Ready Makers in Action – May 2024

MAY 2024

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

On January 19 and 26, approximately 800 high school students from CAST Schools, Edgewood, East Central, Harlandale, Judson, Northside, San Antonio, Southwest and Lytle Independent School Districts participated in the Future Ready Youth Summit held at Northeast Lakeview College.

The Summit was hosted by UP Partnership and a group of cross-sector Future Ready partners from local school districts, colleges and universities, and youth development organizations  – many of whom are members of UP Partnership’s My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio and Diplomás networks. Together, the partners co-created and facilitated the summit’s programming, which included career and degree pathways, college 101 and financial aid guidance. 

In addition to sessions they attended, the students listened to inspiring stories from Keynote Speakers that included San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg;  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.

Read more here.

Future Ready Leadership Table

Executive leaders from cross-sector community partners shared updates on the policy work being done under the Future Ready Bexar County Plan on April 4 at the Whitley Theological Center. This includes initiatives carried forward by the recently launched UP Partnership Policy Council, which includes advocacy centered around the ongoing San Antonio’s Charter Review process and attempting to close the gap in youth-funding by creating a set aside fund for children and youth to equal 20% of the City of San Antonio’s revenue growth — approximately $20 million that would be dedicated to youth services. Currently, young people ages 0-24 represent 35% of San Antonio’s population, but only 6% of funding goes to them. 

Over the past two months, dozens of community leaders including families, students and CEOs from various Future Ready Bexar County partners spoke at the City of San Antonio Charter Review commission meetings to advocate for the ongoing investment mechanism, which will guarantee that in the coming decades, San Antonio will have a steady stream of capable public servants, including business leaders, firefighters, teachers, community builders, affordable housing developers and many other key roles.

Partner Highlights Shared

Investment Strategy by H. E. Butt Foundation, San Antonio Area Foundation and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County

Representatives from H. E. Butt Foundation, San Antonio Area Foundation and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County updated Future Ready partners on their organization’s respective investment strategy for the next phase of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan.

Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Mike Flores, UP Partnership Board member and Alamo Colleges District’s Chancellor and Dr. Anne Monroe, Alamo Colleges District’s Chief of Strategic Enrollment Management, introduced the next steps Alamo Colleges District (ACD) are taking within their colleges to reach the North Star goal of 70% enrollment by 2030 which includes:

VIA Metropolitan Transit

Akeem Brown, VIA Board of Trustee member and Brian Dillard, VIA’s Vice President of Technology and Innovation, led a conversation on Youth Transit Access to ensure public transportation is not an obstacle for young people getting the supports and services they need throughout Bexar County.

Empower House and Rise Recovery

Jenny Castro, Empower House’s CEO, John Jacobs, UP Partnership’s Director of K12 and Justice and Evita Morin, Rise Recovery’s CEO were part of a panel discussion on scaling healing programs that reduce young people’s involvement in the criminal justice system. Panelists shared best practices and insights from their respective organizations to ensure Bexar County’s young people have the healing supports they need for a successful future.

Future Ready Joint Leadership Table

Our intergenerational table that meets quarterly and consists of senior leaders and youth representatives from all Future Ready partners, met on February 13 at Girls Inc. of San Antonio for the first meeting of 2024. Future Ready partners from Communities In Schools of San Antonio (CISSA), East Central ISD (ECISD), San Antonio ISD (SAISD), the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the YWCA San Antonio presented on the amazing progress partner have made to their action commitments focused on the equity pillar of ACCESS which, alongside HEALING and VOICE, are the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people. 

UTSA and SAISD

Through connection and deep work with cross-sector partners, UTSA and SAISD announced in January a newly co-designed direct enrollment pathway that aims to remove barriers for SAISD students who want to pursue a college degree at UTSA. Of the first cohort, who are currently seniors in high school, over 150 students have been admitted at UTSA as of the date of publication. This work was facilitated through connections made through UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC). Read more about this program here

East Central ISD

As part of the EEC, ECISD is working to ensure all students, PreK-12th grade, have postsecondary goals after high school graduation. Aspiration surveys were collected from students in 5th, 8th, 11th and 12th grades in order to create individualized postsecondary readiness plans that include college prep courses and needed standardized testing. To date, the district has seen the following successes:

Communities In Schools of San Antonio
and YWCA San Antonio

Communities In Schools of San Antonio (CISSA) and the YWCA San Antonio continue to provide layered support to East Central ISD (ECISD) as members of the EEC. 

CISSA’s on campus staff members work to expand access to healing supports to ensure that all students feel safe at school and are engaged enough to connect to resources available to them through restorative practices guided by UP Partnership’s Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC). The impact of those practices can be seen in classrooms at Pecan Valley Elementary School where teachers who have implemented restorative circles have seen a notable decrease in disciplinary referrals and minor incidents.

The YWCA continues to offer out of school programs For ECISD students such as their E=MC2 program that encompasses topics like math, financial and digital literacy, with Social Emotional Learning integrated into each session. Other after school program activities include gym time, outside time, American Sign language lessons, art classes, community projects and many more.

Councils

Future Ready Policy Council

The Future Ready Policy Council successfully launched on March 7, bringing together Future Ready partners to drive major shifts in policies that scale the equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice to help the community reach the Future Ready North star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County’s high school graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030.

Specifically, the Council strives to substantially increase the resources available to children and young people across Bexar County.

Future Ready Data Council

The Future Ready Data Council met on February 27 to continue the work of advancing Future Ready partners’ unified alignment of data capacity and insights to drive progress toward the North Star goal. The Council discussed a proposal of leading indicator metrics to assess progress toward the collective goal of the plan that included dual credit and advanced placement enrollment and outcomes; college, career and military indicators; the number of college applications students from partner ISD’s submit and 3rd grade STAAR reading test results.

Dr. Judy Zimny of Economic Mobility Systems (EMS) presented on the process of creating a student journey map which serves as visual representation of the path a student follows to achieve specific milestones and desired outcomes, spanning from early college and career awareness to, and through, postsecondary competition and eventual employment. By tracking this data, communities are able to create an ecosystem to help all students reach their desired postsecondary outcomes.

Future Ready Communications Council

The Future Ready Communications Council met on March 7 with a virtual meeting and introduction of the new Steering Committee composed of representatives from Future Ready Anchor Partner organizations Alamo Colleges District, CAST Schools Network, Communities In Schools of San Antonio, H.E. Butt Foundation, San Antonio Area Foundation and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County.

The Steering Committee will work alongside UP Partnership’s Communications department to guide the Communications Council’s unified narrative of the collective impact work being done in Bexar County, while also expanding platforms for collective engagement and storytelling linked to the fulfillment of the equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice.

Meet UP Partnerships Communication Team

UP Partnership’s Communications team creates messaging, provides strategic marketing and communications guidance to UP Partnership staff and partners, in addition to coordinating an editorial calendar to collectively share stories of healing, access and voice. The team consists of Jeannette Garcia Director of Communications, Ana Sevilla, Senior Manager of Communications and Carrie Ballard-Bañuelos, Storytelling Communications Manager. Read more about them here.

K12 and Justice

My Brother's Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA)

On February 29, Future Ready partners and youth representatives met for the first MBKSA convening of 2024 at Judson ISD’s J-TECH to begin identifying trends and disparities in data in order to begin co-designing population-level strategies that will impact Boys and Young Men of Color (BYMOC) in Bexar County. In addition, they also participated in a data story and root cause analysis to identify specific barriers BYMOC in the community face in their educational journey. Each sector — Prek-12, institutions of higher education, local government and youth development organizations — identified the top two barriers that will guide the network’s future strategies and implementation.

The Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC)

RPC Cohort 3 held its final session on March 28 at Alamo Colleges District’s Central Office, Practitioners heard from Dr. Paula Johnson, Judson ISD’s Chief of Student Advocacy, on how strategies of targeted universalism used in RPC  directly tie to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s equity pillars:

K12 and Postsecondary

Diplomás

The Diplomás network met on February 29 at Café College to continue their work to scale and expand access to promising programs and services that support postsecondary opportunities for Dreamers and Latinx students through the development of a landscape map. The map will help identify existing resources that are available throughout Bexar County that are designed to support that student population. The network is also moving forward with designing an empathy interview that is aimed at gathering feedback and insights directly from Dreamer and Latinx students.

K12 and Youth Development

Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio (EBBSA)

EBBSA invited its network partners on February 8 to a coffee mixer and a funder panel moderated by UP Partnership’s CEO, Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon. Panel participants included Future Ready Anchor Partners Andrea Figueroa, San Antonio Area Foundation’s Senior Program Officer for Youth Success, Meg Loomis, H. E. Butt Foundation’s Capacity Building Program Director and Dr. Jeniffer M. Richardson, United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Public Policy who spoke on evolving relationships with out-of-school time (OST) organizations and/or programs through involvement with UP Partnership, Blue Meridian match funding and how those are likely to impact the support of families and youth programming.

Excel Academy

Excel Academy held its Spring Social March 28 bringing together all Excel Academy cohorts for an evening of relationship building, networking and recruitment for both the Class of 2025 and graduates who will serve on the Mentor Team for members of that class.

Future Ready in the News

  • Commentary: School violence must be addressed with wrap-around student care (San Antonio Express-News): Written by Future Ready partner Jessica Weaver, Communities In Schools of San Antonio’s President and CEO, addressing the need of wrap-around services for the whole-child.” While it’s tempting to blame the COVID-19 pandemic, and the years of stunted social and emotional learning it caused, or generic mental health crises, it is not that simple. The causes are myriad and multifaceted,” she wrote. 

  • Alamo Colleges credits Promise program with record enrollment for spring (San Antonio Express-News): Future Ready partner Alamo Colleges District has seen nearly 25% increase in students in the past decade, as well as a 9.7% increase in spring enrollment from last year with 66,703 students enrolling across its five campuses. Alamo Promise has reached 8,047 students this year, up 23.6% from last year thanks to “Alamo PROMISE, dual credit partnerships and expanded workforce education and development offerings,” the district said.

  • San Antonio High School Student’s leadership Skills Flourish with Virtual Exchange (Stevens Initiative)  Future Ready Partner Culturingua’s Joint Leadership Table youth representative Alma Dominguez shared her story of participation with the organization’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Journey (GSEJ), a project-based learning program that connects high school students from around the world to co-create solutions to a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG).

  • Why San Antonio nonprofit is pushing for multimillion- dollar children’s Fund (San Antonio Express News) UP Partnership’s CEO Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon was interviewed by the San Antonio Express News to discuss a new clause to San Antonio’s City Charter that would devote 20% of annual city revenue growth to children and youth which would result in millions of dollars annually for organizations and programs that serve Bexar County’s young people ages 0-24 who make up 35% of San Antonio’s population. 

Future Ready Events

Future Ready Practitioner Conference

In May, more than 200 youth-serving professionals across Bexar County came together at the inaugural Future Ready Practitioner Conference held at St. Mary’s University.

The conference was hosted by UP Partnership and a group of cross-sector partners, many of whom are members of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio and Diplomás networks, which helped form the conference’s programming.

The conference provided professional development and networking opportunities for teachers and college faculty, principals, counselors, economic 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.”

Moving the needle forward
with a national lens

Spotlight: San Antonio
Second Annual Funder Impact Summit

Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, UP Partnership’s Chief Impact and Strategy Officer, and Future Ready partner Dr. Mike Flores, Chancellor of Alamo Colleges District, spoke at the Second Annual Funder Impact Summit, hosted by Economic Mobility Systems in partnership with The Greater Texas Foundation, Commit Partnership, Educate Texas and the Rural Community College Alliance. The Summit brings together educational leaders and college presidents to share best practices in regional educational and workforce community impact work.

Dr. Calderón Galdeano and Dr. Flores kicked off the Summit with a spotlight session on San Antonio and shared the announcement of a $114 million investment over the next seven years for the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. They highlighted the importance of our community collectively working together to address the college and career pipeline for Bexar County and the role of data to accelerate outcomes, alignment, and public support for the work. 

Pahara-Aspen Fellowship program

Dr. Calderón Galdeano was also recently accepted into the newest cohort of The Pahara-Aspen Fellowship. This program is designed to strengthen and sustain leaders who are transforming public education so that every child is prepared to lead a free and fulfilling life.

Dr. Calderon Galdeano is one of 23 leaders nationally selected to be part of the highly selective program’s 2024 class. Leaders chosen represent a variety of public, nonprofit and private sectors experiences and perspectives.

Accelerate ED in San Antonio: Strengthening Accelerated Pathways to Degrees and Careers 2024 Summit for Dual Credit Programs

Dr. Briana Hagelgans, UP Partnership’s Director of K12 and Postsecondary, alongside Future Ready Partners Yvonne Benton, San Antonio ISD’s Coordinator of P-TECH and ECHS Programs, Dr. Amanda Holman, East Central ISD Director of College, Career and Military Readiness and Sara Mann, Alamo Colleges District’s Chief High School Programs Officer shared insights, challenges and achievements of work being completed in San Antonio at the 2024 Summit for Dual Credit Programs, a conference designed for colleges and universities, school districts and community organizations to advance dual credit and college readiness for their young people.

In a session entitled “Accelerate ED in San Antonio: strengthening Accelerated Pathways to Degrees and Careers,” Dr. Hagelgans and team presented on how UP Partnership, as a community backbone, has successfully fostered collaborative partnerships between local school districts and colleges and universities to enroll more high school students in career-connected programs that lead to postsecondary opportunities.

In Bexar County, Future Ready partners are co-creating expansion of dual credit, P-TECH and ECHS pathways that complement classroom learning with work-based experiences and internships so young people can develop professional behaviors, networks and experience before high school graduation.

“San Antonio Community Talk: Black Youth Today”
San Antonio DreamWeek 2024

John Jacobs, UP Partnership’s Director of K12 and Justice, was a panelist on “San Antonio Community Talk: Black Youth Today,” organized  by The Black Advisory Council of Big Brother Big Sister of South Texas (BBBS) and YWCA San Antonio. The  discussion focused on the current status of black youth in San Antonio, along with their future hopes and goals. The panel, which included black male professionals in Aerospace Engineering, Corporate Training and Entrepreneurship, provided valuable insights into mentoring boys of color. They shared best practices, success stories and emphasized how mentoring serves as a tool for healing in the community. Additionally, BBBS highlighted how their work aligns with youth healing commitments outlined in the Future Ready Bexar County Plan.

Restorative Practices: My Experience with Student-Led Healing Circles

Restorative Practices: My Experience with Student-Led Healing Circles

In November of last year, I was invited by Derrick Brown, Principal of the Young Men’s Leadership Academy (YMLA) and a Cohort 3 member of UP Partnership’s Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC), to sit in on a restorative justice healing circle. Principal Brown began implementing healing circles in his school after a visit to Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) alongside UP Partnership staff and other Bexar County community members.

Going into the visit, he believed punitive discipline – such as in school or out of school suspensions – was how distracting behaviors should be addressed. The visit to OUSD, however, helped him realize there are other ways to think about addressing behaviors and getting to the root cause of why students act the way they do in situations.

I asked him if there was one moment, one thing that made the benefits of restorative justice clear and he told me that no school in OUSD had a security guard on campus.

