NEW YORK, September 17 – Say Yes to Education, a pioneering nonprofit organization that partners with communities to promote the goal of giving every public high school graduate access to college or other post-secondary scholarships, announced today that it had selected Guilford County, North Carolina, which includes 72,000 public school students in and around the cities of Greensboro and High Point, to be the site of its next community chapter.
The selection, which will double the number of students eligible for Say Yes scholarships and support services to nearly 140,000, follows a national competition in which more than two dozen medium-sized cities and counties from around the nation were considered. Like Guilford County, each of the communities that were under consideration serves a majority of students from low-income and other backgrounds historically underrepresented on the nation’s college and university campuses.
Guilford County Schools (GCS), the community’s public school district, is larger than those in Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. It ranks among the 50 largest in the nation.
Say Yes also announced today that its Higher Education Compact – a coalition of private colleges and universities located in 21 states and the District of Columbia that offer full-tuition scholarships to eligible Say Yes Scholars – had reached the milestone of 100 member institutions. The Compact had 38 member colleges as recently as two years ago and 69 during the last academic year. The organization’s 31 newest higher education partners include Caltech, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago, as well as several institutions in or near Guilford County. They join Davidson College, Duke University, Georgetown University, the University of Notre Dame, Stanford University and all eight members of the Ivy League. (Full roster available at www.sayyestoeducation.org).
“As someone who could not have attended college without a scholarship, I know first-hand how transformative that commitment can be in the life of a young person,’’ said George Weiss, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who founded Say Yes in 1987 when he promised to help 112 Philadelphia sixth graders to graduate high school and pay for their higher education. “I am especially gratified today to see the way Guilford County has embraced the promise of Say Yes. I also thank Say Yes’ 100 private college and university partners for standing with us.”
Weiss, a money manager with offices in New York City and Hartford, CT, who is chairman of Say Yes, made the announcements in a ceremony at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, NC.
Guilford County becomes Say Yes’ third community chapter, joining the upstate New York cities of Buffalo, which began implementing the Say Yes community strategy in 2012, and Syracuse, which began a pilot program in 2008. Guilford County’s students are globally diverse, representing more than 79 countries and speaking nearly 100 languages. The student poverty rate in the public school district, which has a majority of students from minority backgrounds, exceeds 60 percent.
Through their Say Yes chapter, Guilford County Schools’ students (and their families) will have access not only to full tuition scholarships but also a menu of supports and services – academic and social-emotional, as well as medical and legal – to ensure that they progress successfully along the pathway to post-secondary readiness.
“We applaud the local partners in Greensboro, High Point and across Guilford County for their commitment to guide students along the pathway to and through college and other post-secondary opportunities,’’ said Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the President of Say Yes. “We look forward to partnering with them as they seek to help children throughout the county to realize their gifts and talents – which will not only have a positive impact on them and their families, but on the community as a whole.”
“As in our other partner communities,’’ she added, “we believe Guilford County can serve as a demonstration model to the nation on how to leverage private dollars with existing public funds to make a college scholarship available to every student, and to bulldoze the predictable barriers that prevent students and their families from seizing that opportunity.”
The partnership in Guilford County that put together the community’s bid for Say Yes, which included the school district, business leaders, government officials and local foundations, also announced today that it had raised more than $32 million in private donations, in less than a year, on behalf of the Say Yes initiative. That money will seed a fund providing “last dollar” tuition scholarships to students from the community attending in-state public institutions.
David Miller, a business leader whose industrial machine shop has been a mainstay in High Point since 1978, said: “Say Yes has given Guilford County a once-in-a generation gift that will provide opportunities for students that their families in the past could have only dreamed of.”
“The partnership between Say Yes and Guilford County is incredibly exciting,’’ said Chuck Cornelio, chairman of the Guilford Education Alliance, a local nonprofit that played a critical role in the launch of Say Yes Guilford. “With Say Yes we can provide scholarships so that all public school students can pursue a post-high school degree or certification.”
“Equally important,’’ added Cornelio, a former board member of North Carolina A&T State University, “is how we will connect students with the individual support they need to succeed. The bonus for us all is that by helping to create a strong work force this provides a significant boost to economic development in Guilford County.”
The Say Yes national organization has also pledged to invest $15 million over the next six years to assist the community in building the systems and structures to deliver Say Yes scholarships and other services at scale, and on a sustainable basis well into the future.
