UP Partnership’s Restorative Practices Collaborative aims to increase inclusion practices for local boys and young men of color​

UP Partnership's Restorative Practices Collaborative aims to increase inclusion practices for local boys and young men of color

Did you know that in Bexar County, Black students represent 6% of the student population, yet they represent 11% of out-of-school suspensions, according to a 2020 Texas Education Agency report. This statistic is due, in part, to punitive and exclusionary discipline practices like suspensions and expulsion and those types of punishment affect students of color through isolation, alienation, and criminalization.

This is where UP Partnership’s Restorative Practices Collaborative focuses their work.

The purpose of the Restorative Practices Collaborative (RPC) is to change systems to scale restorative justices in classrooms and communities to increase a sense of belonging and connection for boys and young men of color. The RPC serves all students of color, with a focus on boys and young men of color,on twenty-one campuses, in three partner districts, in partnership with Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center, the Restorative Practices Collaborative, strives to reduce those disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact young students of color.

Through monthly community building sessions and providing and sharing data to track progress and share best practices, the RPC seeks to strengthen relationships and provide alternative methods of discipline practices through a comprehensive, focused, community driven strategy. We work with our long-term partners, American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AITSCM) and Empower House, to deliver Community Building Circles to Judson ISD, Harlandale ISD and San Antonio ISD.

As we progress with our Future Ready Bexar Plan and its collective North Star, to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030, the Restorative Practices Collaborative’s work is deeply rooted in the equity pillar of healing.

Along with access and voice, healing is one of the identified must HAVEs, an acronym that aligns with the pillars that lead toward equity amongst Bexar County’s young people. Young people will be future ready when they all have the developmental relationships and healing supports they need. By focusing on healing traumas and fostering positive relationships with adults, we will increase high school completion and participation in programs outside of school, while also reducing suspensions, expulsions and juvenile court appearances.

We kicked off the final semester for the current Restorative Practices Collaborative cohort with principals and district leads from the three school districts previously mentioned, so please stay tuned for a recap of that powerful event. A new cohort will start in 2023.

We are all in this together. It will take every member of our community, working together, to ensure the success of young people through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan.

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

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

Diplomás network has tangible impact on Latinx students in Bexar County

Diplomás network has tangible impact on Latinx students in Bexar County

Today we kickoff Hispanic Heritage Month—a month to appreciate and celebrate the culture, history and diversity of Latinx communities. Introduced in June 1968 by Congressman George E. Brown, the celebration was originally only one week long. It was extended to the now 30-day celebration by President Ronald Reagan and was formally adopted into law on Aug. 17, 1988.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year. While the Sept. 15 start day may seem odd, it is important and relevant considering Sept. 15 is the day of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico’s independence day on Sept. 16 and Chile’s independence day on Sept. 18. The month ends three days after Día de la Raza (“Race Day”), held Oct. 12, a prominent holiday celebration in many Latin countries that honors the rich history and culture of a pre-colonized America. 

As we begin this month of celebration of the Hispanic culture, we would be remiss to acknowledge the difficulties and disparities that continue to impact our Latinx communities.

At UP Partnership, our network, Diplomás, is a collective impact effort that unites 23 cross-sector partners to increase the college attainment and quality of life of San Antonio’s Latinx youth

Diplomás’s core beliefs center around economic viability as it ties to the success of Latinx students, college access for everyone and shared responsibility between community partners in student success. Therefore, at UP Partnership, we  focus on creating alignment between community partners, streamlining college admissions resources and supporting Dreamers in getting into, and completing, college. 

Providing ACCESS to postsecondary opportunity is the foundation of Diplomás, and is one of the three equity pillars, along with HEALING and VOICE, that our recently  launched Future Ready Bexar County Plan is rooted in. Those equity pillars have been identified as the must HAVES for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.  As we work toward our 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, the work that Diplomás does is integral to reaching our goal. This work will take every member of our community, working together, to ensure the success of young people through the Future Ready Plan.

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.

Local nonprofits looking for high school-aged artists to submit artwork for an upcoming exhibit

Local nonprofits looking for high school-aged artists to submit artwork for an upcoming exhibit

SAY Sí and UP Partnership aim to showcase young artists’ during the WE ARE NOW 2022 exhibit in December

San Antonio, Texas (August 24, 2022): SAY Sí and UP Partnership’s network, Our Tomorrow, invite diverse young artists from local high schools grades 9-12 to submit artwork to be considered for a curated hybrid art exhibition now through Sept. 30. Art mediums accepted can range from items such as photography, painting, illustration, video, to poetry, performance and others.