“That was a real eye opener,” he explained. “We visited OUSD a few months after the Uvalde school shooting and I was shocked that no campus in the district had security guards because they don’t need them. Students have ways to make amends, accept differences and work through difficult situations in a healing manner and I want my school to be that way as well.”

Brown’s passion and enthusiasm about a different approach to discipline is now obvious when you listen to him speak about restorative justice and the impact it has already had on the young men who attend YMLA. He is the same way when he talks about the impact he wants to have on his students and the school itself.

The hallways of the YMLA are a testament to the past and the possibilities of the future. The school building itself was one of the first public schools in San Antonio to open its doors and from 1933 until the end of the 1969-1970 school year, it was known as Wheatley High School, an all Black school. The school went through a few name changes —in 1972, it became Emerson Middle School and was renamed Wheatley High School in 1988 — before the Young Men’s Leadership Academy opened in 2015 and the name was changed to reflect the new school.

Pictures of the school throughout the years, as well as those of Black leaders, both nationally and locally, remind us that we have come a long way, but there is still much to do. Hanging from the walls in every hallway are pennant flags from colleges and universities across the nation — a daily visual reminder that the future is wide open for the young men at the school.

As we neared the door to the healing circle room, Principal Brown explained that he set up his room exactly like a school at OUSD had theirs set up. He wants the space to be inviting, calming, somewhere where the outside world fades away so students can fully focus on being present during circle time.

There are two doors to the room — one you enter through and the other you exit through. The idea is students walk into the room with their anger, hurt, disagreements but, when they exit, they leave all of those negative thoughts and feelings behind and emerge heard, healed and with the knowledge of how to handle difficult situations in the future.

Walking through the entrance door, I was no longer in a school hallway but, rather, in a tranquil oasis of calm and relaxation. The walls of the room are draped with see through white curtains and strings of white lights. There are plants throughout the space and an indoor water fountain that provides the comfort of hearing running water.

“It is a unique and welcoming environment and a calming place because it is filled with positive energy,” said one 6th grade student that participated in the circle.

I have, previously, taken part in healing circles with adults, but none in a space like Principal Brown created and none that included students. The reason that day’s circle was being held was to address an argument that happened between three students during lunch time that resulted in name calling.

In the center of the room, there are twelve pillows arranged in a circle on the floor. In the middle of the pillow circle is a ceramic base topped with a decorative art piece.

As the three students involved in the conflict got comfortable in the circle, Principal Brown started circle time off with a brief explanation of what it means and the outcome he would like to see from the restorative time together. He subsequently introduced two circle leaders, from the 6th and 8th grade, who were there to guide the students through the restorative process. These are also lessons that Principal Brown refined through his training time in RPC.

For the remainder of the session, the two student circle leaders explored the incident in question, the root causes of why each young man reacted how they did, tools and techniques that can be used in future situations that will deescalate emotions and behaviors and how each person would like to the repair the relationships that had been broken.

“I came into the circle because of an argument I had with someone that turned physical,” explained an 8th grade student. “From the circle, I learned what to do better in situations, how to be a better person and how to help other kids who have disagreements.”

For the 6th grade student, “This group is about helping kids that make mistakes to get out of trouble and restore a relationship that was important to them that had been damaged by harm.”

As adults, our emotions and triggers are usually complex and layered that may take a lot of work to address but for these young men, their answers were straightforward, honest, trusting of the restorative process and the desire to return to friendship was real.

Although the circle only took no more than 20 minutes in its entirety, each young man was able to speak for himself, listen to each other and collaboratively create an environment where healing took precedence over anger. At the end of the circle the boys were laughing with each other, truly enjoying the return to friendship.

This is what restorative practices are meant to do. With heavy roots in indigenous culture, restorative practices aim to address harmful behavior in a manner that emphasizes community impact and allows those who have harmed, to have a voice in the healing process.

“RPC is a unique program that addresses the needs of the whole student in Bexar County,” explains Suzette Solorzano, UP Partnership’s K12 and Justice Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation, who oversees the Restorative Practices Collaborative. “Our work is one that focuses on building community and fostering a sense of belonging while keeping students in class learning. Through processes like circles, students walk away feeling connected, valued and respected within their school community.”

RPC and the My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio network work is primarily rooted in the equity pillar of Healing which, along with Access and Voice, are the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

Tied to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, in which more than 90 cross-sector community partners have made actionable commitments toward the equity pillars that prioritize providing young people with the developmental relationships and healing supports they need to reach the plan’s North Star Goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030.

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement or the Restorative Practices Collaborative, 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.

Meet UP Partnership’s Communications Team

Meet UP Partnership's Communications team

UP Partnership’s Communications team creates messaging and provides strategic marketing and communications guidance to UP Partnership staff and partners. The team coordinates an editorial calendar that shares a cohesive narrative of healing, access and voice in connection to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan using various mediums including written blogs, social media and digital strategies and outreach to traditional media.

The team spearheading the communications team consists of Jeannette Garcia, Director of Communications, Ana Sevilla, Senior Manager of Communications and Carrie Ballard-Bañuelos, Storytelling Communications Manager.

Get to know the Communications Team

Jeannette Garcia is a proud alumna of both Judson High School and the University of Texas at Austin. She is a “recovering reporter” that continues to keep a keen eye out on what the tech, manufacturing and small businesses in San Antonio are doing. A dog mom of two pups, Jeannette enjoys spending time with close friends, her mom and younger brother, as well as being an active civic leader in her community.

As a San Antonio native, Jeannette was drawn to the work of UP Partnership because she wants to help drive positive change for the future of her hometown. Earlier in her career, she fell into economic development and grew an interest in workforce development and believes that it is incredibly important to invest in young people who are the workforce of tomorrow.

Her advice to all is “Don’t bury the lead. Always lead with the news. Also, you have to continuously message the same thing to people in order for it to stick — even if you think it’s overcommunication, it probably isn’t.”

Ana Sevilla is a Texas native, and attended Texas A&M University where she earned her bachelor of arts in English. After getting her start in journalism (specifically copy editing), she transitioned into marketing and communications, with a focus on graphic design. She moved to San Antonio in 2018. Ana is fiercely dedicated towards mutual aid work and building community. She enjoys spending time with her husband and her family, chosen and otherwise, as much as possible, as well as cooking, making art, decorating cakes, reading and watching video essays. Tenchi and Zuko, her two cheddar cats, bring light and laughter to her life.

Ana was drawn to the work of UP Partnership’s focus on helping young people succeed academically through tapping into the community’s existing resources and partner organizations. In particular, the restorative justice work that helps spread necessary harm reduction techniques within San Antonio’s education landscape.

Her advice to all is remember that “Everyone is an artist! Just because you can’t draw, doesn’t mean you can’t paint, sculpt, sing, photograph or otherwise. Creation is inherent to the human experience.”

Carrie Ballard-Bañuelos was born and raised in San Antonio. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with two bachelor degrees and recently received her MBA from the University of the Incarnate Word in May of 2023. Married, she is the proud mom of two boys who keep her busy. In her free time, Carrie enjoys spending quality time with friends, reading and writing, as well as attending comic cons—a favorite family activity.

As a mom to elementary grade students, she was drawn to UP Partnership’s work toward creating equity for all young people in the community and ensuring they all have postsecondary opportunities after high school graduation. Young people are the future leaders and workforce in San Antonio, so it is important to support them through their educational journey.

Her advice to all is “Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zones. Those experiences generally lead to self evolution that can have lifetime impact. Also, always, always advocate for yourself. You know yourself better than anyone.”

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.

