Future Ready partners guide local high school juniors and seniors with options for their post-high school success

Future Ready partners guide local high school juniors and seniors with options for their post-high school success

On Jan. 19 and 26, partners in UP Partnership’s system’s change networks Diplomás, Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio and My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, in collaboration with Workforce Solutions Alamo, hosted the annual Future Ready Youth Summit which brought together approximately 800 high school students from CAST Schools, Edgewood, East Central, Harlandale, Judson, Northside, San Antonio, Southwest and Lytle Independent School Districts at Northeast Lakeview College. Programming at the summit provided college and career planning guidance to students in attendance.

Future Ready Partners from local school districts, colleges and universities and youth development organizations came together to co-create and facilitate the summit’s programming, which included career and degree pathways, college 101 and financial aid guidance.

With a diverse student population in attendance, many had some idea of what careers they wanted to pursue and the dream colleges they wanted to attend. Some professions mentioned by students in attendance included business, book editor, construction, mechanic, medicine, plumbing steganography, teaching and video game design.

According to student interviews, attendees had college and university aspirations that varied from in-state institutions such as the University of Texas at San Antonio, to out-of-state institutions, and even international elite schools such as Oxford University in England, according to young people interviewed at the event.

Some attendees didn’t yet have any college or career plans after graduation. For one student, they didn’t feel future ready “when I go outside my family and home.” For another, they felt like they are “walking alone in trying to figure out a plan for after high school graduation and the person [they] want to be in the future.”

Still others accredited not being ready for life beyond high school to their lack of general knowledge like how to get a credit and/or debit card, how to prepare for college, the possible financial burden of student loans or not having enough details about career pathways.

Career and Degree Pathway sessions offered insights about career possibilities, degree options, setting career goals, internships, paid work experiences, apprenticeships, diversity and cultural differences in career choices and the importance of professional networking.

“I learned that the highest paying jobs are currently those in the engineering field,” said one high school junior. “The presenter also spoke about his own personal experience with trade schools which made me realize that there are other educational options I can explore aside from only attending a college or university.”

College 101 explored college course opportunities, which included topics such as degree plans, general courses, major and minor selection, electives and course load; college beyond the classroom, which included information on activities such as student government, community activities, club, societies, extracurriculars, greek life and studying abroad; as well as information on funding a college degree, which included topics such as scholarships, loans, grants and general financial literacy.

“In College 101, I learned about all the possible degree pathways and all of the extracurricular activities that are offered,” one junior said. “I didn’t know that you could take college courses for fun.”

For one senior, learning about the opportunity to study abroad was exciting. “I didn’t know that colleges offered students the chance to study in another country,” he said. “That is definitely something that I am interested in exploring when I go to college.”

For other seniors, the importance of time management and making a sustainable schedule was an important insight they gained. As one explained, “College is very different from high school. You get to make your own schedule, choose what classes you are going to take, and it is important to think about time management as well.”

Other students took away different lessons from the summit.

“I learned that it is important to focus on yourself first- I need to know what career I want to pursue and the best postsecondary options to reach that goal,” explained one junior..

For another junior “ I still have time to figure out the best college or university that fits into my needs. I don’t need to rush into any decisions right now.”

One major insight for a senior was the importance of having a mentor. “For me, having a mentor who can help guide me through this process is extremely helpful,” they said. “That way, if there is something I don’t know or understand, I will have someone who can help me.”

In addition to sessions they attended, the students listened to inspiring stories from Keynote Speakers that included San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg; Dr. Tangila Dove, Northeast Lakeview College’s Vice President of Student Success; Warren Hurd, Northeast Lakeview College’s Vice President of College Services; Gable Crowder, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas’ Director of Community Engagement; Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, UP Partnership’s CEO; and Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, UP Partnership’s Chief Impact and Strategy Officer.

