High school students lead the way in summer melt research with Youth Participatory Action Research

High school students lead the way in summer melt research with Youth Participatory Action Research

Youth Participatory Action Research cohort
Ten high school sophomores, juniors and seniors participated in a series of workshops and trainings under the direction and guidance of YPAR scholar Van Lac, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

As part of Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power, the Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) program this summer was an opportunity for young people to spearhead a research initiative focused on summer melt, the phenomenon of prospective college students’ capacity to attend college “melting” away during the summer between the end of high school and beginning of college.

Ten high school sophomores, juniors and seniors participated in a series of workshops and trainings under the direction and guidance of YPAR scholar Van Lac, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

YPAR is an approach to research that values the lived experiences and voices of those who have experienced systemic oppression, according to Lac. It centers marginalized voices and positions them as problem solvers of their social conditions.

“I was going through summer melt myself and didn’t even realize it,” said Alison Fernandez, a Jefferson High School senior. “As a first-gen student, I didn’t feel like I had the tools, but this experience has helped me feel privileged and more knowledgeable moving forward.”

Students conducted qualitative research with other youth who are experiencing or have overcome summer melt.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure and highlight of my summer working with a group of young people seeking ways to improve their schools and communities,” said Lac.

Why is this important?

Our Tomorrow’s summer YPAR program is the first of its kind in the country to focus on summer melt.

“At first I didn’t know fully what I was getting into, but this has inspired me to inspire others. This program has inspired me to see a new path for myself,” said Sarah Salazar, an East Central High School junior.

This program gave youth the platform needed to find their voice and speak about the impact of summer melt. Students’ findings will be shared with UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative in the fall through a results recording and a protocol developed by Lac.

Digging Deeper

Throughout the summer, the program focused on three key steps.

Understanding the Roots

Lac and Our Tomorrow leaders trained and supported students as they focused their research and work on summer melt. Lac taught students about the roots of systemic racism and discrimination, especially in education.

“I loved the real talk we had around topics like social justice and inequality. As I am [preparing] for college, I have become so passionate about this topic. And it gives me knowledge about who I am, my background, experiences, and culture.” said Pete Vela, a junior at Jefferson High School.

This gave them a deeper understanding on the underlying causes of summer melt for themselves and their communities.

“We can’t combat an issue if we don’t know it’s a thing. This program is changing the awareness around summer melt,” said Nickoll Garcia, a senior at Jefferson High School.

Conducting Research

Students conducted qualitative research by interviewing 20 self-identified “Melters,” those who have experienced summer melt, and “Thrivers,” those who have overcome summer melt, to find out why summer melt occurs. Themes included financial barriers, family/personal emergencies, and/or mental health issues.

“This program empowered me to do and understand research in a very hands-on way. And we didn’t have to hide behind other people’s research,” said Deija Nunn, a sophomore at Veterans Memorial High School.

Our Tomorrow’s YPAR program was an opportunity rarely given to high school students and youth.

“I have realized that these are summer melt issues so many students endure now, and that can be fixed for future generations. That is the real power of this program,” said Tsomlee Andrew Go, a sophomore at East Central High School.

Sharing their Findings

Their findings have been categorized into themes for Our Tomorrow and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative as part of a Gates Foundation grant.

High school and college practitioners will take the findings to guide future equitable enrollment strategies.

“I loved being able to create new friendships through this program. And realized that beyond the financial needs of students, many issues can be fixed with policies to make sure that students are empowered moving forward,” said Santiago Hernandez, a senior at Jefferson High School.

Final Takeaways from Youth

Our Tomorrow’s summer YPAR program is the first of its kind in the country to focus on summer melt.

“At first I didn’t know fully what I was getting into, but this has inspired me to inspire others. This program has inspired me to see a new path for myself,” said Sarah Salazar, an East Central High School junior.

This program gave youth the platform needed to find their voice and speak about the impact of summer melt. Students’ findings will be shared with UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative in the fall through a results recording and a protocol developed by Lac.

