Meet UP Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon

Meet UP Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Ph.D., has served as the chief executive of UP Partnership for six years, ensuring alignment across UP’s board, staff, partners and leaders in pursuit of the mission of ensuring all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future.

Ryan identifies as a human development planner. He was drawn to UP Partnership and the work the organization does because of the “opportunity to help increase youth outcomes while working across sectors,” he said.

Prior to joining UP Partnership, he served as the executive director for Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio, which is now one of UP Partnership’s systems change networks, as well as worked at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Youth Safe and Violence Prevention department.

He is also a poet and an author. His poem, Vision, helps to explain some of the underlying motivation that drives him in this work daily…

Lugalia-Hollon is committed to working towards racial equity both locally and nationally.

Prophecies cannot restore the past,
yet each dream we cast
buries a secret weapon
in the not too distant future.

Our young ones
will soon need to dig them up
and use them for their defense.

Ryan’s first book, The War on Neighborhoods, was published by Beacon Press and tracks the devastating impact of mass incarceration on one Chicago community area. It helped influence the birth of the R3 Program in Illinois. R3 — Restore. Reinvest. Renew. — which provides a model for how to support those neighborhoods most impacted by the War on Drugs.

Ryan is committed to working towards racial equity both locally and nationally. He is an active leader in the national StriveTogether network and serves as the Board Chair for the Children’s Funding Project, a nonprofit organization that helps communities and states to expand equitable opportunities for children and youth through strategic public financing.

He was selected as the Outstanding Young San Antonian of 2020 by the Rotary Club of San Antonio. Ryan received his doctorate in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his bachelor’s in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

When not supporting social change efforts, Ryan enjoys time with his family, practicing Tai Chi, hiking, cooking, coaching, and studying the Enneagram of Personality types. He is a big fan of the book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, the show Foundation, and the rapper Lacrae.

As UP Partnership staff can attest, Lugalia-Hollon also loves telling dad jokes. Including this gem: “When does a regular joke become a dad joke? When it’s a-parent!”

All joking aside, Ryan’s advice to the work is “Take it easy, but take it.” If he could be any dinosaur, he would be a Pterodactyl “for the views.”

Making Future Ready Moves – October 2023 Newsletter

Bexar County Receives Recognition for Transforming Systems for Young People 


In recognition of its impact on the lives of young people in Bexar County, StriveTogether has designated UP Partnership as a “Systems Transformation” Cradle to Career Network member, the top designation for communities in its national network, making it one of six total communities to do so in the country.

To achieve the “Systems Transformation” designation, UP Partnership alongside our community partners had to demonstrate a deep commitment to improving education outcomes, working collaboratively with key stakeholders and showing progress in multiple areas including increasing early childhood participation rates, improving K-12 attendance and increasing college and career readiness.

Through StriveTogether, UP Partnership is part of a national movement to help every child succeed in life, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance.

This “Systems Transformation” designation acknowledges the incredible work team San Antonio continues to do by aligning our efforts on the Future Ready Bexar County Plan but the work is being done by community partners to further equitable outcomes. 

By working together to leverage data, promote equality and engage the community, Bexar County is setting a positive example for other communities that are dedicated to improving student outcomes. Read more here.

 

Data Resource

UP Partnership’s Cradle to Career Dashboard allows users to assess progress towards the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s collective North Star goal. It’s there for you to use!

You can analyze community information on education and workforce system characteristics, track postsecondary educational attainment and education-to-career objectives, and benchmark community efforts against state averages.

  • Postsecondary education is essential to successful pathways to economic mobility in Bexar County with approximately 65% of employment opportunities requiring some form of postsecondary education, however only 33% of adults in Bexar County have an associate degree or higher. 

  • Between 2012 and 2021, the average postsecondary educational attainment for Bexar County has been lower than both the national and state averages with only 47% of 2021 Bexar County high school graduates being ready for college. If we let this trend continue, it would affect the next generation of high school students’ educational outcome, employability and livelihood.

Future Ready Leadership Table Meeting

On July 13, 2023, nearly 125 top executives and senior leaders from nearly 90 community partners came together at the Future Ready Leadership Table to discuss strategies that will drive forward the work of our community Future Ready Bexar County Plan.