New initiative saves a spot at UTSA for high-achieving SAISD juniors

New initiative saves a spot at University of Texas San Antonio for high-achieving San Antonio ISD juniors

UP Partnership facilitated connection through Equitable Enrollment Collaborative and Future Ready Plan

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) today announced a new pathway that will provide high-achieving students from SAISD high schools with direct admission to UTSA as early as their junior year. The new program aims to remove barriers for SAISD students who want to pursue a college degree, helping them feel confident that they have a top-quality institution secured to pursue their bachelor’s degree once they graduate from high school.

The direct admission program is open to all SAISD students who are in the top 25% of their high school graduating class at the end of their fifth semester—the fall semester of their junior year. UTSA will accept the first cohort of students in Fall 2024.

“UTSA is deeply committed to growing the workforce and positively impacting the economic development of San Antonio by preparing students to succeed in the jobs of the future,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy.

“We have enjoyed a strong partnership with SAISD for many years, but this new program is especially exemplary of UTSA’s keen focus on student success and its desire to make higher education more accessible, especially for those from underserved communities.”

Nearly 75% percent of SAISD’s students come from families that are economically disadvantaged.

“We are committed to providing transformational learning experiences for our students, and this partnership with UTSA will help our students more easily access the life-changing tool of postsecondary education,” said SAISD superintendent Jaime Aquino.

“We are proud of this partnership that offers our students exceptional support as they enroll and persist in their studies at UTSA.”

Many SAISD high school graduates who matriculate to UTSA will be eligible for UTSA Bold Promise, a tuition and assistance program for eligible Texas residents with annual household incomes of $70,000 or less. The program covers 100% of UTSA’s tuition and mandatory fees. This financial aid is crucial in eliminating one of the biggest barriers for students striving to obtain a college degree.

“Graduates who earn college degrees are consistently shown to have more career possibilities, higher earnings overall and a better quality of life,” said Lynn Barnes, UTSA senior vice provost for strategic enrollment. UTSA is committed to providing high-quality, affordable education for anyone who wishes to pursue a degree. We’re excited to help the San Antonio ISD students and families understand the educational opportunities available to them and how to make them a reality.”

Last fall, 62% of students ages 16 to 24 who graduated from U.S. high schools were enrolled in colleges or universities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Fall 2019, prior to the pandemic, the college enrollment rate in the United States was 66%.

SAISD has experienced similar trends. This fall, 80% of the district’s 2023 graduating class applied to college, 50% of those students were admitted and 64% enrolled in either a two-year or four-year institution. By contrast, prior to the pandemic, 94% of the district’s 2019 graduating seniors applied to college, 74% were admitted and 52% enrolled in college.

“This is one of the strategic partnerships we are proud to have as we continue to grow our postsecondary enrollment numbers past our pre-pandemic rates,” said Dustin Nieto, coordinator for postsecondary services at SAISD.

To launch the new direct admission program, SAISD notified more than 700 high achieving SAISD juniors about the opportunity to be offered direct admission by UTSA. More than 400 of those students indicated they were interested in joining UTSA’s Fall 2024 entering class. Of those, 282 have already completed or are completing UTSA’s admission application.

One of those students is Angie Martinez, a senior at Brackenridge High School. Martinez, who is the first in her family to graduate from high school and attend college, was overcome with the opportunity her admission offer provided.

“When I had that message last year about the direct admission to UTSA, I started crying,” Martinez said. “It was the first school that accepted me. I got so excited. I cried, and I told my mom about it, and she cried as well. UTSA was a first choice. I wanted to be near home and it’s such a good school. For financial stuff as well, they give a lot of good opportunities.”

In addition to their direct admission, SAISD students who choose to matriculate to UTSA would also earn direct admission to the UTSA Honors College, which is home to 2,000-plus high-achieving students across all majors. The college is home to one of the most unique experiential honors curricula in the nation.

That possibility is extremely attractive to Yasmin Perez, a Jefferson High School senior, who will major in mechanical engineering.

“It interests me just being in a tight-knit community,” Perez said. “In high school I’ve been in the IB program, which is also a really small program. Having a smaller group that I can interact with more, maybe have more interaction with my professors, that’s something that I really value.”

At the same time, SAISD students who accept their invitations to the UTSA Honors College will receive a $1,500 stipend each semester if they choose to live on campus, independent of financial need. First-year students in the UTSA Honors College live in Guadalupe Hall, one of the university’s newest living-learning communities.

The new early notification system allows the institution’s admissions staff to have additional touchpoints, support and communication opportunities throughout the enrollment process with SAISD students, many of whom, like Perez, are among the first generations in their families to attend college.

“They’ve been really helpful showing you the process of the steps,” Perez said. “UTSA sends me a lot of emails. They’re very precise on what they send you, so I really benefit from that. It has not just been emails. They’ve also called, whether it is reminding me about the scholarships, the honors college or dorming — just them checking up, reassuring you.”

SAISD and UTSA began discussing the concept for the direct admission program in August 2022, including how they might collaborate to pre-qualify SAISD students for automatic admission to UTSA by streamlining processes and removing barriers to data sharing.

Aquino and Eighmy are members of the board of directors of UP Partnership, a San Antonio nonprofit that aims to increase economic mobility for young people through higher education. UP Partnership created opportunities for UTSA and SAISD to conceptualize, discuss and design their direct admission program as the lead driver of a communitywide strategic plan called Future Ready Bexar County.

Through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, UP Partnership works with more than 90 institutional partners to create equitable, data-driven solutions that prepare Bexar County students for the future with an aligned North Star goal that calls for 70% of Bexar County high school graduates to be in a degree or credential program by 2030.

“As the driver of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, we consistently challenge our institutional partners to think differently about how they work in order to set our community’s young people up for a better future,” said Briana Hagalgans, UP Partnership director of K12 and Postsecondary. 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

There have been several major advancements in 2023 that show the progress of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan as we work toward the collective North Star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County high school graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70%.

“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,”

Below is a list of accomplishments by sector for UP Partnership:

Future Ready Leadership Table and
Joint Leadership Table

The Future Ready Bexar County Plan is guided by two leadership tables — the Future Ready Leadership Table and the Joint Leadership Table (JOLT).

The Future Ready Leadership Table

Meets twice a year and consists of the top executive and a senior leader from each Future Ready partner. We kicked off  2023 with the first of these meetings in January with an inspiring speech from Geoffrey Canada, President of Harlem Children’s Zone, with a challenge for all of us to work differently as we began our 2023 collective impact journey.

Throughout the year, this table also outlined new student outreach strategies across multiple sectors and deepened community focus on alternatives to juvenile probation with Bexar County and the Department of Justice.

Bexar County Juvenile Probation appreciates being a part of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan because we know that when young people get involved in the justice system, their educational opportunities become narrow and their ability to successfully complete school greatly reduces.

“We try to keep as many young people out of the juvenile system as possible,” she continued during a Future Ready Leadership Table meeting. “Through our continued work within the Future Ready, we are helping our youth find their paths to postsecondary opportunities and success.”

The Joint Leadership Table

 An intergenerational table that meets quarterly and consists of senior leaders and youth leaders from each Future Ready partner. This year we rooted our partners in Search Institute’s “Developmental Relationships” as the common framework to implement youth voice, which includes express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power and expand possibilities. This was particularly important as 20-plus youth leaders from Future Ready partner institutions were integrated into this table. 

Having a seat at this table is important because it allows us to have a say in the barriers we are facing and the ideas we have for removing them,

Councils

Future Ready Data Council

The Future Ready Data Council successfully launched in November with an introduction and orientation meeting that included partners from all sectors of the Future Ready Plan. Partners grounded themselves in the purpose of the Data Council, which is to ensure all Future Ready partners have the data capacity and insight needed to drive progress and support the plan’s overall monitoring. It will do this by scaling an integrated communications and pre-enrollment system and helping to report out in real time progress on leading indicators for college enrollment.

