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Bexar County's impact on young people presented on a national stage at annual collective impact conference

In a standing room only session at StriveTogether’s 2023 Cradle to Career Network Convening in San Francisco, Calif. Future Ready Bexar County partners Amy Contreras, Assistant to Director at the City of San Antonio’s Workforce Development Office, Dr. Jeniffer Richardson, DM, MAOM, Senior Vice President, Strategic and Policy Initiatives at United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano, Ed.D., Chief Impact and Strategy Officer at UP Partnership, led a panel session entitled “Working Together: How Government Leaders and Community Organizations are Collaborating for Long-Lasting Change.” 

The session focused primarily on how Bexar County is working collaboratively through the Future Ready Bexar County Plan to increase economic mobility for young people through a shared North Star goal of increasing the percentage of Bexar County High School graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030. Team San Antonio shared how cross-sector community partners have come together to help address the postsecondary barriers faced by young people in our community and improve their opportunities and outcomes in life.

This was just one of many examples of San Antonio shining its light at StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Network Convening. For the past 12 years, StriveTogether has convenednational partners and community leaders for three days of connecting, learning and collective thought partnership focused on creating positive changes for young people across the country. 

This year, UP Partnership staff was joined by several key Future Ready Bexar County partners including the San Antonio Area Foundation, United Way of San Antonio, CAST Schools Network, City of San Antonio Workforce Development, and Bexar County Juvenile Justice. Along with Contreras and Richardson, Team San Antonio also included Jennifer Cook, Director of Strategy and Impact at the San Antonio Area Foundation, Andrea Figueroa, Senior Program Officer of Youth Success at the San Antonio Area Foundation, Jennifer Maestas, Community and Educator Engagement Manager at CAST Schools Network and Holly Pompa, Trauma-Informed Program Manager at Bexar County.

Team San Antonio joined over 500 national participants for plenaries, sessions and workshops designed to further align on the importance of continued collective impact work — ensuring that all young people have equitable pathways to the best possible successes in life.

It was also a celebration for Team San Antonio, as UP Partnership and Bexar County were once again recognized for becoming one of the most recent communities in the StriveTogether national network to receive the Systems Transformation designation, joining six other StriveTogether communities in the country: Appalachian Cradle-to-Career Partnership (Berea, KY), E3 Alliance (Austin, TX), Higher Expectations for Racine County (Racine, WI), Learn to Earn Dayton (Dayton, OH), Northfield Promise (Northfield, MN), Promise Partnership of Salt Lake (Salt Lake City, UT) and Spartanburg Academic Movement (Spartanburg, SC). 

Through the StriveTogether’s Theory of Action™, communities complete an assessment of their civic infrastructure and progress toward aligning resources around better and more equitable outcomes for young people. The Systems Transformation designation is the top designation a community can reach as it advances through Exploring, Emerging, Sustaining, Systems Change and Systems Transformation designations.

The Systems Transformation designation, and the continued work in Bexar County, could not have been done without the hard work of the partners who have made actionable commitments to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan that are rooted in the equity pillars of Healing, Access and Voice — the must HAVEs for equity amongst Bexar County’s young people.

Team San Antonio partners appreciated the convening for providing “opportunities to learn more about youth development focused work and connect with others who are engaged in collective impact work,” said Richardson.

Contreras added that she was pleased with the “large number of trainings offered, which provided a variety of best practices from which to learn.”

Pompa looked forward to the convening and “meeting with, and learning from, people who are working toward similar advancements of opportunities and equity for young people.” Ultimately, “the convening was a joy to attend. I only wish there had been more days so that I could attend more sessions.”

While partners learned and celebrated accomplishments, UP Partnership staff shared insights, challenges and achievements of work being completed in San Antonio. Three additional sessions highlighted the work that is being done both internally, and through two of UP Partnership’s continuous improvement collaboratives that support and scale the commitment to young people in Bexar County. Those sessions included:

Fostering Organizational Change Through Communities of Practice,” led by Shelby Drayton, K12 and Youth Development’s Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation at UP Partnership and Dr. Miray Seward, PhD, Research Scientist at Search Institute. Participants learned about UP Partnership and Search Institute’s partnership within the Excel Academy to catalyze a youth-serving ecosystem that centers around developmental relationships, racial equity and the Results Count Framework to promote organizational change.
Internal Systems Transformation: HR, Finance and Development,” led by UP Partnership team members Kimberly Sama, Chief Finance and Operations Officer, J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations, Patrick Farris, Manager of Development and Grants, Brandon Henson, Director of Finance and Operations and Kristen Kitler, HR Manager of Team Success. Together, they created a unique space for backbone staff focused on internal organizational health to share best practices, tools, and resources. This session provided a foundation for relationship-building and collaborative internal systems design and operational experience-sharing, responding to universal challenges facing non-profit and collective impact organizations.
Journey Toward Equitable Enrollment in Bexar County,” led by UP Partnership team members Briana Hagelgans, Ed.D., Director of K12 and Postsecondary, and Lowell Butler, Ed.D., K12 and Postsecondary Senior Manager of Coaching and Facilitation. They discussed the creation and evolution of the Equitable Enrollment Collaborative, which consists of 20 partner organizations representing K-12, higher education and nonprofit organizations, as it works to actively dissolve barriers in postsecondary enrollment for young people in Bexar County.