists to build on the legacy of Dee Howard, a pioneer in the aviation industry and an inventor. The foundation has several principal initiatives, including the San Antonio Aviation and Aerospace Hall of Fame Annual Awards Dinner, the Pre-K through 12 Aeronautical STEM Pathway Initiative, the DHF/UTSA Annual Student Art Contest, and the UTSA Aerospace Engineering Initiative. As part of the Pre-K through 12 programming, the foundation also partners with the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA).

Who they serve: High school students
What they do: Culturingua provides high school students a platform to work with a team of peers from around the world, find & use their voice to create a solution for a global issue that they are passionate about. The issues they choose are tied to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students present their solutions to the San Antonio entrepreneurship community in partnership with LaunchSA. This program supports social emotional learning competencies such as self-awareness through recognition of passion, self-management by showing collective agency to make decisions on a global challenge, relationship skills by establishing healthy ones with their peers, and responsible decision-making.

Who they serve: K-12 students
What they do: SAMSAT exists to inspire innovation through STEM programming, education and training. Together with Communities in Schools (CIS) of San Antonio and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, SAMSAT founded and runs “SA Smart: The Mayor’s K-12 Smart City Challenge,” an annual competition that positions students as scientific, civic and business leaders by having them address challenges that face San Antonio between now and 2040, as seen in the SA Tomorrow plan. Students form teams, identify localized examples of problems, conduct research, and deliver persuasive proposals. In the process, students learn interdisciplinary skills in problem solving and innovation, and they learn not to accept the world as it is, but to work to change the world on their terms.

Who they serve: K-12 students
What they do:
The Guadalupe Community Center’s After-School Program (ASP) provides free tutoring, extracurricular activities and fresh meals to promote young people’s education and character development. Throughout the year, ASP delivers 40 workshops that encourage leadership through character-building activities and lesson plans. These lessons involve an activity, short video, round table discussion, and end with a short quiz to measure retention of key points in the lesson. Lessons cover a range of topics such as mental health, college interest, leadership and social justice.

Who they serve: Students
What they do: Communities In Schools of San Antonio takes the resources students need into classrooms. Being rooted in the power of relationships, CIS has invested in training its staff on Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework. One element from the Framework that staff is trained to implement intentionally and inclusively with students is “Sharing Power.” In practice, sharing power might manifest as CIS-SA Site Coordinators incorporating student voice as they plan group activities, community service projects, and school-wide services. Some CIS-SA programs have youth leadership components explicitly built-in.

Who they serve: The San Antonio community, with a focus on youth development
What they do:
As part of the YMCA’s Y Teen Achievers, participants in the Youth in Government program have the opportunity to discover how the government functions including understanding the context while analyzing its response to current issues. By taking on the roles of attorneys and civic leaders, participants in the YG program benefit from knowledge gained and enhanced confidence, further boosting their development as individuals and leaders. The YMCA uses youth voice through its assessments on food insecurity, social-emotional well-being, and supportive relationships.

Who they serve: Youth, individuals and families
What they do: Good Samaritan’s Youth Advisory Committee is student-led, with annual elections with 1-year terms for President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Historian. The committee provides youth between the ages of 13 and 17 a vehicle to build a sense of purpose, explore their interests, and find their voice. The committee participates in service projects and is an essential voice in organizational decisions.

Who they serve: Girls and young women
What they do:
Through the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, South Texas girls develop their character and self-reliance through organized leadership development activities. Through structured programs and positive adult guidance, girls develop a sense of responsibility while gaining an understanding of themselves and their potential. The Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) is girl-led across all levels of participation and empowers girls to discover her own world as she develops a strong sense of self and strengthens her values; connect with others in the community as she forms caring relationships and embraces diversity; and take action as she identifies and solves problems.

Who they serve: Girls and young women
What they do: Youth voice exists in every program at Girls Inc. to ensure girls can lead and be agents of change within their community. The organization’s work with UP Partnership and Our Tomorrow allows girls in Girls Inc. programs such as Mentors Valuing Peers (MVP) and Eureka! to plan and participate in the annual Youth Voice Summit to strengthen their voices, practice their leadership and decision-making skills.

Who they serve: Young women
What they do:
YWCA San Antonio has engaged Youth in its Teen Service Learning (TSL) and Mi Carrera programs in leadership and decision-making within the organization. Annually, TSL youth plan events related to MLK Day, including Pajama Jam, a youth Friday night “lock-in” in which teens listen to music, engage in readings about racial justice, and create signs and banners for the MLK March.

