Chellie Fernandez and Milwaukee Succeeds honored for work improving educational equity and outcomes
CINCINNATI, OH, Oct. 07, 2021 — At a virtual convening of more than 900 network members and partners this week, national network StriveTogether recognized a cradle-to-career champion and an organization for leading equitable outcomes in their communities.
Chellie Fernandez of UP Partnership in San Antonio, Texas, received the Bill Henningsgaard Cradle to Career Champion Award, while Milwaukee Succeeds in Milwaukee, WI, was named the winner of the Nancy Zimpher Courage in Leadership Award. Winners receive national recognition and $1,000 stipend.
Bill Henningsgaard Cradle to Career Champion Award
As director of college pathways for UP Partnership, Fernandez develops programs supporting the needs of young men and boys of color and individuals who have been in the justice system. Among Fernandez’s prominent work is her leadership of the local My Brother’s Keeper Youth Summit, which has seen participation from more than 300 young adults over the past three years.
Fernandez’s innovative strategies have led to the creation of a fund to offer $1,000 scholarships to Youth Summit attendees and local college students who serve as mentors for these young men and boys. The fund has already awarded more than $130,000 in scholarships.
“Chellie’s leadership is infused with compassion,” said Lowell Butler, college pathways manager at UP Partnership. “She listens to the unique needs of the young people we serve – particularly Black and Latinx youth – and brings the right partners to the table to support them.”
Fernandez also coordinates a workgroup to support youth and young adults who have been involved in the justice system, creating resources and strategies that enable them to reconnect to education and job opportunities.
Named after a tireless advocate for youth from Eastside Pathways in Bellevue, Washington, the Bill Henningsgaard Cradle to Career Champion Award is presented each year to a network member who embodies the passion, commitment and persistence Henningsgaard modeled before his death in 2013.
Nancy Zimpher Courage in Leadership Award
Milwaukee Succeeds received the Nancy Zimpher Courage in Leadership Award for their dedication to shifting power to community members and bringing youth to the decision-making table.
Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where there are over 218,000 young people, the partnership has made large strides in the past two years such as adding community members with lived experience to their leadership table, helping parents advocate for early childhood education funding and building a high school success initiative, Youth Forward MKE, to foster youth leadership and improve high school outcomes for young Black men.
During the summer of 2021, Milwaukee Succeeds created the Design Your Future Fellowship, a paid program where youth explored leadership and advocacy alongside adult mentors, ultimately developing blueprints for equity-based programs for the partnership to implement. Nearly 60 youth ages 13 to 20 participated, advocating for increased mental health supports and the development of safe and welcoming school environments where students can thrive. The local school board has begun considering a proposal to use federal funding to implement these ideas.
Through the pandemic, Milwaukee Succeeds has also served as a community leader, facilitating three community collations of more than 60 partners in K-12 education, mental health supports, and early childhood education. These collaborative networks secured more than $1.7 million to stabilize critical sectors during the early days of the pandemic. As the crisis continued, these tables successfully partnered with other advocates and public officials to lobby for and direct $278,000,000 in federal COVID relief funds.
This award is named after Nancy Zimpher, the founding board chair of StriveTogether, who is known for challenging the status quo, taking risks to improve the lives of children and families and advocating for the inclusion of diverse perspectives.
StriveTogether is a national network of nearly 70 communities across 30 states working to build a future where a child’s potential is not dictated by race, ethnicity, zip code or circumstance. The organization provides coaching, resources and rigorous approaches to create opportunities and eliminate inequities in education, housing and more. Together, the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network impacts the lives of more than 11 million youth — including more than 7 million children of color. For more information about StriveTogether, visit strivetogether.org.