Bexar County Network Receives National Recognition for Advancing Education Initiatives for Young People

Bexar County Network Receives National Recognition for Advancing Education Initiatives for Young People

In recognition of its impact on the lives of young people across Bexar County, StriveTogether has designated UP Partnership as a “Systems Transformation” Cradle to Career Network member, the top designation for communities in its national network, making it one of six total communities to do so in the country. 

In Systems Transformation communities, cradle-to-career partnerships work with systems leaders to make fundamental and lasting shifts in policies, practices, resources and power structures. The goal for these changes is to eliminate racial and ethnic inequities, so that every Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian youth and all youth experiencing poverty have the opportunity to reach their full potential, from cradle to career.

“For more than 14 years, UP Partnership has brought together Bexar County community partners to find common ground for the larger goal of improving youth outcomes,” explains Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, Chief Impact and Strategy Officer at UP Partnership. “In more recent years, UP has rallied community partners around clear, focused goals. The Systems Transformation designation is due, in large part, to our community partners working together across those years to ensure more equitable outcomes for young people. Our partners’ shared dedication to improvement is why our countywide efforts have seen success.”

Through StriveTogether, UP Partnership is part of a national movement to help every child succeed in life, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network is closing gaps and creating opportunities across education, health, housing and more. Through thorough evaluation of UP Partnership, StriveTogether found that the organization and its partners have demonstrated clear evidence that Bexar County is changing systems to advance equity and improve results for young people.

“I’m thrilled to announce Bexar County as our most recent community to prove it’s making a measurable difference for every child,” StriveTogether’s President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “UP Partnership has reached an important milestone in galvanizing the community around a common vision and effective data use. They are a clear leader in our network of nearly 70 communities across the country, all of whom are taking bold steps to improve how systems serve young people and their families.”

UP Partnership is the anchor organization of the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, a strategic community initiative launched in April of 2022, which has brought together nearly 90 cross-sector partner organizations in a collaborative effort to reach a collective North Star goal — to increase the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030. 

“This Future Ready Bexar County plan is the first, in my experience, that had a convener in UP Partnership to bring everyone together around a unified North Star and enable us to coordinate all our efforts in a way that, we anticipate, is going to have the intended effect in the most efficient way,” said UP Partnership board member Roland Toscano, Superintendent, East Central ISD.

The plan is centered around three equity pillars — healing, access and voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people. Partner commitments to these pillars are the result of years of collective work that ultimately led to the top Systems Transformation designation. 

“The UP Partnership board of directors consists of cross-sector community members who have adopted the Future Ready Bexar County plan as the strategic plan for the organization,” said Elanie Mendoza, Chair, UP Partnership board of directors. “We are witnessing the results of what can be accomplished if everyone in the community is united under a collective North Star goal. To date, nearly 90 community partners have already dedicated themselves to improving equitable outcomes for young people in Bexar County. We know this work cannot be done in isolation.  We also know, to be successful, community partners must come together in the space of community impact to drive real sustainable change.”

To join the national network, communities complete an assessment of their civic infrastructure development. This process measures progress against a continuum of quality benchmarks, known as StriveTogether’s Theory of Action™. This proven framework has five designations — Exploring, Emerging, Sustaining, Systems Change and Systems Transformation — that indicate progress toward aligning resources around better and more equitable outcomes for young people.

Additional quotes from Bexar County Leaders on this announcement: 

“This announcement combined with our collective efforts through Future Ready Bexar County will help us, as a community, move toward getting 70% of our young people enrolled into postsecondary or credential programs by 2030. That is a mere seven years away, but it is an important goal for us to seek,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

“Our key is to ensure that we work with others to address one of the main challenges in our city, which is having credentialed talent, having individuals that may be seeking an industry based certification, a two-year degree or a bachelorette degree.” UP Partnership board member Dr. Mike Flores, Chancellor, Alamo Colleges District explains. “That two-year degree is the difference between struggle and success. It allows a student, and often their families, to be able to plan for the future. That is possible because of the work and alignment that we have through UP Partnership,” he concludes. 

