Uplift Voices Blog

  • Uplift Education puts a premium on teacher and student health and well-being with key addition to executive team

    Posted by Kimberly Ezparza on 10/14/2019
    Dr. John Gasko
    Dr. John Gasko

    Uplift Education continues to innovate and put students’ and teachers’ well-being first by adding Dr. John Gasko as its Chief Well-Being and SEL Officer.  This addition to Uplift’s innovative and robust wellness and social emotional learning team will not only ensure that Uplift students have access to regular and reliable preventative and supportive mental health practices but will also build the necessary mental health and well-being practices for the adults who serve students each day.

    “I am honored and grateful to have been offered to be of service to the Uplift family—a family where deep commitment and purpose collide with the call to transform life outcomes for kids—and doing so in a way that ‘uplifts’ and supports the teachers on the frontline each and every day” Dr. Gasko said.

    Years of research shows a highly effective teacher in the classroom is the most important factor in ensuring strong academic outcomes of all children, however, teaching is often a stressful career. A recent poll by NPR named teaching as the 4th most stressful profession in America, behind active duty soldiers, police officers, and working parents (in that order). One could say the stress on teachers is even more amplified given that many of them are simultaneously working parents.

    This point is further supported in local data by Commit! stating last year Dallas-Fort Worth needed approximately 7,000 new teachers across the region to fill open position with stress and burnout being among the leading causes of why teachers state they left the field. A summary of the best research in the field suggests that there is a reliable formula that reinforces the NPR poll, namely that untreated stress in teachers leads to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of self-efficacy, all of which leads to burn out and attrition.

    Dr. Gasko has coined this term as “teacher dropouts” and feels the issue is as critical to address as student dropouts.  Dr. Gasko also believes there are ways to stem the tide and recover hope and purpose, by intervening early and often in order to keep the best teachers in front of students. Since students need positive, secure attachments as a critical ingredient to feel a sense of belonging in school, a constant stream of interrupted adult presence in the classroom due to turnover hinders those relationships.

    Uplift has led the sector on its approach to student health and wellness for the past several years.  In the 2018-19 school year, Uplift further built out its campus-based mental health programming by ensuring each school had its own dedicated social counselor.  These 40+ mental health professionals have the sole responsibility of focusing on Uplift students’ mental health and support families through times of crisis.  Additionally, as a result of House Bill 3, Uplift prioritized families and wellness by announcing earlier this year an all employee six-week family leave program.  Uplift has a history of meeting the needs of its schools and the adults that make this network shine as an early adopter of teacher performance-based compensation in 2010 and introducing nearly a decade ago “Wellness Wednesday” which provides a once a month half day off to employees.

    “In education we tend to focus more on teacher skills development, and at Uplift, we recognize the commitment it takes to be a teacher of excellence which is why I am so excited about adding Dr. Gasko to our team.  Dr. Gasko will focus on the adult social emotional learning work that is so critical to not only, well-being, but also, I believe will help teachers be better classroom leaders for the long run.  Teacher sustainability along with high student achievement is where we want to lead both locally and nationally,” said Yasmin Bhatia, Chief Executive Officer.

    Dr. Gasko served most recently as Special Advisor to the President, and previously Dean of the School of Education at the University of North Texas at Dallas. In his time at UNT Dallas he founded the Emerging Teacher Institute, which is committed to transforming teacher and school leader preparation through competency-based education combined with innovative and rigorous clinical and social emotional learning.

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  • Road to College Expands Into Career

    Posted by Kimberly Esparza on 9/13/2019
    Road to College and Career

    We are excited to announce our signature Road To College program is expanding to give current scholars and alumni the tools they need to land a meaningful career. The newly renamed Road To College & Career program will continue to provide personalized support to scholars before and during college, but will also help current scholars identify careers of interest and guide Uplift alumni toward a best-fit career. Ideas for our additional focus on career came directly from families like yours. Over several months, we interviewed and surveyed hundreds of families with current or former Uplift scholars as part of a year-long research project on the topic of alumni support. Themes around exposure to more meaningful careers, family engagement and career assistance for all alumni seemed to be the most common.  Three pillars of our program based on parent feedback are as follows: 

    • Scholar Exposure to Relevant Careers – Visits to corporations were a good start but starting in middle school we will help scholars identify best-fit careers to connect with more meaningful visits and other career experiences. We will take personality and strengths tests and take long-term goals into account to help each scholar shape their career aspirations and revisit those over time.
    • Engage with families – During interviews, families often asked how they could play a larger role in helping their scholar before college, in college and after college. By partnering with families and helping parents be part of the decision-making process, families will have the information and tools they need to help their children navigate college and career challenges. 
    • Provide career support to our alumni – In addition to a bolstered support structure for Uplift alumni, we will offer ongoing career support. To help alumni find jobs in alignment with education, skills and experience, the Road To College & Career team will provide resume assistance, career guidance, and connect them with internships and other networking opportunities.

