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.

Our Tomorrow hosts third annual youth-led Policy Institute for 50 young people from across Bexar County

Our Tomorrow hosts third annual youth-led Policy Institute for 50 young people from across Bexar County

Youth leaders use institute to learn from city leaders and develop policy recommendations

San Antonio, Texas – UP Partnership’s Our Tomorrow network is hosting its third annual youth-led Policy Institute to empower and educate young people who have a desire to change the local landscape of youth voice and shared power.

The Policy Institute is a five-day event held July 19-23 that was developed by Our Tomorrow college and high school interns. Fifty young people from across Bexar County will attend the institute to receive training from experts in advocacy, policy, and data, reconnect with other students, and strategize on ways to ensure youth voice is not only heard, but utilized at decision-making tables across the community. They’ll develop policy recommendations throughout the week for issues they care about.

“This Policy Institute is an opportunity for our voice to be heard and to finally make a real change here in San Antonio” said Bella Garcia, a Policy Institute college intern and incoming Sophomore at Mills College.

Additionally, on July 26, Policy Institute students plan to invite city and school leaders to attend the Policy Institute Celebration and Close-out to present their policy recommendations.

The Policy Institute comes at a crucial moment, as students return to school in-person. The recommendations youth leaders will develop at the Institute will ensure continued progress for youth engagement at the city and school board level.

“I am excited about how well this Institute was designed and executed by the youth. I always tell students that engage with Our Tomorrow that now is the time for them to leave their legacy for the benefit of young people today and the generations of young people ahead—this gives them that opportunity,” shared Leroy Adams, UP Partnership’s Senior Manager of Youth Voice.

To learn more about the Policy Institute or attend in person, please contact Paulina Sosa directly to coordinate and schedule next steps.

  • Important Dates
    • All Policy Institute workshops, trainings and networking sessions will be held daily from 12-5 p.m. from Monday, July 19 – Friday, July 23.
    • The Policy Institute celebration will be held from 2-4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 26.

Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power focuses on research, policy and funding this summer

Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power focuses on research, policy and funding this summer

When young people develop their leadership skills, they are empowered to make their voices heard.

Our Tomorrow’s Youth in Power 2021, a three-track leadership skill-building series for young people ages 14-19, takes the concept of youth empowerment to the next level by establishing programs based on the key principles of research, policy and funding.

Our Tomorrow leaders began a Youth Participatory Action Research in June with 10 participants leading a research project on summer melt, defined as when high school seniors are accepted into college and do not enroll.

In July, Our Tomorrow will host its annual Policy Institute with an expected 50 participants spending a week learning about policy, advocacy, data and other ways to use their voice.

At the same time, Our Tomorrow is working with the San Antonio Area Foundation to start a Youth Grants Committee, an opportunity for young people who are interested in philanthropy and aligning investments into youth-serving organizations and programs.

Why is this important?
As UP Partnership progresses through its Citywide Planning for a Future Ready Bexar County process, keeping youth voice at the center is priority.

“We are creating spaces and platforms to help build on the voices and power young people already have,” said Leroy Adams, UP Partnership’s Senior Manager of Youth Voice.

Finally, the Youth Grants Committee’s focus will help young people be part of the funding alignment process, ensuring that youth voices are heard.

Digging Deeper
Though Our Tomorrow’s 2021 opportunities each have a unique focus—all center on ensuring young people have a voice in the decisions that will affect them well into their future. Here’s a deeper look at each of the programs and how they tie into UP Partnership’s overarching mission:

  • Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR)
    This research program gives 10 juniors and seniors from across Bexar County the opportunity to work with Dr. Van Lac, a YPAR scholar. These students will be trained and supported as they focus on research around the phenomenon of “summer melt.” Their findings will be recorded in a best practice guide and results recording that will both be shared with UP Partnership’s Equitable Enrollment Collaborative in the fall. EEC participants will use these tools to guide their enrollment strategies. 
  • Policy Institute
    The 2021 Policy Institute, which is in its third year, allows young people and community leaders to engage on a deeper level to make a tangible impact in local politics.
    The Policy Institute will be held July 19-24 and focuses on policy, advocacy and data.
  • Youth Grant Committee (YGC)
    This initiative will offer high school students the opportunity to turn their ideas into action by determining how $40,000 in grants will be distributed. Working alongside leaders from the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFDN), students will receive training in philanthropy, reviewing grant applications, and consensus decision making.

What’s next
Our Tomorrow youth leaders are also part of new arts-centered initiatives, including a newly-launched podcast called Youth Voices and a student-led art exhibit in the fall called “WE ARE NOW”—both done in collaboration with Say Sí.

– By Paulina Sosa

Teens and adults come together to address mental health at the 2021 Youth Voice Summit

Teens and adults come together to address mental health at the 2021 Youth Voice Summit

Our Tomorrow network uses event to facilitate conversations between young people and adults to address mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 6, 2021
Contact: Paulina Sosa


San Antonio, Texas – On Saturday, April 10, community leaders and teens will come together for the Our Tomorrow Youth Voice Summit with the 2021 theme Mental Wellness: Moving Past the Stigma and into Wellness.

The third annual summit will be held virtually and was planned by young people and adults to tackle the challenges teens are facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health challenges are at the forefront for many young people who have endured extended school closures, lost learning, and myriad COVID-19 uncertainties. Additionally, with February’s Texas winter storm adding a layer of trauma, the summit is being held at a time of critical need for young people, who chose this year’s summit theme.

“With both COVID-19 and the winter storm, many of my friends and I have been struggling and craving a space to connect and talk about these issues. The Youth Voice Summit is doing that for us,” said Breanna Jimenez, a freshman at East Central High School.

Our Tomorrow is one of four networks at UP Partnership, and brings together 14-19-year-olds and community partners like school districts (East Central ISD and Southwest ISD), youth-serving organizations (Boys and Girls Club and San Antonio Youth Council), and universities (UTSA) to advocate for change in policies that affect young people. The coalition’s work focuses on data, policy and arts & media.

“It’s been so motivating to see youth and community partners come together to collectively plan this year’s Summit. At the core, planning has been relationship building — strengthening bonds and building new bridges for collaboration. This event is the epitome of what UP Partnership stands for — making change together,” said Leroy Adams, UP Partnership Youth Voice Manager.

The event will feature a welcome from Mayor Ron Nirenberg, community leaders discussing mental health topics, and a cross-cultural dialogue on mental health with guests from Pakistan and Sierra Leone, among other topics.

“Being part of Our Tomorrow has been a privilege because as a coalition, we can do more and make a greater impact in our community,” said Patricia Reyes, Business and Community Outreach Facilitator at East Central ISD and co-chair of the Our Tomorrow arts & media work group.

The Our Tomorrow Youth Voice Summit will be held on Zoom from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. on April 10. Young people, ages 14-19 can register at bit.ly/YouthVoiceSummit.

Learn more about Our Tomorrow
Learn more about UP Partnership
Watch a conversation about the Youth Voice Summit

our tomorrow logo supply education resources for young people