Future Ready Communications Council

The Future Ready Communications Council, now in its second year, continued its work of advancing a unified narrative of the collective impact of the work being done in Bexar County. With a focus on optimal messaging within the partner ecosystem, it continues to build and expand platforms for collaborative engagement and storytelling linked to the fulfillment of the equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice. This included hosting a professional development workshop on storytelling by Key Ideas Chief Storysmith Carlos Maestas.

Data Resources

UP Partnership’s Cradle to Career Dashboard allows users to assess progress towards the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s collective North Star goal by offering community information on education and workforce system characteristics, tracking postsecondary education attainment and education-to career objectives and Bexar County benchmark efforts compared against Texas state averages.

This data resource was developed in conjunction with Future Ready partners and is there for you to use!

This data resource was developed in conjunction with Future Ready partners and is there for you to use!

K12 and Justice

The majority of the work done by UP Partnership’s K12 and Justice team is rooted in the equity pillar of healing. Through the My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) network and the Restorative Practices Collaborative, community partners continued to shift from punitive punishments to healing.

In recognition of the impact that MBKSA is having on boys and young men of color in Bexar County graduating from high school, the network joined 27 other communities across the nation to receive certification from My Brother’s Keeper national organization and the Obama Foundation. 

This means that MBKSA is in good national standing and has been able to demonstrate that it has built the infrastructure needed to support boys and young men of color (BYMOC) in Bexar County through MBKSA’s Logic Model and Racial Justice Initiative and ensuring quality programming standards for BYMOC.

“What an incredible honor that we, all of us in MBKSA, have received from the MBK Alliance and the Obama Foundation,” said Airika Crawford, Co-Chair of MBKSA. “This certification signifies the impact we have already made on the future of boys and young men of color but, it reminds us that there is still much more work to be done.”

RPC Cohort 3 started the final leg of restorative justice training that will be completed in March of 2024. The cohort has approximately 55 participants, the largest to date, from East Central ISD, Judson ISD, Harlandale ISD and San Antonio and the training has already made a difference in classrooms and schools.

“I’ve noticed when I do RJ circles on Friday’s before a test, my students are much calmer taking it which, in turn, improves their scores,” one participant explained. “It also sets the tone for the day. Students talk nicely to each other, argue less and work together throughout the day.”

 

Students also said circles give them a platform to express feelings that they wouldn’t otherwise talk about at school or home. For one student, “Circle helps me talk about stuff I don’t like to talk about in school and, mostly, not at home.”

K12 and Postsecondary

The majority of the work done by UP Partnership’s K12 and Postsecondary team is rooted in the equity pillar of access. Through the Diplomás network and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC), community partners continued to shift from disconnection to access.

During the City of San Antonio’s annual Welcome Week, a week dedicated to uplifting the voices of immigrants and refugees, Diplomás received a City proclamation for its continued commitment to bettering the future of those communities in San Antonio because every young person deserves access to a positive and supported childhood.

Diplomás community partners came together to define the network’s North Star goal in alignment with the Future Ready North Star goal. By 2030, Diplomás will scale and expand access to promising programs and services that support postsecondary enrollment and completion for Dreamer and Latinx students across all Future Ready partners.

To do this, the network will focus on building a resource and program landscape map for Dreamers and Latinx students across Bexar County. This map will allow partners to identify existing resources, promising practices and gaps in the existing programming for student populations.

The EEC continued to provide space for school districts, colleges and universities and community based organizations to come together to increase access to postsecondary opportunities for the young people in Bexar County.

Some examples of these successful collaborations include:

AlamoPROMISE is simple. It means every student, no matter the circumstances, has the ability to pursue their full potential, with no cost to them.

K12 and Youth Development

The majority of the work done by UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development team is rooted in the equity pillars of access and voice. Through the Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio (EBBSA) network and the Excel Academy, community partners continued to shift from isolation to voice and disconnection to access.

In February, UP Partnership announced its partnership with Search Institute, a Minnesota-based positive youth development and equity-focused organization, to collaboratively expand the framework of Excel Academy to a national scale. Through a $1.6 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, a new three-year framework that helps organizations to cultivate relationships – a character-rich climate has been developed and guides the leadership cohorts. 

Excel Academy launched the Class of 2024 and phase two for the Class of 2023. Fifteen (15) participants returned for the Class of 2023 and 27 first time participants for the Class of 2024 from the following organizations:

In the new cohort, nearly all participants surveyed considered the session “extremely useful” and celebrated “getting to know other organizations,” recognizing these relationships will lead to “more resources [and] connections available in [San Antonio].

Future Ready Events

Future Ready Practitioner Conference

In May, more than 200 youth-serving professionals across Bexar County came together at the inaugural Future Ready Practitioner Conference held at St. Mary’s University.

The conference was hosted by UP Partnership and a group of cross-sector partners, many of whom are members of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio and Diplomás networks, which helped form the conference’s programming.

The conference provided professional development and networking opportunities for teachers and college faculty, principals, counselors, economic 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.”

Moving the needle forward with a national lens

Together, our community reached the “Systems Transformation” Cradle to Career Network member designation from the national backbone organization StriveTogether due to our partners’ continued impact on the lives of young people across Bexar County.

This dedication also extended to various Future Ready community partners joining UP Partnership staff on a variety of national professional development trips and conferences. These opportunities collectively expanded the knowledge of those who attended and served to advance the work that is being done in Bexar County.

Future Ready partner Holly Pompa, Trauma-Informed Program Manager, Bexar County Juvenile Probation, joined UP Partnership joined UP Partnership’s K12 and Justice team on a visit to Oakland Unified School Districts’ (OUSD). The aim of the visit was to augment information and resources about restorative practices and the difference it has made in schools in the district.

For Pompa, the experience was invaluable. “Being in a circle completely led by students and being able to ask them questions, was the perfect way to see how a longstanding program with strong implementation and support can create a deep rooted practice within school communities,” she shared.

Concurrently, Pompa and UP Partnership staff were joined at StriveTogether’s 2023 Cradle to Career Network Convening in San Francisco, Calif. by several other key Future Ready partners including:

Team San Antonio joined over 500 national participants for plenaries, sessions and workshops designed to further align the importance of continued collective work to ensure all young people have equitable pathways to the best possible successes in life.

Contreras was pleased with the “large number of trainings offered, which provided a variety of best practices from which to learn.”

In May, Harlem Children’s Zone hosted UP Partnership staff and a cross-sector of Future Ready community partners including Alamo Colleges District, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, Communities In Schools of San Antonio, San Antonio Area Foundation and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. The lessons learned on this trip will help community implementation of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan as we enter its next phase.

In July, UP Partnership’s Director of Data and Information Management was joined by staff from Future Ready community partners Communities In Schools of San Antonio and East Central ISD at the William Julius Wilson Institute and Harvard EdRedesign Lab’s Transforming Place Through Neighborhood Leadership Summer Training. The sessions equipped Team San Antonio with the tools needed to think through and advance work using data insights.

“We definitely learned a lot and all feel inspired and ignited to come home and continue to sustain this work,” Natasha Richardson, Strategic Partnership Manager, Communities In Schools of San Antonio, said after the trip.

Making sure that all Bexar County’s young people are future-ready is our entire community’s responsibility and together we have advanced that work on all fronts this past year but there is still much more to do. Our work will continue into 2024 and we must actively and collectively come together to ensure our young people can access higher-quality, more inclusive programming and supports.

