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Organizations join forces to create a national standard for a leadership program geared toward youth-serving professionals

UP Partnership’s leadership program for youth-serving professionals sets the standard using Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework

UP Partnership, a San Antonio-based collective impact organization, and Search Institute, a Minnesota-based positive youth development and equity-focused research organization, are collaborating to create a national standard for a leadership development program. This program is specifically geared toward augmenting youth-serving professionals’ ability to better connect and build transformative relationships with those they serve, which in turn helps young people develop character virtues, such as generosity, self-control, civility, respect, humility, purpose, and curiosity.

Since 2019, UP Partnership has led Excel Academy, a leadership program rooted in racial equity, continuous improvement, adaptive leadership, and Search Institute’s Developmental Relationships Framework. The core of Search Institute’s Framework is based on five elements vital to transformative relationships between youth-serving professionals and young people: expressing care, challenging growth, providing support, sharing power and expanding possibilities. Excel Academy participants are invited to engage in learning around these five elements through a racial equity lens. These elements are important for professionals to utilize in helping young people succeed while also focusing on equity.

“Developmental relationships are close connections through which young people discover who they are, cultivate abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them. Our Developmental Relationships Framework guides youth-serving professionals toward creating meaningful relationships with young people and providing the support and encouragement they need to thrive,” says Search Institute CEO, Ben Houltberg.

Search Institute and UP Partnership have worked together for several years on various projects. In the spring of 2022, both organizations saw an opportunity to scale up Excel Academy through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. Through a $1.6 million investment, Search Institute and UP Partnership are currently creating the framework to further expand Excel Academy to a national scale through a new three-year framework that helps organizations to cultivate relationship- and character-rich climates.

“Through Excel Academy more than 75 youth serving professionals in over 26 youth-serving organizations in Bexar County have been impacted through the program, to-date. We are bringing together two professionals each from selected youth-serving organizations – one senior level, one frontline staffer. Having both perspectives at the table is vitally important to ensure diverse voices are heard,” said Emily Calderón Galdeano, UP Partnership’s Chief Strategy and Impact Officer. “The reach that both have to attain feedback from their teams and students inform how the participants create and continually improve their organizational work plans.”

Together senior-level and frontline staff members will co-create an organizational improvement plan that will help them implement changes based on the content covered in the sessions. Frontline and senior-level staff also receive individualized coaching from UP Partnership staff, and training from Search Institute, Quantum Possibilities, and UP Partnership facilitators.

Miray Seward is Search Institute’s Research Scientist and primary researcher for this pilot. The primary lead of Excel Academy at UP Partnership is Senior Manager of K12 and Youth Development Shelby Drayton.

A total of 23 organizations received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. To learn more about this grant and read more about the other awardees you can click here.

About Search Institute
Search Institute is a nonprofit organization with a sixty-plus-year history of collaboration with youth-serving organizations to conduct and apply research that promotes positive youth development and advances equity. Our tools build connections that help all young people learn and grow.

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 youth to create equitable systems and ensure that all young people in the county are ready for the future. Its work is conducted through collaborative efforts with its partners that focus on education and youth development initiatives and have signed on to a community-wide strategic plan called Future Ready Bexar County or its networks of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Diplomás, and Excel Beyond the Bell. UP Partnership has 130 local partners and 500 volunteer leaders across seven sectors including: early childhood, preK12, postsecondary education, youth development, workforce, justice, funders, corporate partners and local government.