Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Say Yes Buffalo: Improving our Public Schools

Say Yes Buffalo: Made possible by the Western New York community

Why it matters

The 2013 high school graduation rate for the Buffalo Public Schools was 56%. One in three adults living in the City of Buffalo is illiterate (reading below a 5th grade level). Buffalo consistently ranks as one of our nation's poorest cities. Western New York employers increasingly report they have to hire from outside our region because the local workforce does not have the skills required for success in today's knowledge-based economy.

A better WNY is not possible without a stronger Buffalo. Action to increase high school graduation rates, as well as college enrollment and completion rates is imperative if we are to break the cycle of poverty in the Queen City and produce a workforce that is prepared for success in today's jobs.

What has been accomplished

After an unprecedented cross sector, collaborative effort on the part of WNY leaders, Say Yes to Education, Inc., a foundation based in New York City, selected Buffalo as its second "Say Yes" city. They committed $15 million to fund research and reforms in the Buffalo Public Schools, including the creation and coordination of out-of-school services for students and their families, such as summer and after school programs.

In partnership with Say Yes to Education, Western New York individuals, civic leaders, businesses, and foundations are incentivizing graduation from the Buffalo Public Schools (traditional and charter) with their commitment to provide graduates up to 100% of the tuition needed to attend participating public and/or private collegiate and post-secondary institution through the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Fund.

Improving education and strengthening our local economy

Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Fund

The Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Fund administered by the Community Foundation is an important component of the larger Say Yes Buffalo initiative, which will radically improve the life course of an entire generation of public school students living in the City of Buffalo. In addition, it will also provide a powerful engine for the City's long term economic development.

While the goal of Say Yes Buffalo is implementing district-wide school improvements that will increase post-secondary completion rates, the "glue" that holds together the disparate partners necessary to accomplish such comprehensive systems change is the scholarship. The Say Yes Buffalo tuition scholarship is a commitment to provide every eligible graduate from a Buffalo Public High School or Charter School with up to 100% of the tuition needed to attend a public post-secondary institution.

Thanks to the support of our generous Angel Donors who have contributed more than $19 million, almost 1,000 students headed off to college in 2013. Many of those students wouldn't have had that opportunity without the Say Yes Buffalo partnership.

However, financial aid for college is just one component of the effort, which seeks to remove all barriers to educational success. To address the academic, health and behavioral challenges our students face, Say Yes Buffalo and its partners are putting people and programs run by respected community-based organizations directly into Buffalo Public School buildings.

To guide this work, Say Yes Buffalo created and launched a Student Management System— the first of its kind to be rolled out to a public school district in the nation. This comprehensive system tracks attendance, health, behavioral and academic indicators based on input from parents, students, school counselors, and teachers to identify whether students are on track academically. If they are not, the system helps connect students to the different supports and services available to put them back on track.

By removing financial, academic, social and health barriers to educational attainment, Say Yes Buffalo will upgrade the skills in our local job pool as these students go on to graduate from college or postsecondary vocational training. The choice is theirs.

Imagine what a college education will do to increase the prospect of lifelong success for the thousands of students who will graduate from the Buffalo Public Schools over the next ten years. The Say Yes Buffalo initiative truly is a game-changer for Western New York.

Here's a look at the other Say Yes Buffalo successes in 2013 by the numbers:

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