The Future Ready Leadership Table oversees the progress of the plan as we strive together to reach our collective North Star goal of increasing enrollment of Bexar County High School graduates in a postsecondary or credential program to 70% by 2030 — a goal that will be accomplished when an additional 5,000 students from our community enroll in a postsecondary opportunity each year.

Leaders from cross-sector community partners shared successful milestones that have been accomplished under the Future Ready Bexar County Plan.

Partner Highlights Shared

AlamoPROMISE

The direct admissions program at Alamo Colleges District — which began in partnership with 25 public high schools, has since expanded to now include 73 comprehensive public high schools, including magnet and charter schools in Bexar County. As a result of that expansion, more than 15,000 students have reserved their spot at one of the five Alamo Colleges District campuses.

Direct Admissions Pilot

San Antonio ISD and a local university will automatically admit the top 25% of students at a pilot school into the university. More than 400 students were directly admitted from SAISD to this university due to the pilot. 

Comprehensive case management

Addressing other barriers to educational success, East Central ISD and Communities In Schools — San Antonio have partnered together to offer comprehensive case management to address the barriers that impact Bexar County’s young people both academically and out of school throughout their education journey. An example of the success of this partnership can be seen in the number of young people who are sent to counseling for mental health needs and supports, as opposed to behavioral supports, which has doubled the number previously. 

Shifting the treatment of justice referred young people

Recognizing the impact of adverse childhood experiences on Bexar County’s young people, Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department staff, whether they work directly or indirectly with youth, have adopted a trauma informed approach which allows them to address the root and causes of potentially adverse behavior, rather than entering young people into the justice system with a goal of seeing better results for those young people who are justice referred. The Department of Justice also spoke about successful legislation that reduces the likelihood of vaping leading to student pushouts.

SA Worx

SA Worx, the workforce development arm of the economic development organization greater:SATX, works to ensure San Antonio is the top choice for employers and community members to fulfill the employment needs of local and regional companies.

“Working with community partners toward a unified strategy will create systematic change in our workforce and economic sphere in our region,” said Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer. Read more about the impact SA Worx is having in Bexar County here.

Meet UP Partnership’s Finance and Ops Team

You probably know the names and faces of the team members who help advance our work everyday, but we want to shine a light on the team that keeps UP Partnership running.

The Finance and Ops team shares responsibility for the internal systems needed for organizational operation so every member of the team is rooted in UP Partnership’s values, engaged as a team in our collective work and have the capacity to drive impact.

The team consists of Brandon Henson, Director of Finance and Operations, J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations, Patrick Farris, Manager of Development and Grants, Rodnekka Hall, Human Resources Manager of Training and Development and Kristen Kitler, Human Resources Manager of Team Success. Read more about them here.

 

Latest UPdates

Meet UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development Team

UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development team collaborates with community partners through the Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio (EBBSA) network San Antonio network and Excel Academy to strengthen the student experience in Bexar County. The team consists of liz moseley, Director of K12 and Youth Development, Shelby Drayton, Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation who leads Excel Academy and Sarah Hinojosa, Manager of K12 and Youth Development who leads EBBSA. Read more about them here.

UP Partnership and Community Partners visit Harlem Children’s Zone

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

PRIDE MONTH

June is Pride Month. At UP Partnership, we know that racism and bigotry can take a psychological toll on marginalized people. We stand with the LGTBQ+ community against the homophobic and transphobic bills that could block vital care and access to LGBTQ+ young people. Every child, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves to have the support of their community.

Partner Spotlights

Future Ready partner organizations that empower girls and women

In March, UP Partnership celebrated Women’s History Month by highlighting Future Ready partners organizations that empower girls and women to be the leaders of the future. Included in the story were Empower House, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, Girls on the Run Bexar County, Lemonade Circle and YWCA San Antonio. Read More.

How 100 Black Men is changing young people’s lives through workforce programming

100 Black Men of San Antonio “focuses on education, economic empowerment, health and wellness and leadership development all anchored in mentorship,” the organization’s local Executive Director Dr. Milton Harris, DBA, told UP Partnership.

The organization works in the community by offering programs that focus on alternative high school completion, workforce credentialing, creating mentorship relationships, among others. Read more about the impact 100 Black Men is having in Bexar County here.

