Meet UP Partnership’s Communications Team

Meet UP Partnership's Communications team

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

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

Get to know the Communications Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Jan. 19 and 26, partners in UP Partnership’s system’s change networks Diplomás, Excel Beyond the Bell San Antonio and My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio, in collaboration with Workforce Solutions Alamo, hosted the annual Future Ready Youth Summit which brought together approximately 800 high school students from CAST Schools, Edgewood, East Central, Harlandale, Judson, Northside, San Antonio, Southwest and Lytle Independent School Districts at Northeast Lakeview College. Programming at the summit provided college and career planning guidance to students in attendance.

Future Ready Partners from local school districts, colleges and universities and youth development organizations came together to co-create and facilitate the summit’s programming, which included career and degree pathways, college 101 and financial aid guidance.

With a diverse student population in attendance, many had some idea of what careers they wanted to pursue and the dream colleges they wanted to attend. Some professions mentioned by students in attendance included business, book editor, construction, mechanic, medicine, plumbing steganography, teaching and video game design.

According to student interviews, attendees had college and university aspirations that varied from in-state institutions such as the University of Texas at San Antonio, to out-of-state institutions, and even international elite schools such as Oxford University in England, according to young people interviewed at the event.

Some attendees didn’t yet have any college or career plans after graduation. For one student, they didn’t feel future ready “when I go outside my family and home.” For another, they felt like they are “walking alone in trying to figure out a plan for after high school graduation and the person [they] want to be in the future.”

Still others accredited not being ready for life beyond high school to their lack of general knowledge like how to get a credit and/or debit card, how to prepare for college, the possible financial burden of student loans or not having enough details about career pathways.

Career and Degree Pathway sessions offered insights about career possibilities, degree options, setting career goals, internships, paid work experiences, apprenticeships, diversity and cultural differences in career choices and the importance of professional networking.

“I learned that the highest paying jobs are currently those in the engineering field,” said one high school junior. “The presenter also spoke about his own personal experience with trade schools which made me realize that there are other educational options I can explore aside from only attending a college or university.”

College 101 explored college course opportunities, which included topics such as degree plans, general courses, major and minor selection, electives and course load; college beyond the classroom, which included information on activities such as student government, community activities, club, societies, extracurriculars, greek life and studying abroad; as well as information on funding a college degree, which included topics such as scholarships, loans, grants and general financial literacy.

“In College 101, I learned about all the possible degree pathways and all of the extracurricular activities that are offered,” one junior said. “I didn’t know that you could take college courses for fun.”

For one senior, learning about the opportunity to study abroad was exciting. “I didn’t know that colleges offered students the chance to study in another country,” he said. “That is definitely something that I am interested in exploring when I go to college.”

For other seniors, the importance of time management and making a sustainable schedule was an important insight they gained. As one explained, “College is very different from high school. You get to make your own schedule, choose what classes you are going to take, and it is important to think about time management as well.”

Other students took away different lessons from the summit.

“I learned that it is important to focus on yourself first- I need to know what career I want to pursue and the best postsecondary options to reach that goal,” explained one junior..

For another junior “ I still have time to figure out the best college or university that fits into my needs. I don’t need to rush into any decisions right now.”

One major insight for a senior was the importance of having a mentor. “For me, having a mentor who can help guide me through this process is extremely helpful,” they said. “That way, if there is something I don’t know or understand, I will have someone who can help me.”

In addition to sessions they attended, the students listened to inspiring stories from Keynote Speakers that included San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg; Dr. Tangila Dove, Northeast Lakeview College’s Vice President of Student Success; Warren Hurd, Northeast Lakeview College’s Vice President of College Services; Gable Crowder, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas’ Director of Community Engagement; Dr. Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, UP Partnership’s CEO; and Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, UP Partnership’s Chief Impact and Strategy Officer.

Providing access to information and resources about college readiness, the college admissions process and career pathways, aligns with the Access pillar of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan. This community-wide plan brings together more than 90 cross-sector partners working toward the plan’s collective North Star goal — to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential programs to 70% by 2030. It focuses on three equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

A BIG thank you to everyone that made the Future Ready Youth Summit a success:
Alamo Colleges District: Dr. Christina Cortez, Bridgedette Garza and Miriam Magdaleno; American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions: Viviana Gorena Guillen and Robert Bruce Prior; Bexar County: Amy Halstead; Communities In Schools of San Antonio: Darla-Nicole Acosta; Girls Inc. of San Antonio: Tyla Oliver and Karina Ortiz; Good Samaritan Community Services: Patrice Owens; Northeast Lakeview College: Rebecca Alejos; SEE to ACT: Hayden de Maisoneuve Yates and Donna Hunnicutt-Rodriguez; San Antonio College: Dr. Samuel Byndom and Bertha Castellanos; San Antonio Education Partnership: Salvador Acosta and Aliaha Austin-Holmes; San Antonio ISD: Andrew Cervantes, Dustin Nieto and Dr. Jessica Perales; Texas A&M University San Antonio: Alissa Meyer; Trinity University: Nicole Fratto Garcia; Trinity Advising Corps: Eduardo Reyes Acosta, Joshua Anaya Karina Calderon and Fatima Perez; University of Texas at San Antonio: Nallely Castillo, Taylor Cole, Victoria Gorena, Maricela Luevano, Victoria Margo, Mike Rubio and Chanell Williams; University of the Incarnate Word: Jessica de La Rosa and Dr. Diana Sanchez; Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA): Sandra Rodriguez, as well as WSA’s Hire Ability and YES! Program; and YWCA San Antonio: Crystal Ellis and Abigail Teveni, as well as representatives from: Bexar County Sheriff Department; BiblioTech; Big Brothers and Big Sisters of South Texas; Boy With A Ball; Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas; DreamSA; The Dream.US; greater:SATX; Northwest Vista College; Our Lady of the Lake University; Palo Alto College; St. Philip’s College; Southwest Research Institute; Students of Service – San Antonio.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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