Press Release

For Immediate Release


NEW YORK, NY, June 9 – Say Yes to Education, the nonprofit that partners with communities to help them make a college or other post-secondary education accessible, affordable and attainable on a sustainable basis for all public school students, announced the addition of four members to its national board of directors – including two graduates of the organization’s earlier, legacy chapters.

The Say Yes alumni appointed to the 16-member board – the first alumni appointees in its 29-year history – are Jarmaine Ollivierre, a Senior Aerospace Engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Naeemah Nelson, a Global Innovation Manager at GE Ventures.

They join Margot James Copeland, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the KeyBank Foundation in Cleveland, and Julie Franklin, a longtime philanthropist and volunteer in the areas of education and social justice, and the Chair of the Grants Committee of the Trustee Council of Penn Women at the University of Pennsylvania, which seeks to improve the experience for female students and faculty.

Olliviere was 1 of 12 rising seventh graders at a Philadelphia elementary school who were recipients of the original Say Yes promise: in 1987, the organization’s founder, George Weiss, promised those students that if they graduated high school – a goal for which he would provide them academic and non-academic supports – he would pay to send them to college. With support from Weiss and Say Yes, Ollivierre went on to Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1998.  He later earned a Master’s Degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Beach, Florida.

“Say Yes To Education has opened a world to me that would otherwise be unreachable,” Olliviere said.

Nelson is a graduate of Say Yes’ Jane and Robert Toll Chapter, which launched in Philadelphia in 1990 with 58 third-graders. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“Say Yes provided me with exposure, resources, and a network that believed in my success,” Nelson said. “These factors changed the trajectory of my life, and will benefit my family and community for generations to come.”

Said Weiss, the Chairman of Say Yes: “As Say Yes prepares to mark its 30th year in 2017, I couldn’t be happier that our board and senior management team will benefit from the counsel of Jarmaine Ollivierre and Naeemah Nelson, two Say Yes pioneers who are among our most successful alumni. We also welcome Margot James Copeland and Julie Franklin, who have each made an impact through their philanthropy.”

In particular Weiss noted that, as shepherded by Copeland, KeyBank Foundation announced last month a $1 million grant in Buffalo, the site of a Say Yes community-wide chapter, to the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Fund – the largest such gift by KeyBank outside of Cleveland, where it has its headquarters. The KeyBank foundation had been one of the earliest investors in Say Yes Buffalo, contributing $150,000 to the scholarship fund in 2012; it has also contributed $230,000 for scholarships to Say Yes’ chapter in Syracuse.

At the organization’s board meeting on May 26, Weiss extended his gratitude to three departing board members: Lewis Katz, Daniel Lewis and Deborah Miller.

About Say Yes to Education

At the heart of Say Yes is a powerful incentive for families and communities: the prospect of a college scholarship, whether to an in-state public institution or one of the more than 100 private colleges and universities in the Say Yes National Higher Education Compact. Say Yes leverages these and other incentives to ensure that students have the support outside the classroom – tutoring; after-school and summer programs; medical care; counseling and legal help – to clear the path to academic achievement. Say Yes works with its community partners to bring together every local stakeholder – city and county government; the school district; parents; teachers; businesses; unions; philanthropic and faith-based organizations; colleges and universities – and arms that coalition with the tools to boost postsecondary participation and success. Those systems and structures enable the work of the local Say Yes partnership to go to scale and be sustained through predictable transitions in leadership, and historically unpredictable funding from state and local sources. The organization’s support services are available to more than 130,000 public school students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Most are in communitywide chapters in Syracuse (a pilot that began in 2008) and Buffalo (2012), as well as Guilford County (Greensboro-High Point), North Carolina (2015). Say Yes, which has already begun the search for its fourth community chapter, has smaller chapters in Harlem in New York City and Philadelphia. For more information, visit http://www.SayYestoEducation.org


Contact: Sonja Smash


212 415 4590

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