Future Ready Bexar County celebrates nearly $114 million in funding

Future Ready Bexar County celebrates nearly $114 million in funding

Participating organizations convene to organize and amplify efforts into 2024

SAN ANTONIO – Today, Future Ready Bexar County partners gathered to celebrate a historic almost $114 million in funding received by local anchor partners and national philanthropic investor Blue Meridian Partners. These investments will help the strategic community plan enter its next phase – which scales, deepens and strengthens initial community efforts to achieve the plan’s North Star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County high school graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030. Reaching this goal through this first-ever countywide alignment will significantly improve the economic mobility of San Antonio youth and can have positive ripple effects for the future. Local nonprofit UP Partnership serves as Future Ready’s convening and coordinating backbone organization and drives the strategic plan’s progress across more than 90 institutional partners aligned with the plan’s goals.

The event served as a convening of the plan’s Coordinating Committee and the Joint Leadership Table (JOLT), which will lead the community organizations through the next phase of the Future Ready plan. During the next six years, these efforts will be boosted with funding, enabling the aligned organizations to expand, deepen and strengthen initial countywide efforts.

“This is a monumental investment in Bexar County’s children and youth, which will, no doubt, have a positive impact on our region’s future,” said UP Partnership Chair of the Board Elaine Mendoza. “This private investment in Bexar County’s young people is geared toward strategic efforts of Future Ready Bexar County partners who are working together to increase San Antonio’s economic well-being.”

When the Future Ready Bexar County Plan launched in 2022, UP Partnership provided leaders across San Antonio and Bexar County with the shared vision, language, goals, metrics, support, and initial convenings needed to drive aligned contributions toward the Plan’s North Star. During this phase, more than 90 institutional partners made concrete action commitments to scaling Healing, Access, and Voice for young people who undergo their services. These three focus areas are mutually agreed upon must-haves for advancing equity.

“Through its equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice, the Future Ready Bexar County Plan is a national model for how we can strengthen every aspect of our city to better support children and youth,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Funding Specifics

Of the almost $114 million, $64 million of private capital comes primarily from four of the local Future Ready Bexar County anchor partner institutions – United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, the Charles Butt Foundation, the H. E. Butt Foundation and the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn), as well as additional support from USAA, the Greater Texas Foundation and the Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. 

Through successful implementation, this next phase of the Future Ready plan could unlock up to $330 million in public resources through 2030, which includes Pell Grants, College, Career and Military Readiness state funds, and local public dollar alignment. The City of San Antonio Department of Human Services will work with our youth-serving delegate agency partners to contribute to Future Ready Bexar County outcomes.

A catalyzing investment of $50 million is coming from national philanthropic investor Blue Meridian Partners, which identifies, invests in, and scales up strategies that target drivers of poverty from cradle to career.

“We believe that Future Ready Bexar County is poised to uproot multiple difficult challenges confronting youth and families in poverty in the San Antonio area,” said Othello Meadows, a Managing Director at Blue Meridian.  “The vision set by UP Partnership and its dozens of committed community partners exemplifies why we invest in place-based partnerships through our Place Matters portfolio

In 2020, Blue Meridian provided UP Partnership and the San Antonio Area Foundation an $8 million investment across two years, which was used for planning and to lay the groundwork for the current work, as well as invest in community-based organizations helping to ensure young people’s recovery from the COVID pandemic.

Anchor Partners and their roles

Today’s event formally introduced the Coordinating Committee of anchor partner institutions that will coordinate the private capital to create a shared operating environment for child and youth-serving partners across Bexar County to fulfill their Future Ready action commitments, uproot isolation between sectors and drive communitywide progress. Together, they will create a connected and relationship-rich city that helps young people thrive. The next phase will be supported by anchor partner institutions and intermediaries supporting the multiple school districts that will play a key ecosystem-level role in the plan implementation. These institutions are fully committed to achieving the Future Ready North Star goal and equity pillars, including embedding a postsecondary-going culture across Bexar County institutions and the community. 

Each anchor partner has a defined role in coordinating, organizing and advancing the work of the Future Ready Plan across the more than 90 partner institutions. 

The anchor partner institutions include United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County, San Antonio Area Foundation, H. E. Butt Foundation, Communities In Schools of San Antonio, CAST Schools Network, Charles Butt Foundation, and Alamo Colleges District.

Our commitment ensures students will have resource-rich learning environments that drive high-quality learning experiences, pushing us closer to meeting Future Ready Bexar County’s North Star of 70% postsecondary enrollment by the year 2030,” said Chris Martin, the CEO of United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. 

Similarly, SAAFdn’s funding focuses on youth-focused grants supporting Future Ready initiatives.

“The Area Foundation will coordinate $25 million in funds to help Future Ready partners fulfill their action commitments to Healing, Access, and Voice,” said Lisa Brunsvold, the foundation’s interim CEO. 

Additional funding from the H. E. Butt Foundation has a similar focus.

“Our focus will be to invest in building the organizational and leadership capacity of Future Ready partners committed to advancing Healing, Access, and Voice pillars at scale,” says H. E. Butt Foundation’s President and CEO David Rogers.

Other anchor partners focus on campus-driven initiatives and coordination. 

“Communities In Schools of San Antonio is dedicated to coordinating resources and services between partners and campuses, ensuring the districts and post-secondary programs have the resources they need to meet the North Star goal by 2030,” said Communities In Schools of San Antonio President & CEO Jessica Weaver.

Additionally, funding from the Charles Butt Foundation will support anchor partner CAST Schools to strengthen and scale platforms for youth voice. CAST will ensure Future Ready strategies integrate the experiences and values of those most directly affected, young people themselves, in determining the terms of their future – thereby increasing local buy-in, engagement, impact, and sustainability of investment.

“CAST Schools advance Future Ready activities focused on youth voice by working to showcase, document, and expand practices that engage young people in shared decision making and co-creation,” said Jeanne Russell, CAST Schools Executive Director. “We’re looking forward to participating, along with our youth, in the Joint Leadership Table, growing signature community-wide programs such as Speak Up Speak Out, and supporting youth-led research, grantmaking, and advocacy.”

Anchor Partner Alamo Colleges District leads efforts for expanding multiple early pathways to post-secondary enrollment. 

The Alamo Colleges District is proud to advance the work of the Future Ready Plan alongside our partners. Our work will focus on enhancing economic and social mobility for our students by providing an expanded reach of our comprehensive advising services with partnering school districts and youth development agencies,” said Alamo Colleges District Chancellor Mike Flores.

To ensure these efforts meet their intended goals, bimonthly Joint Leadership Table meetings comprised of a senior leader, a youth leader and an additional institutional representative from each Future Ready partner promotes, shares and circulates successes in advancing goals tied to the plan’s equity pillars.

Meet UP Partnership’s K12 and Postsecondary Team

Meet UP Partnership's K12 and Postsecondary team

Our K12 and Postsecondary team members are driving the work by convening our postsecondary partners as our community aims to reach the Future Ready Bexar County North Star goal of increasing enrollment in postsecondary education or credential programs to 70% by 2030.

UP Partnership’s K12 and Postsecondary team works with our partners to adopt measurable outcomes and to create strategies to achieve those outcomes.

Specifically, the team works with partners to expand equitable access to resources and programs to increase postsecondary enrollment and success through the Diplomás systems change network and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC).

The mission of Diplomás is simple — it is a collective impact effort uniting 23 cross-sector partners to increase the college attainment and quality of life of San Antonio’s Dreamer/Latinx students. The work continues to be important and needed.

The purpose of the EEC is to dissolve barriers students often face when transitioning from K12 into postsecondary. 

Equitable Enrollment Collaborative is a space for ISDs, institutions of higher education IHEs and community-based organizations CBOs to work together to build city-wide bridges to postsecondary education that intentionally close equity gaps for all students and ensure they are ready for the future and the workforce.

