In 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 a hard time with school,” Aparicio said. Luckily, she was already connected to 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 that 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 have earned a four-year scholarship to help pay for my tuition at the University of the Incarnate Word,” said Aparicio, who is now a sophomore in college.

Aparicio told her story to a crowd of nonprofit, education 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 Aparicio received now than ever after the devastating impacts 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 postsecondary degree or credential program. The “North Star” goal of the plan is to increase that to 70% by 2030.

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

UP Partnership, a nonprofit youth advocacy organization, will serve as the main organizer of these partners and will track the plan’s outcomes.

The “North Star” goal was selected because postsecondary credentials pave the way toward a living-wage career, Lugalia-Hollon said, and “we feel like enrollment is a place that really requires cross-sector collaboration to drive change.”

The plan’s intent is to make good on a pledge that more than dozens of local education, nonprofit, community and elected leaders signed amid the heights of the pandemic in 2020.

“Let’s not forget that the work and opportunity that we build for young people is probably the most vital infrastructure that 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 education nonprofit Communities in Schools-San Antonio after in-depth interviews and focus groups with students, families and educators.

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

Most of that will be scaling up existing programs, such as Alamo Colleges District’s Alamo Promise program and Good Samaritan Community Services’s college access and readiness program.

There’s no funding tied to the plan, nor are partners required to pay to participate, but partners are expected to advocate for more funding from private and public sources towards the plan’s goals, he said. “There’s already billions of dollars in our community going [towards] young people that will now be leveraged more efficiently because of these shared goals.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org