President's Update - Power of Partnership

By Office of the President

Tuesday, 09 24 2019

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September 24, 2019 

Dear Members of the A&M-San Antonio Community,

Yesterday was a great day for A&M-San Antonio, as we took part in two public events highlighting programs and partnerships that demonstrate our firm commitment to our community, and to putting students first and supporting their academic success.

Transfer Student Agreement

The first of these events was the public renewal of the South and Central Texas Transfer Compact, a multi-institution agreement that brings together colleges and universities from across the State to streamline the transfer process and to provide students with the critical knowledge and support to make informed academic decisions as they prepare for transfer to four-year universities. More than 870 students in Fall 2018 and nearly 500 in Spring 2019 transferred to A&M-SA from Alamo Colleges District. I’d like to extend my deep appreciation to Vice President Brandy McLelland and Director of Academic Advising Antoinette Curl and their respective teams for expertly guiding our transfer students through the admissions and enrollment processes and setting them up for continued success.

Bexar County Foster Youth Initiative

The second event was the launch of the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Pilot Program – a new pathway of support for Bexar County youth with a history of foster care who are pursuing higher education. The innovative county-wide collaboration includes A&M-San Antonio, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the Alamo Colleges District (ACD), Bexar County Children’s Court and Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA). An array of educational support resources will be available to current and former foster youth through the enhancement of existing programs and practices, and new targeted support to increase college access, enrollment, and retention and graduation rates.

The program, generously funded by a $3.5 million appropriation by the 86th Texas Legislature, was made possible through the sponsorship of Bexar County Senators Pete Flores and José Menéndez, along with Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, and the support of the entire Bexar County delegation. The program will also create opportunities for applied research and evaluation as it establishes a model for other post-secondary education institutions in Texas and throughout the United States.

Research indicates that students with a history of foster care in Texas, who attend four-year universities with campus support programs are 6.8 times more likely to graduate. The numbers across Bexar County speak loudly – about 10 percent of the 35,000 children in the Texas foster care system live in Bexar County (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services). Currently, 600 foster care alumni are enrolled across A&M-SA, UTSA and ACD. The Bexar County Children’s Court, CASA, the San Antonio Independent School District, Child Protective Services and the Children’s Shelter/Family Tapestry also contribute to this network of support for youth in foster care at the middle and early high school levels. The pipeline includes an innovative Children’s Court College-Bound Docket, which provides mentoring, advocacy and academic support to improve college readiness for foster care youth in Bexar County.

Supervised Independent Living (SIL)

Our campus, along with UTSA and ACD, is also expanding the existing pre-college programs for former youth in foster care by providing a comprehensive, strengths-based approach to educational success by addressing supportive relationships and community connections, physical and mental health, finances, employment and housing. In addition to our participation in the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Pilot Program, A&M- SA was recently approved as a Supervised Independent Living (SIL) site, which extends foster care to currently enrolled students through age 21. Students who participate in SIL are provided with funds for meal plans and housing, as well as individualized programming and support provided by the Office of Student Success to guide them toward graduation. Currently at A&M-SA, 17 former foster youth and 42 adopted youth receive tuition and fee waivers, and two students were enrolled in the inaugural year of SIL. 

One of the students who will directly benefit from the program is 20-year old Angelo Gutierrez, who at 18 had aged out of foster care. Two years later, Angelo is A&M-San Antonio bound! You can see Angelo’s story at ksat.com/news/college-student-credits-boysville-for-helping-him-overcome-obstacles-in-life.

I want to acknowledge two individuals on our campus who each day work directly with foster care alumni: Kimberley Nañez, Executive Director of Student Success, and D’Andrea Davila, who serves as Foster Youth Coach and as our foster youth liaison to the State. Rarely is their work visible to us, but it is so important to the students whose educational aspirations they’re supporting. Their dedication, compassion and expertise will ensure that this program fulfills expectations and that the former foster youth who come to A&M-SA are well served. Kim and D’Andrea and others across campus are contributing to a 70-percent persistence rate for our former foster youth on the campus. In addition to Kim and D’Andrea, the funding for the pilot program will support the hiring of a Fostering Success Coordinator and four peer mentors to work with former foster youth. Through their efforts and those of others on our campus and the county-wide comprehensive network of support, attending college will become a reality, rather than an aspiration for many Texas foster youth alumni. 

I am incredibly proud of A&M-San Antonio’s participation in the Bexar County Foster Care Support Pilot Program and the South and Central Texas Transfer Compact. You often hear me use the phrase “a conspiracy of high expectations.” Such expectations are made achievable through partnerships among the dedicated individuals and organizations who share common goals and these students, who against all the odds are pushing beyond expectations. Your work across this university helps make their success possible.

Thank you,
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Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson
President