Excel Academy and Restorative Practices Collaborative Recruitment

Applications for the new cohorts of Excel Academy and Restorative Practices Collaborative are now open! If you are interested in Excel Academy, contact Shelby Drayton at Shelby@uppartnership.org. If you are interested in Restorative Practices Collaborative, contact Suzette Solorzano at Suzette@uppartnership.org

Want to be spotlighted? Contact Carrie Ballard-Banuelos at Carrie@UPPartnership.org with your story to potentially be featured in our stories!

Advancing the work

Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio

EBBSA had the annual CEO retreat on September 14-15th. Thank you to the CEO retreat committee for their hard work and dedication in creating an intentional and relationship building focused event. Martha Ramos Duffer, founder and owner of Quantum Possibilities, presented on “Nurturing Cultures of Belonging” with an open discussion after dinner.

Excel Academy

Excel Academy welcomed its newest class on August 31 at the Boeing Center at Tech Port, with programming starting in September 2024. Welcome to the program Class of 2024!

Restorative Practices Collaborative

Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC) Cohort 3 started  the final leg of their restorative justice training on August 31 at San Antonio ISD headquarters. This cohort will complete the RPC program in March of 2024.

Applications for Cohort 4, which will begin in August of 2024, are currently open. Please contact Suzette Solorzano, Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation for K12 and Justice, at suzette@uppartnership.org for more information.

Moving the needle forward with a national lens

In July, Sara Dunn, UP Partnership’s Director of Data and Information Management, in community with staff from Future Ready community partners Communities In School – San Antonio and East Central ISD  advanced work during William Julius Wilson Institute (WJWI) and Harvard EdRedesign Lab’s Transforming Place Through Neighborhood Leadership Summer Training Institute. The sessions further equipped the team with the tools needed to think through and advance our work using data insights.There was also a presentation on research about Communities In Schools’s program and the long term financial impact that their integrated support systems have on youth who as adults make $1,500 more annually than the average person and over $50,000 over their lifetime.

 “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 at Communities In Schools of San Antonio, said after the trip.

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


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

In recognition of its impact on the lives of young people across Bexar County, StriveTogether has designated UP Partnership as a “Systems Transformation” Cradle to Career Network member, the top designation for communities in its national network, making it one of six total communities to do so in the country. 

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

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

Through StriveTogether, UP Partnership is part of a national movement to help every child succeed in life, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network is closing gaps and creating opportunities across education, health, housing and more. Through thorough evaluation of UP Partnership, StriveTogether found that the organization and its partners have demonstrated clear evidence that Bexar County is changing systems to advance equity and improve results for young people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional quotes from Bexar County Leaders on this announcement: 

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

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

About StriveTogether

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

About UP Partnership

Founded in 2009, UP Partnership is a San Antonio-based nonprofit that convenes partners in Bexar County that provide healing, access and voice to local young people to create equitable systems and ensure that all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future. UP Partnership believes that making sure all of our young people are future ready is our entire community’s responsibility. The mission is ambitious, challenging — and achievable — if we organize our efforts. UP Partnership drives the countywide strategy through collaboration, data sharing and advocacy. 

Meet UP Partnership’s Finance and Operations Team

Meet UP Partnership's Finance and Operations team

UP Partnership’s Finance and Operations team works to advance the organization’s finance, technology, human resources and operational systems, to ensure sustainable organizational operations as the organization aims to achieve its mission of ensuring all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future.

The team shares responsibility for the internal systems needed for organizational operation so all of the team is rooted in UP Partnership’s values, engaged in as a team in our collective work and have the capacity needed to drive impact.The team spearheading finance and operations consists of Brandon Henson, Director of Finance and Operations, J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations, Patrick Farris, Manager of Development and Grants. Rodnekka Hall, Human Resources Manager of Training and Development, and Kristen Kitler, Human Resources Manager of Team Success.

Get to know the K12 & Postsecondary Team

Brandon Henson is originally from central Illinois before moving to southwest Missouri to attend college. He enjoyed an early, successful career as a “sideman” musician — a musician who steps in and performs with other musicians when needed. He moved to San Antonio in 2012 to join the team at Youth Orchestras of San Antonio. It was here that he met his wife and they have a three-year-old son and newborn baby boy. As he says, “While I’m not a native Texan, I married one, and I am raising one.”

As the most recent member of UP Partnership’s Finance and Operations team, the ability to build equitable community transformation is what drew Brandon to the work. In his role, he will provide support to the UP Partnership team through financial management and efficient operational strategies. 

