‘Future Ready Bexar County’ plan aims to aid youth recovery

During her sophomore year of high school, Ashely Aparicio was separated from her parents for 11 months after her father was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“During this time, I started having difficulties with school,” Aparicio said. Luckily, she was already in touch with Good Samaritan Community Services, which provides counseling services to underserved youth. “They always reminded me that family would always be there. And I didn’t realize I was in a bad place until I recently started talking about my story.

She also took advantage of the nonprofit’s college and career readiness programs.

“I got a four-year scholarship to help pay for my tuition at the University of the Incarnate Word,” said Aparicio, who is now a sophomore at the university.

Aparicio told his story to a crowd of nonprofit, educational and civic leaders who gathered at City Hall Thursday for the release of the Future Ready Bexar County plan, which aims to ensure that all young people in the county are ready, emotionally and financially, for the future.

Young people need the kind of help that Aparicio is getting more than ever after the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, said Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, CEO of UP Partnership.

Only half of recent high school graduates in Bexar County are enrolled in a post-secondary degree or diploma program. The plan’s “North Star” target is to increase this figure to 70% by 2030.

About 50 institutions, including school districts, universities, nonprofits, and corporations, have signed up to the plan, which engages them to participate in data sharing, collaboration and direct funding towards the goals of the plan.

UP Partnership, a non-profit youth advocacy organization, will be the main convener of these partners and will monitor the results of the plan.

The “North Star” goal was chosen because post-secondary degrees pave the way to a paying career, Lugalia-Hollon said, and “we think enrollment is a place that really needs cross-industry collaboration to drive change.”

The intention of the plan is to deliver on a pledge that more than dozens of local education, nonprofit, community and elected leaders signed during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

“Let’s not forget that the work and opportunities we build for young people is probably the most vital infrastructure we can invest in,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who signed the pledge in 2020.

UP Partnership developed the plan with the National Resource Network, a strategic planning consortium and nonprofit educational communities in San Antonio schools after extensive interviews and focus groups with students, families and educators.

Each partner organization has “made specific action commitments related to their sector that demonstrate how they will advance healing, access and voice in the coming year,” Lugalia-Hollon said.

Most of these efforts will be to scale up existing programs, such as the Alamo College District’s Alamo Promise Program and Good Samaritan Community Services’ College Access and Readiness Program.

There is no funding tied to the plan, and partners are not required to pay to participate, but partners should advocate for increased funding from private and public sources to achieve the goals of the plan, a- he declared. “There are already billions of dollars in our community going [towards] young people who will now be mobilized more effectively thanks to these common objectives.

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