Once all submissions are received, a committee of professional judges will review each piece and make decisions on what will be used for the exhibit. Final selections will be announced by November 2022.

Artists chosen will be featured at the WE ARE NOW 2022 art exhibit that will be held at SAY Sí’s headquarters at 1310 S. Brazos St. on Dec. 10, 2022.

Artists are encouraged to explore the following themes:
Self-Discovery: Since 2020, we’ve experienced so many changes. In the last couple of years, What have you uncovered about yourself or your perspective on the world around you? Consider how the changes around you have developed new views in your life: new perspectives on mental health, social injustices, cultural understanding, and more. Let your artwork be a reflection of yourself, who you are and what you believe in.

Social Activism: While youth around the world face socioeconomic, political and cultural struggles, how can artistic expressions explore some of the most relevant social justice issues of today? From COVID-19 casualties, gun violence, school shootings, police brutality, reproductive rights, and racial discrimination to financial loss, mental wellness and social unrest, youth have raised their voice to empower themselves and others through resilience, creativity and community.

About SAY Sí: SAY Sí is a national award-winning year-round, long-term, nonprofit arts-based youth development program for San Antonio area students in grades 6-12 that provides opportunities for these students to develop artistic and social skills in preparation for higher educational advancement and professional careers. SAY Sí programs serve over 200 students from all of San Antonio’s school districts – in addition to serving 3,000 youth in community programs. SAY Sí accepts diverse students from all areas of San Antonio, but first priority is given to students from inner-city schools and low economic households. SAY Sí’s unique approach to education has placed the organization on the national stage, with recognition as one of the top out-of-school-time organizations in the country by The Wallace Foundation on Tuesday, November 12, 2013. More recently, SAY Sí was one of seven international youth arts organizations chosen to receive an inaugural Creative Catalyst Award by Adobe Project 1324 on Tuesday, February 8, 2016. Creative Catalyst Awards are given to organizations across the globe that support and inspire the next generation of creatives. For more information, visit www.saysi.org.

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. UP Partnership believes that making sure all of our young people are future ready is our entire community’s responsibility. This mission is ambitious, challenging— and achievable — if we organize our efforts. UP Partnership drives a countywide strategy through collaboration, data sharing and advocacy. Its work is conducted through collaborative efforts with its partners that focus on education and youth development initiatives through its networks of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Diplomás, Excel Beyond the Bell and Our Tomorrow.

Envisioning a Future Ready Community: 3 pillars that guide our plan

Envisioning a Future Ready Community: 3 pillars that guide our plan

It is the responsibility of everybody in the community to ensure that all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future. Through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, UP Partnership will work with a collection of partners, across varying sectors, in a collaborative effort to reach a collective North Star goal, which is to increase the percentage of Bexar County high school graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030.

This is, without a doubt, an ambitious undertaking, but we also know that the framework of the Future Ready Bexar County plan will support and facilitate the differences required to attain that North Star. The plan is centered around three equity pillars — healing, access and voice, the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people. Throughout this article, we will address how each of these pillars will ensure that young people in Bexar County are future ready.

Pillar One: Healing — Young people will be future ready when they all have the developmental relationships and healing supports they need. By focusing on healing traumas and fostering positive relationships with adults, we will increase high school completion and participation in programs outside of school, while also reducing suspensions, expulsions and juvenile court appearances.

Pillar Two: Access — Young people will be future ready when they can all access high quality education and career opportunities. By ensuring young people have crucial resources and support, we will increase postsecondary enrollment and success, as well as access to key technology needed for success.

Pillar Three: Voice — Young people will be future ready when their voices are heard and their leadership potential is nurtured. By uplifting the voices of young people, we will give young people ownership of problem solving and policy making at the tables addressing the very issues that they face.

We are all in this together. It will take every member of our community, working together, to ensure the success of young people through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, and this list continues to grow with more and more partners signing up to be institutional agreement partners to the plan.

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.

Follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter and following us on social media @UPPartnershipSA.

Leaping Forward Together: Reflecting on Seven Years of Partnership

Leaping Forward Together: Reflecting on Seven Years of Partnership

My family and I made the leap to San Antonio seven years ago this July. We wanted to be closer to our parents and we wanted our parents to be involved in our children’s lives. We were also excited to escape Chicago winters, even knowing we were trading them for the unrelenting heat of Texas summers.