His advice to all is simply “Be kind.”

J’Shcarla Adkins loves, encourages and uplifts her family and friends. She has been married for 25 years (and counting) and shares three pretty cool adult kids with her husband, she said. While she was born in New York, and lived in California and Nebraska, she has enjoyed her time in Texas the most.

She was drawn to the work of UP Partnership because she wanted to be part of an organization that works to encourage, uplift and provide opportunities for the youth in San Antonio. In her position, she oversees the operations of the organization, as well as managing budgeted expenses and activities. She reports to Brandon Henson and works with Kimberly Sama, Chief Finance and Operations Officer, to ensure financial sustainability for the organization.
Her advice to all is to not “be afraid to ask questions because the more you know; the more you grow!”

Patrick Farris is originally from Houston, but has lived in San Antonio for fifteen years. He spends his free time reading, gardening and being outdoors. He tries to fix things around his house but admits it isn’t always successful or timely. He enjoys good conversations, slow songs, spending time with close friends and thinking deeply about his life and the world.

With a diverse professional background, including an English educator for a refugee resettlement program, leading student volunteer teams and facilitating student leadership development at universities, he was drawn to UP Partnership’s work at the systems level that is building a citywide ecosystem that supports impact. In his position, he seeks funding opportunities for UP Partnership such as grants, and he communicates the impact of UP Partnership’s work in the community through our three systems change networks, our three collaboratives, and, when relevant, the work of our partnership institutions.

His advice to all is to “stay curious.”

Rodnekka Hall is a mom and motivator. She joined UP Partnership in 2016 to help launch our systems change network, My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, but has since grown into a variety of positions within the company, such as Community Engagement and Capacity Building Manager, Project Coordinator, Human Resources Coordinator, and Special Projects and Process Development Manager. 

In her current position she leads and designs continuous learning and professional development systems including training, coaching and supervision, onboarding and re-boarding staff, facilitating training and teambuilding opportunities and is a coach in UP Partnership’s Excel Academy, which is anchored in our system change network Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio.

Her advice to all is to “never give up.”

Kristen Kitler was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and joined the Navy in 2014. As she started to serve our country, she ended up in the state of Washington for eight years where she developed a passion for hiking and the outdoors. The military provided her with many opportunities to volunteer within the community she was stationed in, as well as internally while on deployment.

It was those volunteer opportunities that she found the most enjoyable and is grateful for the opportunity to work at UP Partnership and continue to help those in her community. In her position she oversees the organization’s recruitment, interviewing, selection and hiring process, while administering employee-related services such as benefits and payroll.

Her advice to all is “life is short; find your happiness.”

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact admin@uppartnership.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work.

You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.

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

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

SA Worx, the workforce development arm of the economic development organization greater:SATX, works to ensure San Antonio is the top choice for employers and community members to fulfill the employment needs of local and regional companies. They work with various community partners to create a sustainable and scalable employee talent base.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact admin@uppartnership.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner, or donate to the work here.

You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media. 

How UP Partnership is modeling wellness initiatives in the workplace

How UP Partnership is modeling wellness initiatives in the workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need, and demand, for mental health and wellness services.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

More than one in five adults live with mental illness

Over one in five youth (13-18) either currently, or at some point in their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness

About one in twenty-five U.S. adults live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression

The CDC, also states that poor mental health negatively impacts employees by decreasing their job performance and productivity, engagement with work, communication with coworkers and their daily functioning and physical capability. 

While employees in all business sectors are susceptible to mental health issues, for nonprofit employees the possibility of burnout is markedly higher due to the nature of the work being done and the distinctive stresses that come with working in the nonprofit sector.

As the National Council of Nonprofits explains, while many employers are feeling the effects of a workforce shortage, nonprofits lack the resources to address this shortage such as increasing salaries and/or offering signing bonuses. The shortage is felt by nonprofit employees, who are generally part of a smaller team, as they must continue the work required of them, as well as the work of the vacant position.

To address this crisis, it is recommended that employers take a “person first” approach to mental health initiatives. 

For UP Partnership, this is reflected in a workplace culture that not only respects, but encourages, a work-life balance.