Art Fellowship Grantees

Who they serve: Students
What they do: A Monument for the People is a participatory art project that works with students to reimagine what monuments are and who they are for in our community. CAST began this project in fall 2020, with students from across our five CAST Schools. Through a series of artist-led workshops, students will engage in facilitated discussion exploring the history of monuments in San Antonio and then have the opportunity to create their own monuments for people who have most impacted their lives. The project also amplifies our youth mentoring by supporting the leadership development of the young artists and peer mentors to facilitate workshops with younger students.

Who they serve: Students at Each Central High School
What they do:
This artist project, “Health and Harmony” will engage students at East Central High School who are identified by the school guidance counselors as students who could use a mentor, benefit from a special connection with a young musician, use a friend and role model, or benefit from learning to play a musical instrument. Three artist fellows, proficient in violin, cello, string bass, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, drums or keyboard will provide musical instruction and mentorship. Loaned instruments will be provided by the center. Students will be allowed to take these instruments home to play and enjoy.

Who they serve: Students at Each Central High School
What they do: The Guadalupe Community Center arts project will consist of a series of technical workshops that will introduce youth to different art techniques, history and their respective practical uses. The goal of each exercise will allow youth to use their new skills creatively and in the workforce or as an artist-entrepreneur. In addition to gaining new artistic skills, participants will inherently practice and develop other skills, including communication, critical thinking, teamwork, work ethic, and leadership. Each technical workshop in the series will be completed in one to two weeks, with students meeting three days a week for three hours per day.

Who they serve: Students
What they do:
The Artist Fellowship will reach Margil, Barkley-Ruiz, J.T. Brackenridge, De Zavala and Tafolla students in the proposed Youth Leadership ABC program. Up to 50 youth in the program’s first year will participate in weekly after-school workshops led by the Fellowship artists. Students in the fall program held September-October 2021 will experience consistent mentorship with the artists, engaging in workshops centered on youth voice and hands-on learning. Through each artist’s unique style and perspective, youth will be immersed in skills and community-building that encourages them to explore their own talents, work and learn alongside professional artists, and see themselves as creative leaders.

—Paulina Sosa

Restorative Practice Collaborative plans next steps for Peace Room implementation in the 2021-2022 school year

Restorative Practice Collaborative plans next steps for Peace Room implementation in the 2021-2022 school year

The members of the Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC) recently participated in an UMOJA planning session, collaborated on next steps, and reflected on the impact of COVID-19 in their schools—ultimately planning the best next steps to implement restorative practices into their schools for the 2021-2022 school year. The collaborative is an extension of the My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) network and is facilitated by UP Partnership’s Community Learning department.

UMOJA, a longtime training partner, led the discussions for high school and elementary school campus leaders to plan for the implementation of restorative practices in the upcoming academic year.

Why is this important?
RPC and its 160 partners, including three Bexar County school districts (San Antonio ISD, Judson ISD and Harlandale ISD), Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center, Martinez Street Women’s Center, American Indians in Texas, and Intercultural Development Research Association are focused on integrating restorative practices into their institutions and throughout the community, changing the narrative that punitive practices should take the place of healing and restoration.

This community-wide commitment to restorative justice is part of UP Partnership’s goal of moving from “punishment to healing,” one of the core equity pillars of the Citywide Planning for a Future Ready Bexar County process.

Throughout the year, UP Partnership will be featuring various elements of restorative practices, what they are, and the changes they can make.

What are peace circles?

Peace Circles are just one method used in the implementation of restorative practices, but have proven to be powerful. To understand how peace circles lead to restorative justice, we need to understand what they are. According to UMOJA, a training, facilitation, and implementation partner, the purpose of a peace circle is to “bring together students who have had conflict in order to discuss what happened, identify feelings and needs moving forward, share how conflict has impacted individuals [and the] community, and create steps to repair harm.”

  • Peace circles typically have these elements:
    • A talking piece, which allows for deeper communication and expression
    • Elements of modern peacemaking and consensus building processes to heal
    • And are based on traditions of indigenous people in North America
  • Peace circles involve four stages of student engagement:
    • Acceptance
    • Preparation
    • Gathering
    • Follow-up

What’s next
In addition to work around postsecondary access and youth voice, UP Partnership is facilitating conversations with restorative justice partners across Bexar County. Within the next couple of months, school districts and community organizations will also begin creating space at their institutions called Peace Rooms for the 2021-2022 school year. To learn more about restorative justice practices, please also reference the Alternative Discipline Guide, developed by the MBKSA network.

– By Paulina Sosa

Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power focuses on research, policy and funding this summer

Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power focuses on research, policy and funding this summer

When young people develop their leadership skills, they are empowered to make their voices heard.

Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power 2021, a three-track leadership skill-building series for young people ages 14-19, takes the concept of youth empowerment to the next level by establishing programs based on the key principles of research, policy and funding.

Our Tomorrow leaders began a Youth Participatory Action Research in June with 10 participants leading a research project on summer melt, defined as when high school seniors are accepted into college and do not enroll.

In July, Our Tomorrow will host its annual Policy Institute with an expected 50 participants spending a week learning about policy, advocacy, data and other ways to use their voice.

At the same time, Our Tomorrow is working with the San Antonio Area Foundation to start a Youth Grants Committee, an opportunity for young people who are interested in philanthropy and aligning investments into youth-serving organizations and programs.

Why is this important?
As UP Partnership progresses through its Citywide Planning for a Future Ready Bexar County process, keeping youth voice at the center is priority.

“We are creating spaces and platforms to help build on the voices and power young people already have,” said Leroy Adams, UP Partnership’s Senior Manager of Youth Voice.

Finally, the Youth Grants Committee’s focus will help young people be part of the funding alignment process, ensuring that youth voices are heard.

Digging Deeper
Though Our Tomorrow’s 2021 opportunities each have a unique focus—all center on ensuring young people have a voice in the decisions that will affect them well into their future. Here’s a deeper look at each of the programs and how they tie into UP Partnership’s overarching mission:

  • Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR)
    This research program gives 10 juniors and seniors from across Bexar County the opportunity to work with Dr. Van Lac, a YPAR scholar. These students will be trained and supported as they focus on research around the phenomenon of “summer melt.” Their findings will be recorded in a best practice guide and results recording that will both be shared with UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative in the fall. EEC participants will use these tools to guide their enrollment strategies. 
  • Policy Institute
    The 2021 Policy Institute, which is in its third year, allows young people and community leaders to engage on a deeper level to make a tangible impact in local politics.
    The Policy Institute will be held July 19-24 and focuses on policy, advocacy and data.
  • Youth Grant Committee (YGC)
    This initiative will offer high school students the opportunity to turn their ideas into action by determining how $40,000 in grants will be distributed. Working alongside leaders from the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFDN), students will receive training in philanthropy, reviewing grant applications, and consensus decision making.

What’s next
Our Tomorrow youth leaders are also part of new arts-centered initiatives, including a newly-launched podcast called Youth Voices and a student-led art exhibit in the fall called “WE ARE NOW”—both done in collaboration with Say Sí.

– By Paulina Sosa

Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio partners reconnect in person at the network’s annual summit

Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio partners reconnect in person at the network’s annual summit

The weather may have been a little muggy, but the atmosphere was a breath of fresh air at the May 26 Excel Beyond the Bell (EBBSA) annual summit. Held at the Good Samaritan Center, the summit allowed EBBSA partners to gather, talk, laugh, and participate in team building activities. It was a sight not seen since early 2020.

With more than 80 partners in attendance, the event was UP Partnership’s first in-person event since the start of the pandemic.

EBBSA partners expressed a deep desire for reconnecting after experiencing more than a year of disconnection with their colleagues, partners and friends. So, the EBBSA Training and Capacity work group decided it was time to come together again.

The Big Picture: EBBSA is an UP Partnership professional network of youth development organizations working in partnership with local school districts to make San Antonio a place where all young people have access to the tools and relationships they need to succeed. Through the power of data sharing, collaboration, and advocacy the network supports the expansion of youth development programs and access.
The annual brings together its 45 youth development partners to celebrate the wins of the previous year and build relationships to further their mutual goal in strengthening youth development.

From the Field: Partners in attendance ranged from community leaders and youth-serving organizations to educational institutions and youth development programs.

  • Partners gathered together to reconnect and engage in development activities. Many attendees shared that “the opportunity to participate and collaborate together in team activities was a breath of fresh air.”
  • Using Open Space structure, attendees brainstormed ideas, helped each other by sharing best practices, strategized, and connected on a deeper level.
  • This year’s summit also marked the launch of the Excel Academy’s 2021 cohort applications. The Excel Academy focuses on professional development using the Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships framework.

“The Developmental Relationships framework is critical to the work youth development professionals provide to young people. One activity we used at the summit called concentric circles was a way to bring people closer by sharing thoughts and values with each other from philosophical questions that were asked. Many emotions were experienced as I watched people interact: Crying, laughter, joy.”

-liz moseley

Senior Manager of Community Learning

What’s next: As we collectively transition into an “in-person” world again, the EBBSA Annual Summit set a powerful precedent for in-person events in UP Partnership’s near future. The power of collaboration, relationship, and connectivity were on full display at the summit and the partnership looks forward to slowly moving towards having more of these events in the coming months.