This was a leap that led to many others. 

I was fortunate to get a job supporting Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio. Two years into that work I took on the executive role with UP Partnership, known at the time as the  P16Plus Council. We then merged Excel Beyond the Bell and UP in service of making San Antonio the “top city in the country for youth to learn, grow, and thrive.” 

These roles connected me to collective impact – the art and science of working across institutions to solve big population level problems, such as educational equity. Collective impact quickly became my professional home. It gave me a way to combine my commitment to young people and my passion for urban planning, largely by building new structures for focused partnerships. 

I love how collective impact constantly draws us into the unknown, calling us forth into new possibilities. It helps us to see that there is an infinite pool of solutions waiting to take shape: Connections that need to be built. Agreements waiting to be formed. Collaborations ready to take root. And so many of these possibilities require enhanced versions of ourselves, new ways of showing up in the work.

Throughout these years, I’ve had the great fortune of working with more than two dozen staff and hundreds of passionate volunteers. Together, as one friend said, “we have thinned the walls that separate our institutions.” We have built a growing community movement by embracing emergence at each step of the way. 

While some benefits of this movement are intangible, many of the results are concrete. 

Through the leadership of Diplomás, we’ve built breakthrough training resources and large-scale convenings for educators. Through My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, the Restorative Practices Collaborative has scaled restorative justice tools such as peace circles and corners, reducing several school districts’ reliance on punitive discipline. Through Excel Beyond the Bell, youth serving agencies have gained unprecedented access to program data and Excel Academy has helped dozens of agencies build higher quality relationships with those they serve, a key to strong program outcomes. 

Working alongside many other contributors, our collective has helped the larger San Antonio community to deepen its commitment to racial equity. We were among the first communities in the country to commit to an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, we have set a shared North Star of attaining 70% postsecondary enrollment for our high school graduates by 2030, a goal that will help to uproot longstanding racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic disparities.

Together we’ve helped bring tens of millions of new dollars to the table to support young people. This has happened through: multi-million dollar increases in how the city funds youth violence prevention, a dedicated $10 million youth recovery fund through ARPA, $4 million in new community grants we’ve facilitated through Blue Meridian Partners, and $14 million in gifts we’ve helped shape through the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity in partnership with the San Antonio Area Foundation and the United Way. 

Importantly, we haven’t settled for just using our own voices. We have prepared young people for future waves of advocacy. This was initially accomplished by revitalizing the San Antonio Youth Commission and more recently through youth-led research, policy training, grantmaking, and storytelling in conjunction with partners such as SAY Sí.

Collectively, we have treated the unknown as a stepping stone to discovering what’s possible. As a result, we have found new ways of leading together, built a movement that is now more unified than ever, and many of us have made close new friendships along the way. 

The next phase of our work will be anchored by the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, which supports our new bold North Star goal. This plan is backed by nearly seventy institutions, including local government departments, school districts, universities, non profits, and funders. These partners have all made explicit commitments to scaling Healing instead of punishment, Access instead of disconnection, and Voice instead of isolation, the must HAVEs for our young people to shine.  

Today, so many leaps later, I am proud to walk alongside so many of you brilliant community champions. Thank you all for your dedication to this work and for allowing UP Partnership and myself to support along the way. I am excited to continue leaping forward together and, in so doing, breaking down the walls that separate us.

In very serious cahoots,

Ryan Lugalia-Hollon

UP Partnership network gives thousands of dollars to high school students for youth-led projects

UP Partnership network gives thousands of dollars to high school students for youth-led projects

SAN ANTONIO (March 8, 2022) – UP Partnership’s youth voice network, Our Tomorrow, has given 11 youth-led groups from Southwest, East Central, San Antonio Independent School Districts and the Center For Young Minds grants worth a total of $43,000 in a pilot program meant to advance projects that matter most to them and their fellow classmates. 

“We created this pilot program in response to  young people’s request to be active participants in creating solutions to the challenges they are facing. The youth in our community have valuable ideas about the impact they want to make in their school and broader communities and we were thrilled to be able to support them through this initiative,” said Lisa Marie Gomez, UP Partnership’s Vice President of Youth Voice and Restorative Justice.

Through their projects, the chosen high school youth from schools such as Thomas Jefferson, Sam Houston, Young Women’s Leadership Academy, CAST Tech, CAST STEM, CAST Med, CAST Lead, along with a staff mentor from their respective school, are making an impact in areas such as mental health and suicide prevention, food insecurity, tax preparation, professional development and cultivation of social skills. 