—Paulina Sosa, Senior Manager of Storytelling
(202) 379-8940 | paulina@uppartnership.org

UP Partnership releases recommendations for American Rescue Plan Act spending

UP Partnership releases recommendations for American Rescue Plan Act spending

Cross-sector partners develop guide to ensure an equitable recovery in youth outcomes

SAN ANTONIO—In an effort to guide equitable American Rescue Plan Act spending commitments made by the city, county, school districts and institutions of higher education, UP Partnership today released recommendations informed by youth-serving leaders and young people themselves.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) infuses $350 billion to state and local governments, $122 billion to K-12 schools, and $40 billion to higher education institutions. San Antonio received an estimated $1.6 billion in funding.

Leveraging American Rescue Plan Act Funds for Youth Outcomes is a guide developed by UP Partnership, in conjunction with PFM and the Children’s Funding Project, to aid local partners in making transformative ARPA investments to support young people. UP Partnership is a network of 175 cross-sector partners, including young people, who work together to align funding, strategies, data architecture and communication across youth-serving sectors. More than 60 partners, including high school students, participated in a funding alignment taskforce in 2020 to develop recommendations for an equitable recovery post-pandemic.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in the future of San Antonio,” said Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, UP Partnership Executive Director. “By coordinating our efforts, we’ll ensure our young people are not held back in the wake of the pandemic.”

Recommendations for spending are grouped by three outcomes areas: “Safe and Stable,” “Mental Health and Wellbeing,” and “Connected/Academically Prepared.” Ideas include reinvesting funds into front-end prevention and positive youth development opportunities to improve public safety, funding full-time employees to coordinate mental and behavioral health resources, and expanding summer learning and enrichment access, and others.

“From a national perspective, we see San Antonio as a model for how to do this alignment work across sectors,” said Olivia Allen, Strategy Director for the Children’s Funding Project. “More than 60 partners in San Antonio committed to having these tough conversations during a really hard year to lay the groundwork for the impact these federal relief dollars can have on kids and families.”

The recommendations align with UP Partnership’s racial equity goals of ‘disconnection to access,’ ‘punishment to healing, and ‘isolation to voice.’

“The pandemic has impacted our youth, but this process works to counteract that – We co-created a strategy with our youth,” said Myron Anderson, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

All recommendations target inequities that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was definitely a humbling experience to be part of this process, especially hearing perspectives from different sectors,” said Marisa Perez-Diaz, State Board of Education member. “The beauty in the work we did was that adults in different sectors all made a commitment to center the voices of youth. So many times, pathways are drawn for them without their voice. These recommendations ensure their voices are heard.”

—Marissa Villa, Director of Communications
(210) 535-6525 | marissa@uppartnership.org

About UP Partnership

UP Partnership’s mission is to ensure all young people across Bexar County are ready for the future. UP Partnership provides a space for leaders to share vision, strategies and metrics to unlock the potential of San Antonio and its surrounding communities. UP Partnership’s institutional partners serve more than 320,000 students in Bexar County, 63 percent who are economically disadvantaged. By bringing change-makers together while empowering youth to have a voice through its four networks (Diplomás, My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Excel Beyond the Bell, Our Tomorrow), UP Partnership strives to achieve extraordinary gains in future readiness through a shared commitment. Learn more at https://uppartnership.org.

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 nonprofit 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 the 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 nonprofits 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 six 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 and 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 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

Our Tomorrow hosts third annual youth-led Policy Institute for 50 young people from across Bexar County

Our Tomorrow hosts third annual youth-led Policy Institute for 50 young people from across Bexar County

Youth leaders use institute to learn from city leaders and develop policy recommendations

San Antonio, Texas – UP Partnership’s Our Tomorrow network is hosting its third annual youth-led Policy Institute to empower and educate young people who have a desire to change the local landscape of youth voice and shared power.

The Policy Institute is a five-day event held July 19-23 that was developed by Our Tomorrow college and high school interns. Fifty young people from across Bexar County will attend the institute to receive training from experts in advocacy, policy, and data, reconnect with other students, and strategize on ways to ensure youth voice is not only heard, but utilized at decision-making tables across the community. They’ll develop policy recommendations throughout the week for issues they care about.