In addition to a yearly allotted amount of paid time off (PTO), the organization completely shuts down during the week of Thanksgiving, the week between Christmas and New Years and the week of July 4. This gives employees the opportunity to spend time with their families and friends without needing to use their personal PTO. Employees also have one wellness day they can take off per month that is not a part of their PTO either. 

As Kimberly Sama, Chief Finance and Operations Officer, explains, “UP Partnership recognizes the crucial importance of mental health and wellness for individuals and communities. As an organization, we are dedicated to prioritizing and investing in mental health and wellness as a fundamental aspect of supporting our employees’ overall well-being. By providing dedicated time for self-care, implementing regular wellness days and seasonal week-long office closures, we aim to create an environment where mental health and wellness are valued and supported for the benefit of our team and the communities we serve.”

For the staff of UP Partnership, monthly wellness days are one of their favorite things about working for the organization. Staff use the days for various reasons — attend doctors appointments or family events, work on their continuing education, start or extend a weekend or simply relax and recharge — without having to use allotted PTO days.

“The ability to have a ‘use it or lose it’ day each month (separate from PTO) encourages me to take advantage of this on a regular basis, and it has been exceptionally useful to me as a working mom who is also going to school full-time,” Marie Moreno, Data Manager of K12 and Youth Development explained.

For Emily Calderón Galdeano, Ed.D., Chief Impact and Strategy Officer, “Work/Life balance is a difficult thing to accomplish, but these days give us the opportunity to take the day and use it to best serve our needs in a given month,” while noting that “wellness and health mean different things to different people.”

“I love the fact that we can take a wellness day without any questions or judgment given,” added J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations. “Taking these days does not count against our PTO which allows us to really plan and take time off in a meaningful way.”

UP Partnership knows the value that each employee brings to the mission and work of the organization. By supporting staff through workplace mental health and wellness initiatives, the organization ensures that the team is healthy to be able to tackle the important work of making sure that all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future.

To learn more about UP Partnership, please visit our website.You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.

2023 – June Newsletter

More than 200 youth-serving professionals sharpened their skills during the Future Ready Practitioner Conference

On May 22, 2023, 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 made up of leaders from local school districts, colleges and universities, and youth development organizations. Many of these partners are members of UP Partnership’s 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, and academic advisors, and college admissions officers, among others.

The opening keynote on developmental relationships was provided by Benjamin Houltberg, Ph.D., President and CEO of Search Institute. During lunch, Bexar County youth provided their perspectives during a Diversity Student Panel, while Abel Gonzales, Ph.D., Director of Instructional Outreach Programs at the University of Texas at San Antonio offered the closing remarks. 

Read More.

Data Point

4,500

Estimated number of additional students per year enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential to reach the Future Ready Bexar County Plan goal of 70% by 2030.

This data point and similar data points can be found on the recently launched Bexar County Postsecondary Metrics Dashboard on UP Partnership’s website. This dashboard illustrates college readiness, access to postsecondary education through dual credit and postsecondary enrollment. This dashboard also depicts the number of students needed by each school district and high school to reach the Future Ready Bexar County’s North Star goal of 70% postsecondary enrollment in a degree or credential program by 2030.

In the News: An Op-Ed by our CEO and Board Chair in the San Antonio Express-News

On May 25, the San Antonio Express News published an op-ed co-authored by CEO Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Ph.D. and board chair Elaine Mendoza titled “Paving the way for a brighter future for young people.”

The piece is a high level synopsis of the impact and progress made by Future Ready Bexar County Plan partners throughout the first year of the plan’s implementation. Further examples of how youth-serving organizations are moving the work through Future Ready Bexar County’s  equity pillars of healing, access and voice can be found here.

Read the article here.

Latest UPdates

Meet UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development Team

UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development team collaborates with community partners through the Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio (EBBSA) network San Antonio network and Excel Academy to strengthen the student experience in Bexar County. The team consists of liz moseley, Director of K12 and Youth Development, Shelby Drayton, Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation who leads Excel Academy and Sarah Hinojosa, Manager of K12 and Youth Development who leads EBBSA. Read more about them here.

UP Partnership and Community Partners visit Harlem Children’s Zone

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

PRIDE MONTH

June is Pride Month. At UP Partnership, we know that racism and bigotry can take a psychological toll on marginalized people. We stand with the LGTBQ+ community against the homophobic and transphobic bills that could block vital care and access to LGBTQ+ young people. Every child, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves to have the support of their community.