Providing access to information and resources about college readiness, the college admissions process and career pathways, aligns with the Access pillar of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. This community-wide plan brings together more than 90 cross-sector partners working toward the plan’s 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. It focuses on three equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

A BIG thank you to everyone that made the Future Ready Youth Summit a success:
Alamo Colleges District: Dr. Christina Cortez, Bridgedette Garza and Miriam Magdaleno; American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions: Viviana Gorena Guillen and Robert Bruce Prior; Bexar County: Amy Halstead; Communities In Schools of San Antonio: Darla-Nicole Acosta; Girls Inc. of San Antonio: Tyla Oliver and Karina Ortiz; Good Samaritan Community Services: Patrice Owens; Northeast Lakeview College: Rebecca Alejos; SEE to ACT: Hayden de Maisoneuve Yates and Donna Hunnicutt-Rodriguez; San Antonio College: Dr. Samuel Byndom and Bertha Castellanos; San Antonio Education Partnership: Salvador Acosta and Aliaha Austin-Holmes; San Antonio ISD: Andrew Cervantes, Dustin Nieto and Dr. Jessica Perales; Texas A&M University San Antonio: Alissa Meyer; Trinity University: Nicole Fratto Garcia; Trinity Advising Corps: Eduardo Reyes Acosta, Joshua Anaya Karina Calderon and Fatima Perez; University of Texas at San Antonio: Nallely Castillo, Taylor Cole, Victoria Gorena, Maricela Luevano, Victoria Margo, Mike Rubio and Chanell Williams; University of the Incarnate Word: Jessica de La Rosa and Dr. Diana Sanchez; Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA): Sandra Rodriguez, as well as WSA’s Hire Ability and YES! Program; and YWCA San Antonio: Crystal Ellis and Abigail Teveni, as well as representatives from: Bexar County Sheriff Department; BiblioTech; Big Brothers and Big Sisters of South Texas; Boy With A Ball; Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas; DreamSA; The Dream.US; greater:SATX; Northwest Vista College; Our Lady of the Lake University; Palo Alto College; St. Philip’s College; Southwest Research Institute; Students of Service – San Antonio.

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, click here 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.

Bexar County Network Receives National Recognition for Advancing Education Initiatives for Young People


Bexar County Network Receives National Recognition for Advancing Education Initiatives for Young People

In recognition of its impact on the lives of young people across 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. 

In Systems Transformation communities, cradle-to-career partnerships work with systems leaders to make fundamental and lasting shifts in policies, practices, resources and power structures. The goal for these changes is to eliminate racial and ethnic inequities, so that every Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and all youth experiencing poverty have the opportunity to reach their full potential, from cradle to career.

“For more than 14 years, UP Partnership has brought together Bexar County community partners to find common ground for the larger goal of improving youth outcomes,” explains Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, Chief Impact and Strategy Officer at UP Partnership. “In more recent years, UP has rallied community partners around clear, focused goals. The Systems Transformation designation is due, in large part, to our community partners working together across those years to ensure more equitable outcomes for young people. Our partners’ shared dedication to improvement is why our countywide efforts have seen success.”

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. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network is closing gaps and creating opportunities across education, health, housing and more. Through thorough evaluation of UP Partnership, StriveTogether found that the organization and its partners have demonstrated clear evidence that Bexar County is changing systems to advance equity and improve results for young people.

“I’m thrilled to announce Bexar County as our most recent community to prove it’s making a measurable difference for every child,” StriveTogether’s President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “UP Partnership has reached an important milestone in galvanizing the community around a common vision and effective data use. They are a clear leader in our network of nearly 70 communities across the country, all of whom are taking bold steps to improve how systems serve young people and their families.”

UP Partnership is the anchor organization of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, a strategic community initiative launched in April of 2022, which has brought together nearly 90 cross-sector partner organizations in a collaborative effort to reach a collective North Star goal — to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030. 

“This Future Ready Bexar County plan is the first, in my experience, that had a convener in UP Partnership to bring everyone together around a unified North Star and enable us to coordinate all our efforts in a way that, we anticipate, is going to have the intended effect in the most efficient way,” said UP Partnership board member Roland Toscano, Superintendent, East Central ISD.

