BUFFALO, NY, January 20, 2016 – Trustees of The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced their support for the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship today with a $2 million gift.

When added to previous commitments from Western New York individuals, families, foundations, organizations and businesses, more than $22 million has now been raised, mostly locally, to provide postsecondary tuition scholarships for graduates of Buffalo public and charter schools. The gift is the largest one-time gift to-date to the scholarship fund

“We at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation are proud to join this partnership by supporting Say Yes Buffalo which provides tuition scholarships to Buffalo public and charter school students to all New York state public colleges and universities as well as to nearly 100 private colleges and universities,” said Mary M. Wilson, wife of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. “Creating opportunities for young people was a passion of my husband’s and so supporting this scholarship in his memory feels right. The Say Yes Buffalo Partnership that has come together to support the students of Buffalo is impressive and well on its way to removing barriers to academic success. We are proud to support this effort.”

Announced in 2015, The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation will operate as a grant-making organization, dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Western New York and Southeastern Michigan.   Foundation trustees have identified priority areas based on Mr. Wilson’s personal passions and causes that resonated with him in his lifetime, including healthy lifestyles, early childhood and youth development, caregivers, community development and economic growth.

The Say Yes Buffalo Partnership is an education-based initiative that provides a powerful engine for long-term economic development, which will radically improve the life course of public school students in the City of Buffalo.

Catalyzed by a locally funded scholarship program and bolstered by a successful national model that includes support for district-wide school improvements and alignment of community and public support services, Say Yes Buffalo aims to increase educational attainment of the students in the Buffalo Public Schools.  To accomplish this, Say Yes Buffalo partners collectively address financial, academic, health, and social/emotional barriers to educational attainment to ensure all students have the tools to successfully earn a postsecondary degree.

”Today’s gift from The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a resounding example of what can happen when a community comes together,” said Alphonso O’Neil-White, Chair of the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Board. “This gift brings us one step closer to our fundraising goal of $33 million which will ensure the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship is available for at least ten years, through 2023.”

The leading predictor of economic health for a region is the level of education of its residents. Buffalo is consistently ranked among the poorest cities in the United States, but has shown increases in high school graduation and college matriculation since the Say Yes Buffalo Partnership began its work in 2012. Since then, Buffalo public high school graduation rates have increased by 13 percentage points from 48% in 2012 to 61% in 2015. College matriculation rates have also increased from 57% in 2012 to 64% in 2014.

For more information about the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation visit http://ralphcwilsonjrfoundation.org. For more information about Say Yes Buffalo visit www.sayyesbuffalo.org.

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