“This Policy Institute is an opportunity for our voice to be heard and to finally make a real change here in San Antonio” said Bella Garcia, a Policy Institute college intern and incoming Sophomore at Mills College.

Additionally, on July 26, Policy Institute students plan to invite city and school leaders to attend the Policy Institute Celebration and Close-out to present their policy recommendations.

The Policy Institute comes at a crucial moment, as students return to school in-person. The recommendations youth leaders will develop at the Institute will ensure continued progress for youth engagement at the city and school board level.

“I am excited about how well this Institute was designed and executed by the youth. I always tell students that engage with Our Tomorrow that now is the time for them to leave their legacy for the benefit of young people today and the generations of young people ahead—this gives them that opportunity,” shared Leroy Adams, UP Partnership’s Senior Manager of Youth Voice.

To learn more about the Policy Institute or attend in person, please contact Paulina Sosa directly to coordinate and schedule next steps.

  • Important Dates
    • All Policy Institute workshops, trainings and networking sessions will be held daily from 12-5 p.m. from Monday, July 19 – Friday, July 23.
    • The Policy Institute celebration will be held from 2-4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 26.

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

My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio network creates Alternative Discipline Guide to transform punitive discipline practices in schools

My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio network creates Alternative Discipline Guide to transform punitive discipline practices in schools

My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) has released the Alternative Discipline Guide, a systems-change policy review to guide partners in reforming and reimagining next steps for implementing restorative justice practices.

MBKSA, one of four networks at UP Partnership, focuses on removing barriers to success for boys and young men of color. That includes reducing punitive discipline practices, building bridges for mentorship, and connecting justice-involved young people with opportunities.

Why is this important?
MBKSA partners have identified punitive discipline practices as a barrier to success for boys and young men of color. Already, nine campuses at three local school districts have implemented restorative justice practices in place of punitive practices and have experienced varying degrees of success.

Also known as “alternative discipline” practices, restorative justice is used in an effort to restore and heal the cycle of violence, poverty, and persistent access issues for justice-involved young people. The guide, created by the MBKSA Policy Table and Restorative Justice Working Group and UP Partnership staff, will inform schools, organizations, and city leaders on understanding and implementing restorative practices.

Digging Deeper
To appreciate the benefits of this guide, it’s important to understand the difference between the two terms (punitive versus alternative discipline):

Punitive Discipline Practices

Restorative Discipline Practices


Aiming to punish the “wrongdoer”

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

“A mindset that values relationships at the center of community life.” 

Typical discipline practices in schools

Suspension, corporal punishment, and/or detention

Classroom circles, teacher training, and/or peace circles


To punish the misbehavior and the person who misbehaved

To understand the roots of the misbehavior and restore broken relationships

Punitive discipline practices

  • Wrong doer is punished
  • Consequences include suspension, detention and corporal punishment
  • Person who misbehaved must be held accountable (i.e. punished)

Restorative discipline practices

  • Practices are formed from a relational approach to building school climate and addressing behavior
  • Classroom circles, teacher training and peace circles are common practices in the institution
  • Accountability is defined as understanding the effects of the offense and repairing harm

From the Field
Beyond implementation of practices at various campuses, some MBKSA partners have taken their work to the next level. For example, San Antonio ISD has integrated restorative justice elements into their Student Bill of Rights and Code of Conduct. The University of Texas at San Antonio has hired a Director of Restorative Justice, which sets the precedent for integrated restorative discipline into university settings — moving beyond the typical K-12 setting. Alamo Colleges and Judson ISD also are hiring a Chief Equity Officer. And lastly, the City of San Antonio has made investments into violence prevention, which includes restorative justice practices in schools.

What’s next
This guide has the power to go beyond the MBKSA network. By sharing the guide with a larger network, MBKSA partners have the ability to move from punishment to healing.