The team spearheading the work of Diplomás and EEC consists of Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., Director of K12 and Postsecondary, Lowell Butler, Ed.D., Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation, and Jonathan Weaver, Senior Manager of Community Engagement.

Get to know the K12 & Postsecondary Team

Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., is a first generation college graduate and the oldest of four siblings. She is proud to say that two of her siblings have also obtained a postsecondary degree with one still in medical school. She obtained her Associates and Bachelors degrees in Business Management before she found her passion within the postsecondary field. As a first generation college graduate, Briana experienced first- hand the transformational power that a postsecondary degree holds and how it impacts not only students but their families. Briana has also earned her master’s degrees and doctorates in educational leadership and has held a variety of roles within postsecondary at the 2-year and 4-year level. Prior to her position at UP Partnership, Briana was a member of the Diplomás Network and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative. 

Briana is an avid reader who loves to garden. One of her personal goals is to own land where she can build her homestead that has an abundance of fruit and vegetable plants, as well as an array of flowers, including native varieties. Of course, her homestead would not be complete without friendly ducks, egg-laying hens and gorgeous views in all directions.

She finds joy in cleaning, which she admits scares most people. However, for her, if she is thinking through a challenge, doing a load of dishes or laundry usually helps her work through that slump.

Briana’s advice to all is: “if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t learning.”

Lowell Butler, Ed.D. spent his early years in Louisiana before moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast when he was a teenager. He obtained both his Associate and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi. After college, he got involved in national service through Americorps where he worked on social issues ranging from integrating technology in Mississippi high schools to hunger insecurity and reducing poverty in San Antonio.

He loves all things Southern Mississippi and is always on the hunt for the best soul and New Orleans style restaurants in San Antonio. He spent last year as a Texas Education Policy Fellow, hosted by the College of Education, at Texas Tech University, and recently earned his Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration.

Lowell is a McDonald’s superfan! He was unsuccessful, though, in getting a McDonald’s meal named after him, which he called the McLB that includes two plain McDoubles, large fries, large Hi-C Orange and BBQ sauce.

His advice to all is: “we really need to understand and fully accept that the young people of today are our future consumers and producers of all our goods and services, whether it is education, housing, employment, etc. Intergenerational conflict occurs because we expect young people to engage in systems, have the same motivators, definitions of success, and even the same challenges as we did. When they don’t, they’re penalized or denigrated. This leads to disconnection. It’s time for new models, new ways of thinking that are informed by young people, and that’s what Future Ready is about!”

Jonathan Weaver was born and raised on San Antonio’s south and southeast sides of town. He is the product of San Antonio ISD, having graduated from Fox Tech’s Law Magnet program in 2010. He continued his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio, obtaining a bachelor degree in Global Affairs.

Having always known that he wanted to serve his community, Jonathan has worked in the nonprofit sector for almost 10 years. He previously worked in various organizations, but it wasn’t until his time at Good Samaritan that he started to think of the inequalities that exist in our community and the systems that keep them in place, which is what drew him to UP Partnership’s work.

In his free time, Jonathan enjoys doing home improvement projects, such as plumbing, yard work, concrete, and wood work, and he also plays the drums and piano. He always likes smoking BBQ the “hard way” — burning the wood before sunrise and managing the heat over many hours. For 15 years, Jonathan has collected various Marvel items that, to this day, remain unopened.

Jonathan’s advice to all is: “do NOT waste your time or energy on what others think about you or things that make you upset. Focus on what you can control. Enjoy the small things; they often get overlooked in the present and are the things you miss once they are gone.”

For more information about Diplomás and the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative, please visit www.uppartnership.org or donate to the work here. You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and by following us on social media.

Bexar County’s impact on young people presented on a national stage at annual collective impact conference

Bexar County's impact on young people presented on a national stage at annual collective impact conference

In a standing room only session at StriveTogether’s 2023 Cradle to Career Network Convening in San Francisco, Calif. Future Ready Bexar County partners Amy Contreras, Assistant to Director at the City of San Antonio’s Workforce Development Office, Dr. Jeniffer Richardson, DM, MAOM, Senior Vice President, Strategic and Policy Initiatives at United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, Ed.D., Chief Impact and Strategy Officer at UP Partnership, led a panel session entitled “Working Together: How Government Leaders and Community Organizations are Collaborating for Long-Lasting Change.” 

The session focused primarily on how Bexar County is working collaboratively through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan to increase economic mobility for young people through a shared North Star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030. Team San Antonio shared how cross-sector community partners have come together to help address the postsecondary barriers faced by young people in our community and improve their opportunities and outcomes in life.

This was just one of many examples of San Antonio shining its light at StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Network Convening. For the past 12 years, StriveTogether has convenednational partners and community leaders for three days of connecting, learning and collective thought partnership focused on creating positive changes for young people across the country. 

This year, UP Partnership staff was joined by several key Future Ready Bexar County partners including the San Antonio Area Foundation, United Way of San Antonio, CAST Schools Network, City of San Antonio Workforce Development, and Bexar County Juvenile Justice. Along with Contreras and Richardson, Team San Antonio also included Jennifer Cook, Director of Strategy and Impact at the San Antonio Area Foundation, Andrea Figueroa, Senior Program Officer of Youth Success at the San Antonio Area Foundation, Jennifer Maestas, Community and Educator Engagement Manager at CAST Schools Network and Holly Pompa, Trauma-Informed Program Manager at Bexar County.

Team San Antonio joined over 500 national participants for plenaries, sessions and workshops designed to further align on the importance of continued collective impact work — ensuring that all young people have equitable pathways to the best possible successes in life.

It was also a celebration for Team San Antonio, as UP Partnership and Bexar County were once again recognized for becoming one of the most recent communities in the StriveTogether national network to receive the Systems Transformation designation, joining six other StriveTogether communities in the country: Appalachian Cradle-to-Career Partnership (Berea, KY), E3 Alliance (Austin, TX), Higher Expectations for Racine County (Racine, WI), Learn to Earn Dayton (Dayton, OH), Northfield Promise (Northfield, MN), Promise Partnership of Salt Lake (Salt Lake City, UT) and Spartanburg Academic Movement (Spartanburg, SC). 

Through the StriveTogether’s Theory of Action™, communities complete an assessment of their civic infrastructure and progress toward aligning resources around better and more equitable outcomes for young people. The Systems Transformation designation is the top designation a community can reach as it advances through Exploring, Emerging, Sustaining, Systems Change and Systems Transformation designations.

The Systems Transformation designation, and the continued work in Bexar County, could not have been done without the hard work of the partners who have made actionable commitments to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan that are rooted in the equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

Team San Antonio partners appreciated the convening for providing “opportunities to learn more about youth development focused work and connect with others who are engaged in collective impact work,” said Richardson.

Contreras added that she was pleased with the “large number of trainings offered, which provided a variety of best practices from which to learn.”

Pompa looked forward to the convening and “meeting with, and learning from, people who are working toward similar advancements of opportunities and equity for young people.” Ultimately, “the convening was a joy to attend. I only wish there had been more days so that I could attend more sessions.”