    As we continue to build our career initiative, we are proud to partner with our families and community for the improvement of our scholars. Our Campus Road to College Counselors and Alumni Success Counselors are here to answer any questions you may have.

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  • Demystifying the Lottery at Uplift Education

    Posted by Kimberly Esparza on 11/30/2018
    Elementary Education

    The application and enrollment process for new families looks slightly different at Uplift Education than it does at a traditional school district, and we are often asked to clarify our process. In short, the application window for the 2019-20 school year begins December 1 and ends February 1. To have an equal opportunity for your scholar to be selected for an available space at one of our schools, go to uplifteducation.org/apply and fill out a brief 1-page form. It’s that easy! Other answers to frequently asked questions can be found below.

    Uplift Education is a Public Charter School 

    Uplift Education schools are high-performing, college preparatory, public charter schools held to the same standards as any public school in Texas. Our families never pay for an education at an Uplift school and the application and enrollment process is also completely free. Parents are not asked to provide financial information as part of the application process.  

    No grade checks are required  

    We run a blind lottery giving every child the same opportunity for a seat at an Uplift school. A scholar’s past academic record does not play a role in the admission and enrollment process. We believe every scholar deserves access to a high quality, college preparatory public education.   

    Secure a spot for your scholar 

    Applications received before February 1 gives families the best chance for acceptance. Below are the benefits of applying and receiving your admittance before summer.   

    Prepare yourself for the next school year  

    Families will be notified of acceptance mid-February. This allows parents time to prepare their scholar for the beginning of their scholar’s academic career at Uplift. We also offer many events leading up to the new school year that are beneficial to parents and scholars.  

    Deadline for applications  

    Our deadline to meet the lottery is February 1. After February, you may apply to join an Uplift school but will be placed at the end of the waitlist. Currently, for every scholar that has a seat there are 2 more scholars on the waitlist. We do however update our waitlist throughout the year and update parents when a space opens.   


    If you would like to apply at an Uplift school for the 2019-20 school year, go to uplifteducation.org/apply today, For answers to any additional questions please email apply@uplifteducation.org and someone will respond to our inquiry.

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  • Uplift Luna Owls make their mark in Deep Ellum

    Posted by Kimberly Esparza on 9/28/2017
    Uplift Luna Art and Design

    Uplift Luna Secondary opened its doors in Deep Ellum in 2010. A neighborhood known for its music, food, tattoo shops, and an electric shops venues was an unlikely location for a school. Over the years, Uplift Luna Secondary has made a home in Deep Ellum and connected with neighborhood partners.  In 2016, the school celebrated its first class of graduating senior with 100% college acceptance.

    Uplift Luna’s new Graphic Design class started their first semester with a project that gave them to opportunity to showcase their own outside of the building walls.  The Deep Ellum foundation reached out to our graphic design teacher, Aaron Garcia, with a proposition for Uplift Luna scholars to showcase their art. With graphic design taking off for the first year, Mr. Garcia thought it would be a great idea to inspire scholars to connect to the community.

    “We were just starting to learn Photoshop and then we were approached with this task. We learned along the way, and Mr. Garcia guided us by showing us different skills. Throughout my high school career I debated what I wanted to do, and now since completing this project, I have an idea of what I want to do,” said Guadalupe Ledezma, 12th grader, Uplift Luna.  

    Scholars  worked on an art pieces to display on banners in various areas of Deep Ellum. Their requirements were to showcase Deep Ellum’s history and how it has developed within the years. According to the Deep Ellum Texas website Deep Ellum is known for its historically significant neighborhood of immigrants and companies such as the Continental Gin Company and The Ford Assembly Plant. Deep Ellum later became known for its Music in the 1920’s and the Arts in 1990’s. With Deep Ellum, being the home of rich history, culture, and diversity, scholars went out into the neighborhood for inspiration.

    “I’ve always been very passionate when learning about different cultures. Deep Ellum host so much diversity. They are all very nice to us in the area and understanding that we are in school. I wanted to make sure to display everyone from cooks to business owners, rockers, bikers and more. I wanted to show the unity that Deep Ellum has,” said Estrella Rojas, 12th grader, Uplift Luna.

    Various pieces were created to share with a panel of teachers and administrators to narrow down options to present to the Deep Ellum Foundation. Four art pieces were selected that demonstrated a piece of Deep Ellum in a unique way. Banners were displayed all summer in the streets of Deep Ellum, and are now placed on a rotating calendar set to make an appearance again this year.

    Our schools strive to develop scholars into global thinkers that are involved in their community. Thank you to the Deep Ellum Foundation for the opportunity to collaborate within the community!

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