Partner Spotlights

Future Ready partner organizations that empower girls and women

In March, UP Partnership celebrated Women’s History Month by highlighting Future Ready partners organizations that empower girls and women to be the leaders of the future. Included in the story were Empower House, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, Girls on the Run Bexar County, Lemonade Circle and YWCA San Antonio. Read More.

How 100 Black Men is changing young people’s lives through workforce programming

100 Black Men of San Antonio “focuses on education, economic empowerment, health and wellness and leadership development all anchored in mentorship,” the organization’s local Executive Director Dr. Milton Harris, DBA, told UP Partnership.

The organization works in the community by offering programs that focus on alternative high school completion, workforce credentialing, creating mentorship relationships, among others. Read more about the impact 100 Black Men is having in Bexar County here.

Excel Academy and Restorative Practices Collaborative Recruitment

Applications for the new cohorts of Excel Academy and Restorative Practices Collaborative are now open! If you are interested in Excel Academy, contact Shelby Drayton at Shelby@uppartnership.org. If you are interested in Restorative Practices Collaborative, contact Suzette Solorzano at Suzette@uppartnership.org

Want to be spotlighted? Contact Carrie Ballard-Banuelos at Carrie@UPPartnership.org with your story to potentially be featured in our stories!

Partner Resources

UP Partnership’s Future Ready partners are a wealth of information and resources that can be used to elevate the being done in Bexar County. As the backbone organization, we are committed to sharing these resources with all of our partners.

Request for Presenters:
Future Ready Practitioner Conference on May 22

At the Inaugural Future Ready Practitioner Conference, cross-sector partners presented on a diverse topics such as changes in the 2023-2024 financial aid process, strengthening school and family relationship, the effects of STEM peer mentors and many more. All presentations can be found here.

New Horizons and Opportunities Grant Request for Proposals

Carlos Maestas, Founder and Chief Storysmith at Key Ideas, joined the Communication Council’s May meeting for professional development in authentic storytelling, the power of positioning and simplifying your message. His presentation can be found here.

Communications Council on May 11 

The Racial Equity Toolkit, from the Collective Impact Forum, outlines ways community organizations can operationalize racial equity within their team. Through individual reflection and conversation, organizations can gain skills to center racial equity in their work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact admin@uppartnership.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here.You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.

Meet UP Partnership’s K12 & Youth Development team

Meet UP Partnership's K12 & Youth Development team

UP Partnership’s K12 and Youth Development team collaborates with community partners to strengthen the student experience for young people in Bexar County using SEARCH Institute’s Developmental Relationships as the framework with a racial equity lens. 

Specifically, the team leads the Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio (EBBSA) network and Excel Academy, a leadership program for youth development professionals focusing on racial equity, continuous improvement, and Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships FrameworkEBBSA works with various youth development organizations to develop high quality standards for youth serving programs. This is one step toward ensuring that all young people in Bexar County have access to the development relationships they need to succeed.

EBBSA’s Northstar directive co-developed with these partner organizations is that by 2030, the network will have substantially increased access to high quality youth development programs from the current baseline (to include dedicated focus on out of school time) with a focus on partnerships that meet targeted needs.

Throughout the Excel Academy program, youth-serving professionals learn and create an implementation plan to better connect and build transformative relationships throughout their organization and with those they serve.

The team spearheading the work of EBBSA and the Excel Academy consists of liz moseley Director of K12 and Youth Development, Shelby Drayton, Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation, and Sarah Hinojosa, Manager: Community Engagement.

Get to know the K12 & Youth Development Team

liz moseley was drawn to collective impact work because they believe in “working for the liberation of everyone and the power of the beloved community to create spaces of transformation.”

“As a queer BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and/or person of color], I have spent my entire career empowering young people and educators to change the world,” moseley said.

They graduated summa cum laude from The University of Texas at San Antonio as a first generation student with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies.

In their freetime, liz enjoys creating art using wood, stained glass, and clay mediums; reading and learning; and having meaningful conversations that deepen relationships.

liz offers the following advice to all:
• Embrace and internalize Lucille Clifton’s poem, the lessons of the falling leaves;
• Read Kahlil Gibrand’s The Prophet as a guide to navigate various components of life;
• Spend time doing things that bring you immense joy;
• Treat others how they want to be treated; and
• “To be love, lead with love, love openly, and tell people you love them.”