While partners learned and celebrated accomplishments, UP Partnership staff shared insights, challenges and achievements of work being completed in San Antonio. Three additional sessions highlighted the work that is being done both internally, and through two of UP Partnership’s continuous improvement collaboratives that support and scale the commitment to young people in Bexar County. Those sessions included:

Fostering Organizational Change Through Communities of Practice,” led by Shelby Drayton, K12 and Youth Development’s Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation at UP Partnership and Dr. Miray Seward, PhD, Research Scientist at Search Institute. Participants learned about UP Partnership and Search Institute’s partnership within the Excel Academy to catalyze a youth-serving ecosystem that centers around developmental relationships, racial equity and the Results Count Framework to promote organizational change.
Internal Systems Transformation: HR, Finance and Development,” led by UP Partnership team members Kimberly Sama, Chief Finance and Operations Officer, J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations, Patrick Farris, Manager of Development and Grants, Brandon Henson, Director of Finance and Operations and Kristen Kitler, HR Manager of Team Success. Together, they created a unique space for backbone staff focused on internal organizational health to share best practices, tools, and resources. This session provided a foundation for relationship-building and collaborative internal systems design and operational experience-sharing, responding to universal challenges facing non-profit and collective impact organizations.
Journey Toward Equitable Enrollment in Bexar County,” led by UP Partnership team members Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., Director of K12 and Postsecondary, and Lowell Butler, Ed.D., K12 and Postsecondary Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation. They discussed the creation and evolution of the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative, which consists of 20 partner organizations representing K-12, higher education and nonprofit organizations, as it works to actively dissolve barriers in postsecondary enrollment for young people in Bexar County.

UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative works with community organizations to ensure access for Bexar County’s young people

UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative works with community organizations to ensure access for Bexar County's young people

Today, many young people in Bexar County still face significant barriers to enrolling in, and attaining, a postsecondary education. Disproportionately, it is marginalized student groups — students of color, students from low-income families — that are most likely to experience those barriers.

While it is clear that postsecondary education offers the greatest potential to alter the outcomes of young people and their communities, in 2020 only 50% of all young people graduating high school in Bexar County enrolled in a college, university or credential program after high school graduation.

Addressing those barriers is where UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative (EEC) focuses their efforts. 

The EEC supports the advancement of more equitable enrollment strategies for the young people in Bexar County. 

Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., UP Partnership’s Director of K12 and Postsecondary, the department that leads the EEC’s convenings said that “through EEC, leaders from two- and four- year higher educational institutions, representatives from Bexar County school districts and community based leaders work together to address the challenges to postsecondary enrollment,” in an effort to drive toward the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s collective North Star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030.

“Together, we can work through barriers that students commonly face when navigating their transition into postsecondary,” Hagelgans added.

The Beginnings of the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative

Initially started in 2021 as a joint initiative between Diplomás and My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, two of UP Partnership’s systems change networks, the EEC offered a space for secondary and postsecondary professionals to convene and begin building formal and actionable strategies to increase postsecondary enrollment and success for students of color — especially young men of color — and Dreamer students that would lead to a living-wage career and economic mobility.

During its first two years, the EEC supported local school districts, institutions of higher education and community based organizations in analyzing their internal data college application and enrollment data. 

By tracking the number of students completing college applications and the number of students completing financial aid applications (FAFSA or TASFA), EEC members could see where gaps and barriers existed within their own organizations and begin the shift in policies and programs to systematically close those gaps and remove those barriers. 

There were many successes during the initial work of the EEC including:

One local school district identified lower college-going rates among its Emergent Bilingual students and launched a strategy to deliver college advising in multiple languages.
Another partner led “Senior Saturdays” to help young people and their families navigate FAFSA applications and they were also able to meet with enrollment advisors from a local higher education institution building cross-sector bridges to support student success.
One university partner hosted six mini-summits engaging a total of 309 students from four EEC school districts. These mini-summits contributed to the university’s enrollment of 254 Dreamer students for that fall semester.

According to Texas A&M University – San Antonio’s Executive Director of Student Success, who is a member of the EEC, the efforts were “[creating] the kind of environment where high school Dreamers can picture themselves [in college],” and the work being done plays an important role in building “a direct pipeline to higher education.”

Evolution of EEC under Future Ready Bexar County

In 2022, UP Partnership looked in depth at the EEC and realized that the focus of the collaborative needed to change in order to meet the Future Ready North Star enrollment goal. While institutions were successfully implementing changes to increase equitable enrollment, that existing model of work could not be scaled to its full potential across Bexar County.

As part of EEC’s evolution, UP Partnership actively garnered input from its partners on what the next phase of the EEC should look like in an effort to reach a collective equitable postsecondary enrollment strategy.After much discussion, it was decided that, moving forward, the EEC’s way of thinking would shift from “what we can change in our own institution” to “what can we change together across institutions.”

The work to remove barriers 

The EEC is now heavily responsible for scaling the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s equity pillar of Access, which along with Healing and Voice, has been identified as the must HAVEs amongst Bexar County’s young people. 

To do this, they are addressing three major barriers young people face to postsecondary enrollment in Bexar County. These barriers were identified in discussions with EEC partners on the next phase of scaling the collaborative’s work:

1: There is no clear and aligned definition of what “college readiness” is in Bexar County.

As community partners began coming together to advance collaborative postsecondary work, a pattern emerged of students not being adequately prepared for postsecondary opportunities because different institutions used different formal definitions of “college readiness.” 

Local school districts refer to the definition of the Texas Education Agency, while institutions of higher education use the definition of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Those separate definitions are a major barrier to shared data measurement and strategic partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions.

To address this barrier, the EEC brought Future Ready community partners together in conversations that led to  the adoption of three established K12 and higher education metrics of “college readiness” to support the building of a shared advising framework and curriculum in an effort to create alignment in practices and policies across community partners. 

2: There is a lack of clarity around student pathways from K-12 to Postsecondary Education or Credential Training.

 

Through its work in Bexar County, the EEC holds the closest focus on the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s North Star goal of reaching 70% postsecondary enrollment by 2030. To that end, the collaborative fosters partner-initiated policies and programs that secure pathways for all young people in the community to have access to postsecondary enrollment opportunities and success. 

Direct admissions initiatives are one pathway for postsecondary enrollment and the groundwork for successful initiatives that provide access for Bexar County’s young people to get affordable two-year and four-year degrees.  These opportunities are accessible through Alamo Colleges Foundation’s AlamoPROMISE, the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Bold Promise, both of the institutions’ Promise-to-Promise and Texas A&M – San Antonio’s Achiever Promise.

“What this work shows is that all community partners believe in graduating high school seniors in Bexar County as we help them move forward to postsecondary enrollment and success,” said one Future Ready partner at the Future Ready Bexar County Leadership Table held in July of this year.

3: There is a lack of alignment on how partners track and integrate data about postsecondary barriers and readiness.

Data is a vital component to drive collaborative work forward but often, cross-sector partners either don’t have access to others’ data or the data collection, metrics, descriptions and use vary by individual organizations. The EEC is striving toward standardizing data and data collection so that community partners can access it in one central location.

The ultimate goal for collecting, analyzing and sharing data is a real-time data integration model that helps community partners identify early indicators of at-risk students, evaluate the effectiveness of programs and interventions both in and out of school and track college and career readiness and students’ engagement with community youth development organizations.

Initial work on this model began this past January with the EEC leading a discovery phase with six local school districts to identify the presence of college advisors and resources across high school grades 9-12. This phase revealed that the current college advising system — grades served, content and models — is not the same across Bexar County school districts. Identifying these inconsistencies has allowed partners to begin advancing strategies to address those existing gaps.

Additional work continued through a needs assessment of Future Ready partners around a shared problem — how to transition more students into postsecondary programs starting in high school that will lead to credentials of value.

This included landscape mapping for two different school districts that examined high-quality advising and support and explored career centered pathway programs, such as dual credit, advanced placement and/or college prep, that lead to a postsecondary or credential enrollment.

The results showed that Bexar County has a rich landscape of pathway programs, which were particularly notable across the community partners that participated in this assessment. It also yielded ways to improve existing pathway programs, with the community partners using that information to scale their work in Bexar County.

By working together in collaboration, the work of the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative strives to better the future for all young people in Bexar County and these tests of change are a continuation of cross-sector collaboration, through which our community can  create more equitable access to postsecondary opportunities for our 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.You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.