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Afterschool arts nonprofit SAY Si facing $600,000 funding shortfall, requests support

Melina Espiritu-Azocar and Camryn Blackmon speaking to community members during the West Side meeting.
Josh Peck
Melina Espiritu-Azocar (center left) and Camryn Blackmon (center) speaking to community members during the West Side meeting.

The after school arts nonprofit SAY Sí is in a financial crisis that leadership says could mean the cancellation of upcoming summer programming and the furlough of full- and part-time staff. The nonprofit said it needs to raise $600,000 by June to resume regular operations.

The nonprofit offers free visual arts, theater arts, and media arts classes to middle and high school students and was founded in 1994.

In a joint press release from SAY Sí’s executive director Stephanie LaFrosica and SAY Sí’s Visual Arts Director and union steward Ashely Perez, they said the Butt Rogers Charitable Trust is giving them a fundraising boost to help them reach their $600,000 goal. The trust has committed to donate two separate installments of $50,000 to SAY Sí — $50,000 to match the first $50,000 SAY Sí raises on its own, and another $50,000 to finish out the fundraiser once SAY Sí raises $550,000.

The statement said the shortfall was due in part to turnover on staff and on the board of directors in 2022 and 2023, along with construction delays.

During the months-long struggle for SAY Sí workers to establish a union with the United Professional Organizers (UPO) at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023, the board spent at least $35,000 on the law firm Ogletree Deakins. Workers repeatedly pointed to the firm’s history of union-busting activities and the amount of money the board spent on it as contradicting SAY Sí’s professed values. The nonprofit no longer retains Ogletree Deakins.

Workers said Ogletree Deakins has a history of union-busting and voter suppression, which they said contrasted with the organization's values.

Perez said the union and management are now working hand-in-hand to address the revenue shortfall, and that everyone is making sacrifices to ensure the future of the organization.

“In response to the current challenges, an interim agreement has been reached with the Union,” Perez said. “By mid-March, full-time staff will experience a reduction to 32 hours per week, and part-time staff will see a decrease of 6 hours per week. Additionally, SAY Sí will be temporarily closed to students from March 25-29. While these measures are necessary, we acknowledge the impact they will have on both staff livelihoods and student learning.”

She said LaFrosica also agreed to take a pay cut until the fundraising goal is reached.

Perez said the union pushed management to be transparent with the public about the financial problems and potential outcomes, and said they are relying on the public to support SAY Sí so that it can continue its mission of serving San Antonio students.

“Notably, we take pride in the fact that our staff includes six alumni, myself included, who have personally witnessed SAY Sí positively impact numerous lives,” she said. “To continue providing these valuable opportunities, we urge you to donate whatever you can and share this message with others, far and wide. Your support is instrumental in sustaining SAY Sí's mission and ensuring the continued enrichment of our community.”

SAY Sí has raised nearly $20,000 in just a few weeks, but still needs $580,000 to reach its fundraising goal by June. Learn more and donate here.

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