Shelby Drayton is originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and attended Drexel University in Philadelphia. After graduating, she joined AmeriCorps which brought her to San Antonio.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature, or laughing in the company of friends and family.

Shelby is also involved in the San Antonio community, as a member of the Downtown Rotary Club of San Antonio serving on the social committee, service committee and co-lead of the Sam Houston High School’s Interact Club. She also sits on the board of Snack Pak 4 Kids, an organization forced on enhancing education outcomes by ending weekend hunger for children.

Shelby’s advice to all is simple — “Be yourself, love yourself, embrace yourself!”

Sarah Hinojosa grew up in San Antonio with five siblings and attended The University of Texas at San Antonio. Before joining the team, Sarah spent nine years as a teacher and two years as an assistant principal.

A few of Sarah’s favorite quotes are:
• “Only take advice from someone you would want to trade places with.”
• “The fastest way to reach a goal is slowly.”
• ” The number one reason most people fail to meet their goals is that they sacrifice what they want most for what they want now.”

For more information about Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio and the Excel Academy, 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. 

One Year of Future Ready Bexar County: Paving the way for a brighter future for young people

One Year of Future Ready: Paving the way for a brighter future for young people in Bexar County

In the News: An Op-Ed by Our CEO and Chair in the San Antonio Express-News

Here is a synopsis of an op-ed by our CEO, Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, and our chair, Elaine Mendoza, that was published on May 25 in the San Antonio Express-News titled: “Paving the way for a brighter future for young people”

UP Partnership’s Future Ready Bexar County Plan, launched a little more than a year ago in April 2022, is a way for our community to deliver on an equitable recovery pledge to help our children and youth recover from the many ills of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a plan to ensure all young people in Bexar County are prepared for the future.

More than 85 organizations across varying industries are working together to provide services and/or funding to our young people. Together they’re pursuing a north star goal of increasing, from roughly 50 percent to 70 percent by 2030, Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in post-secondary degree or credential programs. And the plan is to achieve this while also reducing racial and ethnic inequities in enrollment.

Although 20 percent may seem like a steep increase in a seven-year time frame, data show this goal is attainable. According to the latest available data analyzed from the Texas Education Agency, 4,449 additional Bexar County students from the Class of 2020 would have needed to enroll in a post-secondary program to reach that 70 percent enrollment goal.

For the class of 2030, who will be sixth graders this fall, about 17,059 of the 24,270 students will need to enroll in a post-secondary program to achieve our goal.

This plan builds on the existing strengths of many of our partners, which have made commitments toward equity pillars of healing, access and voice.

You can continue to read the entire op-ed by clicking here.

We did, however, want to continue to expand on further examples that our youth serving organization Future Ready Bexar County Plan partners are conducting per pillar:

Pillar One: Healing: Young people will be future ready when they all have developmental relationships and healing supports they need.

Through funding awarded by Corporate Partners for Racial Equity (CPRE) by way of the San Antonio Area Foundation, UP Partnership’s My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio (MBKSA) and the Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC) were able to fund six long-standing community organizations all of whom are Future Ready Partners — 100 Black Men of San Antonio, American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, Empower House, Family Service Association and Rise Recovery — to provide direct training of restorative justice and social emotional healing in Bexar County. Currently, the RPC is in local school districts like East Central ISD, Harlandale ISD, Judson ISD and San Antonio ISD. These funds augment the power of the work being conducted within the RPC through the support of funders such as Blue Meridian Partners, USAA and others.

In addition to funds from CPRE, Rise Recovery was given funding from Self Financial, Inc. through a connection made by Spurs Sports and Entertainment, a corporate partner of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. This will allow the organization to expand healing in Judson ISD, a Future Ready school district, by providing a healthy space for youth to learn about the importance of mental health, as well as the tools and skills to support their peers at home, in the classroom and beyond.

Alongside our restorative practices work, there has been significant movement in upskilling justice-involved youth through Chrysalis Ministries, which includes a three-year partnership between them and Future Ready organizations such as SA Worx to advance equity and economic mobility through workforce development services providing quality internships and job placement. It is anticipated that around 20-25 students will be recruited for a pilot Justice Involved Youth Workforce cohort starting in 2023.

Pillar Two: Access: Young people will be future ready when they can access high quality education and career opportunities.