About StriveTogether

StriveTogether is a national movement with a clear purpose: help every child succeed in school and in life from cradle-to-career, regardless of race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance. In partnership with 70 communities across the country, StriveTogether shares resources and best practices to put more young people on the path to economic mobility. Together, the StriveTogether Cradle to Career network reaches 14 million young people — including 8 million children of color and nearly one in five children living in poverty in the United States.

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 young people to create equitable systems and ensure that all young people in Bexar 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. The mission is ambitious, challenging — and achievable — if we organize our efforts. UP Partnership drives the countywide strategy through collaboration, data sharing and advocacy. 

SA Worx is putting in the work to ensure that Bexar County student’s are career ready

SA Worx is putting in the work to ensure that Bexar County student’s are career ready

SA Worx, the workforce development arm of the economic development organization greater:SATX, works to ensure San Antonio is the top choice for employers and community members to fulfill the employment needs of local and regional companies. They work with various community partners to create a sustainable and scalable employee talent base.

SA Worx’s ultimate goal, as explained by Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer, is to give students in Bexar County and surrounding communities first-hand, real-life, work experience that will prepare for whatever training or career path they choose and keep that pool of employees in our community. 

The importance of this work is “the backbone of economic development in our area,” says Matta-Barrera. “Working with community partners toward a unified strategy will create systematic change in our workforce and economic sphere in our region.”

2022 was a big year for SA Worx,  according to Matta-Barrera, with the organization working on marquee projects like priority digital badging and securing partnerships with industry leaders such as Accenture, the Dee Howard Foundation, Delta Systems, H-E-B, Navistar, the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) and USAA.

In conjunction with Ignite Mindshift, the organization worked with a total of 130 students in Highlands High School and CAST Lead within East Central ISD, to provide 95 digital badges on topics such as identity and personal brand and communicating with confidence. 

These experiences led to positive outcomes for students, SA Worx told UP Partnership. 

One student, who suffers from extreme anxiety, felt she could find a way to control her anxiety in the future and was moved by the experience and a hearing impaired student spoke about how he would not let his hearing impairment hold him back, Matta-Barrera shared.

Furthermore, many students, who were struggling in math, reported they had an action plan to review and complete missing assignments and/or seek out tutoring on the subject. 

Through their community partnerships, the organization is able to offer summer internships in a range of positions, in companies from various industries and sectors. Last year, the program had 116 participants interning at 19 employer partners across the community. Going into this summer, they hope to engage 250 students, having already secured more than 60 opportunities at companies like Methodist Healthcare Ministries, USAA and Southwest Research Institute.

The lessons and impact of those internships goes beyond the student participants to include those professionals who supervise the work being done. Created by the students, Supervisor Awards are given to those leaders whose guidance truly impacted the lives of those they oversaw.

This summer, the organization will also work with fellow Future Ready partner, Communities In Schools San Antonio, to address the barriers to internships opportunity youth face such as transportation, clothing, and food. They will also work with students to offer feedback to companies about how to improve their job descriptions to appeal to young people in the community.

In addition, SA Worx continued their fundamental programs and events throughout last year:

• Alamo Fellows, a program that works with first-generation college students to gain skills for postsecondary success, was launched.

• In March, 706 students from both Highlands High School and East Central High School partook in the annual Job Shadow Day.

• More than 700 students participated in Manufacturing Month events in October. 

• Over 500 students took part in the first ever Cyber Security Career Awareness Week also in October.

In 2022, SA Worx was able to secure funding from the Siemens Foundation, through the Education Strategy Group, with the intent of launching a program that would allow Bexar County students to develop social capital with adult professionals. After receiving feedback from young people, the program pivoted to a mentorship program whose mentors will be closer in age to mentees. 

SA Worx is a key partner of UP Partnership’s Future Ready Bexar County plan. With the support of Blue Meridian Partners, UP was able to invest in scaling SA Worx’s success through funding and community partnerships.

To learn more about SA Worx, please visit their website here.

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

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