As a backbone agency dedicated to supporting young people in Bexar County, TX, UP Partnership has spent years compiling data on kids’ well-being. By working through cross-sector partnerships, the organization has focused on increasing the county’s kindergarten readiness, third grade reading levels, and high school graduation rates, all of which have consistently fallen below state averages. As of 2018, less than half of the county’s students were considered ready for college upon graduating from high school. Leaders from UP Partnership knew this had to change and recognized that looking at the outcome data alone wasn’t enough. They also needed to examine funding in the county and the alignment between county funding and the needs of children and youth. In 2019, the team reached out to us at Children’s Funding Project for help understanding and coordinating the funding necessary to improve youth outcomes. With our help and support, UP Partnership’s advocates ultimately led a successful effort to secure $24 million in pandemic-relief funding to support youth in Bexar County and City of San Antonio.

Their first step was understanding the amount of funding being allocated to youth programs and services throughout the region at the time. Then they needed estimates about the amount necessary to reach their goals of supporting kids’ well-being. Advocates and leaders from UP Partnership worked with us to create a fiscal map to document the federal, state, local, and private dollars supporting young people from cradle to career in Bexar County. The fiscal map helped local philanthropies and government officials understand the extent of kids’ funding in the county, showed the county’s existing funding priorities, and highlighted areas where additional funding was needed to impact youth success.

Right after the release of the fiscal map, the COVID-19 pandemic began. The effects of the pandemic, including the closing of child care centers and after-school programs, elevated the sense of urgency to examine and rework funding for children and youth. “The pandemic shifted the stakes in terms of where people were paying the most attention,” says Kimberly Sama, chief finance and operations officer of UP Partnership. As a result, in the summer of 2020 UP Partnership spearheaded the creation of the Strategic Funding Alignment Task Force. The goal of the task force was to compile the youth outcomes data collected in previous years and the fiscal map findings and recommend actions the community could take during the pandemic to improve outcomes for young people. The task force consisted of a cross-sector group of more than 60 community members, government officials, boards of education members, and private funders. At the end of 2020, the group released Interwoven Futures: Activating Strategic Alignment for Youth Success, a report that identified how leaders in the local children and youth field could align existing funding with the programs and services that could address the community’s needs, like increasing high school graduation and college readiness rates.

An opportunity to secure additional funding to help close the youth outcome gaps arose when Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. UP Partnership again partnered with us to create an action plan that outlined how city leaders could allocate the $330 million of American Rescue Plan funds allocated to San Antonio to support youth. The UP Partnership team launched an advocacy campaign to urge the city to take up the recommendations made in its report. As a direct result of their efforts, the San Antonio City Council committed $10 million for youth programs and $14 million to youth mental health services.

In 2022, UP Partnership released the Future Ready Bexar County plan. This strategic plan commits more than 85 community institutions to collaboration and funding to help increase the percentage of Bexar County high school graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program to 70% by 2030. These institutions will work together to advocate for positive policy changes, strengthen community resources for youth, and provide financial resources for implementing the plan. “This plan came directly from the fiscal mapping process and equitable recovery work we did with Children’s Funding Project,” says Sama. “That work provided the building blocks to where we are now.”

Currently, all 85 partners are implementing the plan within their own organizations and collaboratively with UP Partnership and their fellow partners via leadership roundtables. An additional, multigenerational decision-making group includes youth members and ensures that all the plan’s partners remain accountable for the actions they committed to in the plan.

For additional success stories and to learn more about our organizational impact, read our five-year impact report.

Shane Linden is a communications associate II at Children’s Funding Project.