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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more information on how you can become a Future Ready partner or donate to the work here.
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