Funded projects include:

– A Volunteer Income Tax Program by CAST Tech student Olivia Sanchez and staff mentor Lilian Gonzalez

– A Calming room on CAST STEM’s campus to meet needs around stress, overwhelm, and mental health led by CAST STEM student Christian Young and staff mentor Lilia Montes

– A Flower Flow project that funds the purchase of hygienic products for students by CAST Med student Irene Ramos and staff mentor Sabrina Donatto

– Restructuring and expanding a garden within the Helping Hands program to allow for outdoor classroom space, as well as a composting area to reduce food waste and a mobile produce food pantry led by CAST Lead student Airanda Wollney and staff mentor Calee Jaskula

– Ladies Hurricane Harvest young women conference led by Sam Houston student Yolanda Cisneros and staff mentor Joredanne Carmack

– The Better with Books program that will establish a safe space book club for students by CAST Med student Nicole Nino and staff mentor Anissa Cortez 

– A Dress for Success project by the DECA Inc. club students at CAST Lead and staff mentor Calee Jaskula

– The Feeding Community project by the Pitmaster club students at Jefferson aiming to help feed barbecue to its community and staff mentor Rogelio Garza

– A mental health awareness night in May that will invite professional therapists, counselors and psychologists speak on basics of mental health, healthy eating and exercise led by Young Women’s Leadership Academy’s student Zoe Lopez and staff mentor Kimberly Carter

– The Shooting Star Festival that will highlight mental health awareness through music with all funds raised donated to the Tim Bergling Foundation for Mental Health Awareness led by CAST STEM student Carlos Faz and staff mentor Lilia Montes

– A mental health series by the Center for Young Minds led by students Elisa Gonzalez, Yi Liu, TJ Kalikiri, Trinity Erwin, Alyssa Martinez, Shradha Pavankumar with staff mentor Jennifer Forbes 

“To further uplift the voices of youth, which is the reason why the Our Tomorrow youth voice network exists, all of the projects were chosen for funding by a youth grant review committee consisting of 11 students from all areas of Bexar County,” added Gomez. 

The funding for these grants came from $8 million in funding received by UP Partnership and the San Antonio Area Foundation from New York-based national nonprofit consortium Blue Meridian Partners in late 2020 to help with equitable recovery in San Antonio. 

UP Partnership has used these funds for initiatives that specifically fall under its three equity focus areas of increasing youth voice, access to college and career opportunities and healing instead of punitive disciplinary measures. Grants were awarded to nonprofits with initiatives tied to these focus areas, such as 100 Black Men, the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions and Empower House, formerly the Martinez Street Women’s Center.

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 through its networks of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Diplomás, Excel Beyond the Bell and Our Tomorrow. In total, UP Partnership has 200 local and national institutional partners and 500 volunteer leaders across seven sectors of early childhood, preK12, postsecondary education, youth development, workforce, justice, funders, corporate partners and local government.

UP Partnership goes through reorganization in preparation for release of community plan

UP Partnership goes through reorganization in preparation for release of community plan

UP Partnership is realigning our organization to better serve our partners as we prepare to publicly launch the Future Ready Plan, a countywide plan designed to help its partners better collaborate to ensure all young people in our community are ready for the future.

The organization has promoted staff who will now serve as strong points of contact to our partner organizations within UP Partnership’s four systems change networks: Diplomás, Excel Beyond the Bell, My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio and Our Tomorrow.

The Future Ready Plan is based on three major equity pillars—voice, healing, and access—which must be implemented throughout child, youth and young adult serving systems.

Its core components were created after a yearlong process of gathering input from hundreds of stakeholders from various educational institutions, youth development organizations, city departments, and community organizations and was recently approved by a planning table that is made up of UP Partnership’s Board of Directors as well as key education and workforce development partners.

The purpose of the plan is to align the goals of all of UP Partnership’s partners as well as other Bexar County networks, such as ReadyKidSA and the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity through its pillars, collectively driving the work that reach nearly 400,000 young people, or 70% of Bexar county’s youth population, including 330,000 young people of color.

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 through its networks of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, Diplomás, Excel Beyond the Bell and Our Tomorrow. In total, UP Partnership has 200 local and national institutional partners and 500 volunteer leaders across seven sectors of early childhood, preK12, postsecondary education, youth development, workforce, justice, funders, corporate partners and local government.