Starting in Sept. 2022, Alamo Promise, a comprehensive last-dollar scholarship from the Alamo Colleges District Foundation, expanded its free tuition at any college within the Alamo College District to ALL students in Bexar County regardless of income or high school grade point average. This monumental point of access for our local young people to get into college was only further expanded in November, when the Alamo Colleges teamed up with the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) on the Promise-to-Promise program. This program allows students who maintain certain eligibility criteria to not only transfer to UTSA but have their tuition and mandatory fees covered for four years through UTSA’s Bold Promise.

Keeping in line with expanding access to postsecondary opportunities for all students, UP Partnership’s Diplomás network provided $60,000 in scholarships for part-time and full-time students who identify as Dreamers enrolled in three Future Ready partner higher education institutions — Alamo Colleges District, Texas A&M University – San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio — through a program called the UPLift Dreamers Award. These institutions specifically distributed the funds they received to provide funding and scholarships to many Dreamers at these institutions throughout the 2022-2023 academic year.

UP Partnership through its MBKSA and Diplomás networks also hosted the inaugural Future Ready Youth Summit in November, bringing together approximately 400 students from East Central, Judson, Harlandale, San Antonio and Southwest Independent School Districts at Northeast Lakeview College. Programming at the Summit focused on providing college and career planning support to students in attendance, many of whom identified as boys and young men of color, Dreamers and/or Latinx students. In addition to those workshops, the students listened to inspiring keynote speakers, as well as fun visits from local mascots such as the San Antonio Spurs Coyote. This event is planned to be even bigger this year with a goal of increasing attendance to 1,000 young people.

Pillar Three: Voice: Young People will be future ready when their voices are heard and their leadership potential is nurtured.

After months of advocacy by UP Partnership’s Excel Beyond on the Bell (EBBSA) network youth development partners, successfully secured nearly $25 million for young people through the city of San Antonio’s American Rescue Plan Act funds in February. This funding will enable many of the plan’s partners to continue the work of growing their youth development programming and mental health services. Young people 12 to 19 expressed a need for mental health services in a spring 2022 survey conducted by the city. More than half of the respondents said COVID-19 negatively impacted their mental health.

This success exhibits the power of community members working together toward a common goal and why cross-sector partnerships are essential to the work we do in order to reach the North Star goal.

We also recognize that young people need to be a part of the leading team guiding the implementation of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. Their voice is vital in the process and in keeping us adults accountable. To ensure that their voices are heard, UP Partnership asked its partners to bring at least one young person into one of the quarterly leadership tables that is guiding implementation work for the Plan called the Joint Organization Leadership Table (or JOLT). In March 2023, the table met at Family Service’s Association The Neighborhood Place where cross-sector leaders and youth leaders convened to continue to drive forward the Future Ready Bexar County Plan’s impact in an intragenerational manner for the first-time and is a commitment that we all continue to strive to grow as the implementation of this plan continues.

Future Ready partners such as the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology have also collaborated with many other Future Ready Partners to continue to grow their programming such as the annual SA Smart Challenge: The Mayor’s K-12 Smart City Challenge. SAMSAT in collaboration with the City of San Antonio’s Office of Innovation, Communities In Schools – San Antonio, Education Service Center, Region 20 and the San Antonio Area Foundation, have hosted the competition since 2018, bringing together 7th-12th grade teams from various Bexar County school districts to research a San Antonio-specific smart city problem and propose a strategy, product or service as a solution to the problem. All topics come from SA Tomorrow, San Antonio’s vision for 2040, and have included topics such as sustainability, digital inclusion, food insecurity, water resources and the 2023 topic of transportation.

To date, 1,155 students from 14 ISDs have formed 227 teams that have worked with subject matter and entrepreneur experts to present their proposed solutions to that year’s topic that include technical and marketing analysis at the Mayor’s Cup Competition Day which took place on May 24.

These examples are just a few highlights of the good work each one of the 85 Future Ready Bexar County partners do to help us reach that north star goal each and every day. With one year under our belt and three since our community decided to sign an Equitable Recovery Pledge, we cannot wait to see the progress San Antonio and Bexar County will continue to make with our education ecosystems’ continued aligned contributions.

If your organization is ready to join in on the Future Ready movement, please contact admin@uppartnership.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here.

You can also follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media.