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.

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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