The plan is centered around three equity pillars — healing, access and voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people. Partner commitments to these pillars are the result of years of collective work that ultimately led to the top Systems Transformation designation. 

“The UP Partnership board of directors consists of cross-sector community members who have adopted the Future Ready Bexar County plan as the strategic plan for the organization,” said Elanie Mendoza, Chair, UP Partnership board of directors. “We are witnessing the results of what can be accomplished if everyone in the community is united under a collective North Star goal. To date, nearly 90 community partners have already dedicated themselves to improving equitable outcomes for young people in Bexar County. We know this work cannot be done in isolation.  We also know, to be successful, community partners must come together in the space of community impact to drive real sustainable change.”

To join the national network, communities complete an assessment of their civic infrastructure development. This process measures progress against a continuum of quality benchmarks, known as StriveTogether’s Theory of Action™. This proven framework has five designations — Exploring, Emerging, Sustaining, Systems Change and Systems Transformation — that indicate progress toward aligning resources around better and more equitable outcomes for young people.

Additional quotes from Bexar County Leaders on this announcement: 

“This announcement combined with our collective efforts through Future Ready Bexar County will help us, as a community, move toward getting 70% of our young people enrolled into postsecondary or credential programs by 2030. That is a mere seven years away, but it is an important goal for us to seek,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

“Our key is to ensure that we work with others to address one of the main challenges in our city, which is having credentialed talent, having individuals that may be seeking an industry based certification, a two-year degree or a bachelorette degree.” UP Partnership board member Dr. Mike Flores, Chancellor, Alamo Colleges District explains. “That two-year degree is the difference between struggle and success. It allows a student, and often their families, to be able to plan for the future. That is possible because of the work and alignment that we have through UP Partnership,” he concludes. 

About StriveTogether

StriveTogether is a national movement with a clear purpose: help every child succeed in school and in life from cradle-to-career, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance. In partnership with 70 communities across the country, StriveTogether shares resources and best practices to put more young people on the path to economic mobility. Together, the StriveTogether Cradle to Career network reaches 14 million young people — including 8 million children of color and nearly one in five children living in poverty in the United States.

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 young people to create equitable systems and ensure that all young people in Bexar 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. The mission is ambitious, challenging — and achievable — if we organize our efforts. UP Partnership drives the countywide strategy through collaboration, data sharing and advocacy. 

SA Worx is putting in the work to ensure that Bexar County student’s are career ready

SA Worx is putting in the work to ensure that Bexar County student’s are career ready

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. They work with various community partners to create a sustainable and scalable employee talent base.

SA Worx’s ultimate goal, as explained by Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer, is to give students in Bexar County and surrounding communities first-hand, real-life, work experience that will prepare for whatever training or career path they choose and keep that pool of employees in our community. 

The importance of this work is “the backbone of economic development in our area,” says Matta-Barrera. “Working with community partners toward a unified strategy will create systematic change in our workforce and economic sphere in our region.”

2022 was a big year for SA Worx,  according to Matta-Barrera, with the organization working on marquee projects like priority digital badging and securing partnerships with industry leaders such as Accenture, the Dee Howard Foundation, Delta Systems, H-E-B, Navistar, the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) and USAA.

In conjunction with Ignite Mindshift, the organization worked with a total of 130 students in Highlands High School and CAST Lead within East Central ISD, to provide 95 digital badges on topics such as identity and personal brand and communicating with confidence. 

These experiences led to positive outcomes for students, SA Worx told UP Partnership. 

One student, who suffers from extreme anxiety, felt she could find a way to control her anxiety in the future and was moved by the experience and a hearing impaired student spoke about how he would not let his hearing impairment hold him back, Matta-Barrera shared.

Furthermore, many students, who were struggling in math, reported they had an action plan to review and complete missing assignments and/or seek out tutoring on the subject. 

Through their community partnerships, the organization is able to offer summer internships in a range of positions, in companies from various industries and sectors. Last year, the program had 116 participants interning at 19 employer partners across the community. Going into this summer, they hope to engage 250 students, having already secured more than 60 opportunities at companies like Methodist Healthcare Ministries, USAA and Southwest Research Institute.