— By Paulina Sosa

“Restorative justice focuses on the harm done, restoring relationships, and building community.”
Alternative Discipline Guide

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

The Excel Academy launches 2021 cohort applications: The transformative power of relationship development and youth empowerment

Excel Academy launches 2021 cohort applications

At May’s annual summit, the Excel Beyond the Bell (EBBSA) network launched its 2021 Excel Academy Application. In the Fall of 2021, EBBSA and UP Partnership will launch its second 10-month cohort of youth development professionals committed to transforming lives of young people through relationships.

“It’s not the soccer ball, or the paint brushes, or the instrument that changes the life; it’s the coach, teacher, [or] mentor that does,” said Francisco Gónima, Excel Academy facilitator and coaching partner.

Excel Academy aims to change young San Antonians’ lives through the power of Developmental Relationships


“[Excel Academy] goes deeper to focus on the power of developing key relationships to empower youth,” Gónima adds. 

According to members in the first cohort, Excel Academy equipped them with tools to build upon even in their own personal relationships. Excel Academy integrates coaching sessions, cross-network collaboration, and reinforces key practices with organizational leadership and staff.

Each organization that participates in the 10-month program brings an integration champion and a youth development coach.


Partners become part of a network of San Antonio youth development professionals focused on acquiring the capacity, tools, and resources needed to build and foster high-quality relationships with students in their programs.  

“The real change happens through connection, and embedding developmental relationships at the core of these programs,” Gónima said. 

Built on the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets Framework, partners focus on five key elements of transformative relationships:

  • Express Care
  • Challenge Growth
  • Provide Support
  • Share Power
  • Expand Possibilities

 The Search Institute identified 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to succeed. Excel Academy focuses on these, ensuring that more San Antonio youth have access to the relationships they need to succeed.

Additionally, Academy participants go through:

  • Ten (monthly) half-day sessions
  • Monthly coaching meet-ups
  • Ten 1-hour coaching webinars


Previous participants agreed that the Academy created a safe space for them to grow, brainstorm, strategize, and expand DR efforts in their organizations. The Academy was both enriching and fulfilling at many levels, according to a number of Cohort 1 participants.

“More than feeling safe, it’s about feeling seen. It’s about learning how to do the work to achieve their potential. The reality is not all youth development programs are created equal – this Academy is the magic elixir to create a program that empowers young people with the confidence they need to be successful,” Gónima said.

A special congratulations to the first cohort of partners for completing the first step of transformative program. They have moved to the implementation phase of the program and have set a powerful precedent for the 2021 cohort! 

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
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UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative closes out its first academic year of work with commitments to equity in 2021-2022

UP Partnership's Equitable Enrollment Collaborative closes out its first year

The Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC), a community of practice between Diplomás and My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) partners, closed out its first year at the spring convening on May 13. 

With more than 80 partners across Bexar County, this collaborative focuses explicitly on equitable enrollment practices for young men of color and Dreamers by providing a tailored space for institutional partners to learn, collaborate, and strategize.

DIGGING DEEPER: To accomplish the overarching goal of equity across institutions, the EEC has identified a number of priorities and objectives for partner institutions. 

The EEC prioritizes its strategies and initiatives around:

  • Enrollment: Increase postsecondary enrollment from underrepresented districts and student groups.
  • Data: Strengthen institutional capacity to analyze and share data.
  • Equity: Develop and enhance equity-focused plans in the institution.

Institutions aim to:

  • Assess current enrollment goals, partnerships and strategies;
  • Develop a strategic enrollment framework to align goals;
  • Review and Revise funding initiatives and policy structures;
  • Monitor real-time application and financial aid data;
  • Build data infrastructure to strengthen data-sharing.

STRATEGIES IN ACTION: As partners celebrated during the spring convening, they acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done the next three years of the EEC, starting this summer.

“[We’re] setting a goal for interventions to support at-risk students,” one partner said in their commitment.

Each partner was asked to make a summer commitment and one for the next academic year. Additionally, partners at ISDs and higher education institutions highlighted specific projects and ideas, including mentorship programs, student workshops and enrichment opportunities.

“[We’ll] continue to establish strong relationships and communication to ensure we are meeting student needs,” said another.