Excel Academy Cohort 2 applications are open between June 1 – July 29 to any EBBSA network partner. In August 2021, 15 agencies will be announced for the second cohort.

Learn more about the Developmental Relationships Framework
Learn more about Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio

excel beyond the bell logo

UP Partnership’s Executive Director uses poetry to highlight the need for hope and collaboration to ensure a Future Ready Bexar County

UP Partnership's Executive Director uses poetry to highlight the need for hope and collaboration to ensure a Future Ready Bexar County


Through the power of art and poetry, UP Partnership Executive Director Ryan Lugalia-Hollon has released a series of poems to provide a passionate view of hope and collaboration. Feeding Patterns, Bright Lights, and Unlocking Our Potential bring to life UP Partnership’s core pillars of Isolation to Voice, Punishment to Healing and Disconnection to Access.

They do this by bringing attention to the need for young people’s voices to be heard, funding to be appropriately allocated for healing and access, and to ensure pathways are built to ensure success for Bexar County youth.

  • Poem 1: Feeding Patterns is more than just a poem that highlights the worries inflicted on children through disrupted class, paused friendships, and lost learning, but about the empowerment of our youth to guide them to their next school in life- as they step into the future where they were meant to thrive. This poem celebrates the power of unity in helping our young people navigate and walk through the “pitfalls and pandemic” of today into the future and success they deserve.
  • Poem 3: Unlocking Our Potential is a poem that highlights the power of partnership, the cornerstone for UP Partnership. “By linking our leadership, we help each student find their best…”- the poem celebrates the power of coming together in Bexar County to ensure that healing, access, and empowerment for all students in the county. This poem is truly a call to action for organizations, leaders, and the community to work together to create a better future for our youth.
  • Poem 2: Bright Stars is a poem that celebrates the brave souls and nurtured minds of the youth in Texas, bringing to light the importance of ensuring funding is allocated to the equitable solutions and interventions in our county’s schools. The youth of Texas will “shine more than we ever dreamed” paving the way for the“ Texas of tomorrow”. This poem shines a light of hope.

Teens and adults come together to address mental health at the 2021 Youth Voice Summit

Teens and adults come together to address mental health at the 2021 Youth Voice Summit

Our Tomorrow network uses event to facilitate conversations between young people and adults to address mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 6, 2021
Contact: Paulina Sosa


San Antonio, Texas – On Saturday, April 10, community leaders and teens will come together for the Our Tomorrow Youth Voice Summit with the 2021 theme Mental Wellness: Moving Past the Stigma and into Wellness.

The third annual summit will be held virtually and was planned by young people and adults to tackle the challenges teens are facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health challenges are at the forefront for many young people who have endured extended school closures, lost learning, and myriad COVID-19 uncertainties. Additionally, with February’s Texas winter storm adding a layer of trauma, the summit is being held at a time of critical need for young people, who chose this year’s summit theme.

“With both COVID-19 and the winter storm, many of my friends and I have been struggling and craving a space to connect and talk about these issues. The Youth Voice Summit is doing that for us,” said Breanna Jimenez, a freshman at East Central High School.

Our Tomorrow is one of four networks at UP Partnership, and brings together 14-19-year-olds and community partners like school districts (East Central ISD and Southwest ISD), youth-serving organizations (Boys and Girls Club and San Antonio Youth Council), and universities (UTSA) to advocate for change in policies that affect young people. The coalition’s work focuses on data, policy and arts & media.

“It’s been so motivating to see youth and community partners come together to collectively plan this year’s Summit. At the core, planning has been relationship building — strengthening bonds and building new bridges for collaboration. This event is the epitome of what UP Partnership stands for — making change together,” said Leroy Adams, UP Partnership Youth Voice Manager.

The event will feature a welcome from Mayor Ron Nirenberg, community leaders discussing mental health topics, and a cross-cultural dialogue on mental health with guests from Pakistan and Sierra Leone, among other topics.

“Being part of Our Tomorrow has been a privilege because as a coalition, we can do more and make a greater impact in our community,” said Patricia Reyes, Business and Community Outreach Facilitator at East Central ISD and co-chair of the Our Tomorrow arts & media work group.

The Our Tomorrow Youth Voice Summit will be held on Zoom from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. on April 10. Young people, ages 14-19 can register at bit.ly/YouthVoiceSummit.

Learn more about Our Tomorrow
Learn more about UP Partnership
Watch a conversation about the Youth Voice Summit

our tomorrow logo supply education resources for young people