The lessons and impact of those internships goes beyond the student participants to include those professionals who supervise the work being done. Created by the students, Supervisor Awards are given to those leaders whose guidance truly impacted the lives of those they oversaw.

This summer, the organization will also work with fellow Future Ready partner, Communities In Schools San Antonio, to address the barriers to internships opportunity youth face such as transportation, clothing, and food. They will also work with students to offer feedback to companies about how to improve their job descriptions to appeal to young people in the community.

In addition, SA Worx continued their fundamental programs and events throughout last year:

• Alamo Fellows, a program that works with first-generation college students to gain skills for postsecondary success, was launched.

• In March, 706 students from both Highlands High School and East Central High School partook in the annual Job Shadow Day.

• More than 700 students participated in Manufacturing Month events in October. 

• Over 500 students took part in the first ever Cyber Security Career Awareness Week also in October.

In 2022, SA Worx was able to secure funding from the Siemens Foundation, through the Education Strategy Group, with the intent of launching a program that would allow Bexar County students to develop social capital with adult professionals. After receiving feedback from young people, the program pivoted to a mentorship program whose mentors will be closer in age to mentees. 

SA Worx is a key partner of UP Partnership’s Future Ready Bexar County plan. With the support of Blue Meridian Partners, UP was able to invest in scaling SA Worx’s success through funding and community partnerships.

To learn more about SA Worx, please visit their website here.

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. 

Future Ready Partners provide local educational and youth development leaders with professional development and networking during inaugural event

Future Ready Partners provide local educational and youth development leaders with professional development and networking during inaugural event

On May 22, UP Partnership’s My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio and Diplomás networks hosted the inaugural Future Ready Practitioner Conference which brought together cross-sector partners made up of leaders from local school districts, colleges and universities and youth development organizations at St. Mary’s University.

Programming at the conference focused on providing professional development and networking opportunities for teachers and college faculty, principals, counselors and academic advisors and college admissions officers, among others.

“The UP Partnership Practitioner Conference was an opportunity to celebrate innovations in practice for youth across our Future Ready Bexar County partners,” noted Dr. Abel Gonzales, Director of Instructional Outreach Programs at the University of Texas at San Antonio, “Teachers, faculty and staff members from every level of the education ecosystem shared how equity minded practitioners are making a difference in better serving the leaders of tomorrow.” Gonzales closed the event by inspiring the participants to network to move their collaborative work forward as a team beyond the confines of the conference. 

In addition to workshops and networking, key sessions included an opening keynote on Developmental Relationships by Dr. Benjamin Houltberg, President and CEO of Search Institute.

The Developmental Relationship Framework gives us all — educators, youth development staff, community partners — a common language to work through,” Jenny Castro, Executive Director of Empower House, said. With programs and sessions that furthered that framework, “the UP Partnership Practitioner Conference invited us to imagine how our programs and services are strengthened and how impact is multiplied when we prioritize doing the hard work of building relationships with the youth in Bexar County,” she added.

Student leaders also provided their perspectives during a Diversity Student Panel at lunch moderated by UP Partnership’s Director of K12 and Youth Development, liz moseley. 

moseley really appreciated “the young people’s honesty and vulnerability to share about themselves and on behalf of their peers,” they said. 

Each young person “spoke with so much passion” and specifically wanted to touch on mental health as a central topic of discussion, they said. 

Providing access to information and resources to grow and flourish social-emotional learning capacity and elevating youth voice aligns with UP Partnership’s Future Ready Bexar County Plan launched in April of last year. This community-wide plan brings together more than 85 partners working toward the plan’s collective North Star goal — to increase the percentage of Bexar County’s High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degrees or credential programs to 70% by 2030. In Bexar County, that number is currently around 50%. This plan focuses on the three equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice — the must HAVEs for Equity amongst Bexar County’s 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 or donate to the work here.You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.