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UP Partnership network gives thousands of dollars to high school students for youth-led projects

UP Partnership’s youth voice network, Our Tomorrow, has given 11 youth-led groups from Southwest, East Central, San Antonio Independent School Districts and the Center For Young Minds grants worth a total of $43,000 in a pilot program meant to advance projects that matter most to them and their fellow classmates.

“We created this pilot program in response to  young people’s request to be active participants in creating solutions to the challenges they are facing. The youth in our community have valuable ideas about the impact they want to make in their school and broader communities and we were thrilled to be able to support them through this initiative,” said Lisa Marie Gomez, UP Partnership’s Vice President of Youth Voice and Restorative Justice.

Through their projects, the chosen high school youth from schools such as Thomas Jefferson, Sam Houston, Young Women’s Leadership Academy, CAST Tech, CAST STEM, CAST Med, CAST Lead, along with a staff mentor from their respective school, are making an impact in areas such as mental health and suicide prevention, food insecurity, tax preparation, professional development and cultivation of social skills.

Funded projects include:

– A Volunteer Income Tax Program by CAST Tech student Olivia Sanchez and staff mentor Lilian Gonzalez

– A Calming room on CAST STEM’s campus to meet needs around stress, overwhelm, and mental health led by CAST STEM student Christian Young and staff mentor Lilia Montes

– A Flower Flow project that funds the purchase of hygienic products for students by CAST Med student Irene Ramos and staff mentor Sabrina Donatto

– Restructuring and expanding a garden within the Helping Hands program to allow for outdoor classroom space, as well as a composting area to reduce food waste and a mobile produce food pantry led by CAST Lead student Airanda Wollney and staff mentor Calee Jaskula

– Ladies Hurricane Harvest young women conference led by Sam Houston student Yolanda Cisneros and staff mentor Joredanne Carmack

– The Better with Books program that will establish a safe space book club for students by CAST Med student Nicole Nino and staff mentor Anissa Cortez

– A Dress for Success project by the DECA Inc. club students at CAST Lead and staff mentor Calee Jaskula

– The Feeding Community project by the Pitmaster club students at Jefferson aiming to help feed barbecue to its community and staff mentor Rogelio Garza

– A mental health awareness night in May that will invite professional therapists, counselors and psychologists speak on basics of mental health, healthy eating and exercise led by Young Women’s Leadership Academy’s student Zoe Lopez and staff mentor Kimberly Carter

– The Shooting Star Festival that will highlight mental health awareness through music with all funds raised donated to the Tim Bergling Foundation for Mental Health Awareness led by CAST STEM student Carlos Faz and staff mentor Lilia Montes

– A mental health series by the Center for Young Minds led by students Elisa Gonzalez, Yi Liu, TJ Kalikiri, Trinity Erwin, Alyssa Martinez, Shradha Pavankumar with staff mentor Jennifer Forbes

“To further uplift the voices of youth, which is the reason why the Our Tomorrow youth voice network exists, all of the projects were chosen for funding by a youth grant review committee consisting of 11 students from all areas of Bexar County,” added Gomez.

The funding for these grants came from $8 million in funding received by UP Partnership and the San Antonio Area Foundation from New York-based national nonprofit consortium Blue Meridian Partners in late 2020 to help with equitable recovery in San Antonio.

UP Partnership has used these funds for initiatives that specifically fall under its three equity focus areas of increasing youth voice, access to college and career opportunities and healing instead of punitive disciplinary measures. Grants were awarded to nonprofits with initiatives tied to these focus areas, such as 100 Black Men, the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions and Empower House, formerly the Martinez Street Women’s Center.

Courtesy of Up Partnership

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The Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Network is a tax-exempt organization as described in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Service code. CAST Schools are partnership schools with a focus on STEM careers, project based learning and work-based learning. Key partners include public school districts, higher education institutions, and local employers from target industries.