In this blog series, we profile people who have found fulfilling careers with Upbring (be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2!). Their stories illustrate the many ways people can contribute to our life-changing programs and services.
This time, we’re turning to three members of the Upbring leadership team who find meaning in the mission. Individually motivated and collectively committed to breaking the cycle of child abuse in Texas, these leaders set the stage for our core values: We are Warriors. We are Servants. We are Family.
Read on to learn more about Krystale, Traci and Darrell!
Krystale: Committed to Children
Few people have had an Upbring journey quite like Krystale Bezio, who started in 2004 as a Family Services Worker and worked her way up to Chief Program Officer in 2020. In her current role, Krystale ensures quality care, supervision and program direction for all foster care, adoption, supervised independent living and residential treatment centers, as well as our children’s shelters and Transitional Foster Care (TFC) program operated in partnership with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Krystale took her first job with Upbring as a way to support herself through graduate school. She intended to return to a career in hospice care — but the rest, as they say, is history. “I saw the commitment to the children and the families, and it just clicked with me,” she recalls.
In the 18 years since, Krystale has amassed vast knowledge of our mission, programs and services — insights that she leverages each day as an executive leader. “Upbring’s mission of breaking the cycle of child abuse is core to what we do on the program side. Everything we do has a mission tie-in,” she says.
Of all the stories Krystale has witnessed in her time with Upbring, one in particular still resonates. Annie* entered the Texas foster care system at 7 months old. She was in desperate need of a lung transplant — but she didn’t have any family to advocate on her behalf. Krystale became baby Annie’s case manager and advocate, helping to place her with a loving foster family that could tend to her significant medical needs. Together they helped secure a lung transplant for Annie, then a second operation after the first failed. Krystale still keeps in touch with the family and has watched with joy as Annie, who was later adopted, has grown into a resilient 20-year-old.
Annie is but one example of how Upbring goes above and beyond for multi-generational impact. “My favorite thing about Upbring is that we do things differently,” Krystale says. “We not only make sure children have their basic daily needs met, but also provide a level of care and commitment that enables them to become whole adults.”
Traci: Driven to Make a Difference
Traci Tate is a self-described “early bird” who arrives at New Life Children’s Center by 7 a.m. each workday. The hour-long commute from San Antonio to Canyon Lake doesn’t bother her in the least. “I don’t give it a second thought because I have a passion for the work,” she says.
As Program Director, Traci oversees all program staff who provide direct care to the teen and pre-teen girls at New Life. Working in collaboration with Associate Executive Director Michael Holder and Clinical Director Elizabeth Aleman, she prides herself on role-modeling Upbring’s mission and values from the top-down. She takes time to connect with and celebrate her staff, while also forming relationships with the girls in Upbring’s care.
“Our girls may have been dealt a bad hand in life, but they’re not broken,” Traci shares. “We’re empowering them to get through their struggles, spread their wings and be successful in life.”
Traci started her career in the medical field and once worked for a veterans-services nonprofit, but her heart has long been in working with children at risk. Having lost her job at another residential treatment center during the pandemic, she was excited to learn about the opening at New Life. “From the moment I first drove up the lane, it felt like home,” she recalls.
Traci is further connected to our work through her many years as a foster parent. She raised eight children in foster care plus her three biological children and stepdaughter, all of whom graduated from high school (and beyond). In fact, Traci was first exposed to Upbring when she fostered a girl who had been at New Life. Little did she know her career would bring her back there, years later.
This month marks Traci’s one-year anniversary with our organization. As she puts it: “Upbring is a good place to work for anyone with the heart and compassion to change kids’ lives every day.”
Darrell: A Lesson in Learning and Loving
Assuming the mantle of Upbring Head Start Superintendent didn’t come easily for Darrell Cox. Only through his devotion to his fellow man and his desire to work with people who are loving, fair and sincere did he make the career ladder climb.
Like many of the children and families we serve, Darrell had obstacles to overcome. As a child, he lived in poverty. In his early high school years, he realized that college could be his ticket to a better life. Darrell earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and later, a master’s degree.
“This boosted my confidence, and I decided I wanted to go for my doctorate,” Darrell explains. He chose Nova Southeastern in Florida because it offered a doctorate in special education. “My degree has helped me with researching and completing needs analyses to set goals for our [Head Start] program,” he adds.
As a supervisor, Darrell tries to be an active listener and doesn’t respond to any situation “until I have all the facts.” His open-door policy means staff can talk about problems and raise concerns, “as long as they come with a draft solution.”
Darrell’s dedication to the wellbeing of children extends to his personal life, as well. In 2021, he and his husband adopted their two daughters from foster care and began fostering two brothers, whom they hope to adopt soon. Darrell also has two biological children from his first marriage.
“I am an advocate for children both at work and at home,” Darrell says.
See Yourself at Upbring
At Upbring, we are committed to breaking the generational cycle of child abuse. Our innovative programs and services make a tangible difference for Texas children and families, every single day. And this wouldn’t be possible without our people!
Want to join the team? Learn more about life at Upbring and view open positions at upbring.org/careers.
*Annie’s story is true, but we have used a pseudonym to protect her privacy.