78207, the poorest zip code in San Antonio is where the NXT Level Youth Opportunity Center resides. 6 months ago, in February, doors opened to offer 16-24-year-old youth the opportunity for a chance. From Life Coaches to careers, to obtaining a degree and furthering education, NXT Level offers all of this and more.
(R) Duquan, Participant at NXT Level
NXT Level is a program initiative overseen by the city’s Department of Human Services. Partnerships with Communities In Schools of San Antonio and Goodwill San Antonio are seeming to be fruitful as word spreads about the opportunities that just landed in the poorest zip code in town and how they are affecting and instituting change within our youth. NXT Level’s mission is to assist young adults, ages 16 – 24, to achieve their personal, educational, and career goals in an encouraging and supportive environment.
‘At Risk’ is not the term chosen for this initiative. ‘Opportunity Youth’ is a term felt better suited, as these are young adults who are full of opportunity yet seriously are lacking when it comes to chances. Over 30,000 youth in Bexar County are not currently connected to education and careers and are in desperate need of the services offered here. Most of the youth in need of this program are unaware it exists.
Top- NXT Level Staff, Bottom- NXT Level Participants with Family and Coaches
The City of San Antonio is an extremely ‘top of the list city’. San Antonio is currently making the charts in poverty, segregation, economic mobility, gentrification, and more nationwide. The NXT Level program is vital for us to act upon and use every resource it provides to combat the depths of the documented disparity within our community.
The academic gains and behavioral shifts this program facilitates, has been exciting to say the least. However, it is clear that there are still groups of youth standing to benefit from additional support outside of home and/or school or both. Many of the program’s participants struggle academically and socially and have little to no support. Unsurprisingly, and unfortunately, most of these students come from dis-invested neighborhoods and are disproportionately non-white.
During the SA Observers visit with NXT Level we spoke with the staff and the Director, Public Relations, Goodwill San Antonio, Penny Benavidez, whom all share the same sentiments that some, of the youth who are benefiting from this program have missed significant classroom instruction time, many due to life challenges out of their control, and positive behavioral support structures. Intentional and coordinated efforts are needed to help redirect their academic and life trajectories. Progress requires empathy, culturally appropriate content, careful consideration of learning differences, effective behavior management and positive discipline approaches and collaboration among counselors, teachers and justice system officials if needed.
Most importantly, NXT Level meets the youth where they are in life and includes their voices in the creation of a plan to get them where they need to be. Youth who come to this program, are from all walks of life and just need someone to take a vested interest in their immediate future. At times, “success” was hard to define and measure effectively for these youth. Now, they are at the NXT Level program, where success is imminent and zip codes do not define your opportunities.
VISIT NXT Level Youth
At NXT Level Youth, you can make an appointment or walk right in.
10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. at the Frank Garrett Multi-Purpose Center:
NXT Level Youth Opportunity Center
1226 NW 18th St., San Antonio, TX 78207
You may also visit NXT Level online at https://nxtlevelsa.org/.