“This is a historic day for the children of our community and for Guilford County Schools,” said Guilford County Schools’ Superintendent Maurice O. “Mo” Green. “Entire generations of young people and their families will find their lives forever changed because our community and the Say Yes National Foundation believe in them and are willing to help them make their dreams of a college education possible.”
ABOUT SAY YES TO EDUCATION
Say Yes to Education was founded in 1987 by money manager George Weiss, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who boldly promised 112 sixth graders at a Philadelphia public school that he would pay to send them to college if they graduated high school. In the years since, Say Yes has evolved into a national nonprofit that helps organize and galvanize entire communities around the goals of every public school student graduating high school prepared for a college or other post-secondary education – and with access to scholarships to make that education affordable. The organization works with nearly 140,000 public school students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Most are in communitywide chapters in the upstate New York cities of Syracuse (since 2008) and Buffalo (2012). More than 5,000 students have gone off to college with the support of Say Yes, most in the last three years. The organization announced the addition of its newest chapter, in Guilford County, North Carolina, which includes the cities of Greensboro and High Point, on Sept. 17, 2015. Say Yes, which expects to add its fourth community chapter in 2016, has smaller chapters in Harlem and Philadelphia. For more information: http://www.sayyestoeducation.org
ABOUT SAY YES GUILFORD
Say Yes to Education Guilford, including the cities of Greensboro and High Point, North Carolina, was formally announced on Sept. 17, 2015. Guilford County vied with more than two dozen mid-sized cities and counties throughout the United States to become the next community partner of Say Yes to Education, a national nonprofit based in New York. Say Yes to Education Guilford seeks to help Guilford County Schools system students get the support they need to graduate from high school and be ready for post-secondary success. This support starts with the youngest learners and continues until students graduate from college or other post-secondary programs. In addition, the program provides last-dollar tuition scholarships to Guilford County Schools graduates so they can afford to complete college or a postsecondary certificate.
As the program takes shape, Say Yes Guilford will bring to a common table every major stakeholder in Guilford County with an interest in education, including representatives from throughout the Guilford County Schools, parents, students, government officials, higher education, labor and business leaders, philanthropists and faith-based organizations.
For more information, visit www.sayyesguilford.org, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.
STATEMENTS FROM A SELECTION OF NEW MEMBERS OF
THE SAY YES HIGHER EDUCATION COMPACT
John McEachern, Director of Admissions
“Boston University is pleased to join Say Yes to Education in their quest to provide talented students with access to quality higher education. Our goals are closely aligned and we look forward to welcoming Boston University’s first Say Yes Scholars to campus in the fall of 2016.”
Scott A. Meiklejohn, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
“Holding open the door to admission, without regard to financial circumstance, is an essential aspect of Bowdoin’s purpose as a national liberal arts college. We look forward to our partnership with Say Yes and to providing the Bowdoin opportunity to Say Yes students.”
Varo Duffins, Director of Financial Aid
“We are eagerly looking forward to working with Say Yes to Education, given our shared commitment to making a college education accessible and establishing a clear path to affording the exceptional education we provide. We want to ensure that high need students know that we may be able to meet their determined financial need to a greater extent than they may realize. We always hope to enroll students who become successful members of our campus and alumni community, especially those who might not have otherwise realized Swarthmore was even an option without Say Yes.”
Veronica Hauad, Deputy Dean of Admissions
Director of Equity and Access Programming
University of Chicago
“The University of Chicago is excited to partner with Say Yes to Education, an organization that shares our goal of increasing access to higher education for all students. Together we can provide resources and support to low-income and underrepresented students so that they may realize their dreams and find success in college and beyond.”
Martha Allman, Dean of Admissions
Wake Forest University
“We at Wake Forest look forward to working with Say Yes to break down barriers to achievement for low income students.”We are delighted by the expansion of their successful program to Guilford County.”
Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
“We are pleased to partner with Say Yes in its admirable efforts to make a college education possible for public school students around the country. For decades, Wesleyan has worked with community-based organizations to become accessible and affordable to students from every background, and proudly welcomed a new class this fall with 17 percent first-generation college students and 21 percent Pell recipients. We offer a rigorous academic environment with support systems to help all of our students succeed.”