Launched in December of 2011, Say Yes Buffalo is an unprecedented, collaborative effort with more than 200 partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors committed to strengthening the Western New York economy by investing in the education of Buffalo’s future workforce. The Community Foundation played a key leadership role in bringing this initiative to Buffalo.
From inquisitive preschoolers to college-bound seniors, every child deserves access to a high-quality education where they have the opportunity to learn and flourish.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down physical school locations in March 2020, the education system was tested in unimaginable ways. For children living in low-income households, this community crisis only heightened barriers to educational success.
Say Yes Buffalo helped lead the way when it came to supporting Buffalo Public School students and their families from the moment the crisis hit our region. With its vast network of community partners, Say Yes Buffalo immediately responded by pivoting to meet the immediate needs of the community it serves. Buffalo Public Schools provided food, and Say Yes Buffalo staff and other community volunteers got it in the homes of the families that needed it the most. Family support specialists continued to conduct 150 home visits each week to check in on families and provide mental health support. Say Yes Buffalo was able to move critical extended school time to a virtual platform and made sure students had everything they needed for remote learning. Additionally, Say Yes Buffalo transitioned its Saturday Academies to a virtual platform with 2,200 people joining for online college tours and other enrichment activities.
When it became clear that remote learning would continue for the foreseeable future, Say Yes Buffalo, in partnership with Buffalo Public Schools and Erie County, established 45 virtual learning hubs throughout the City in the fall of 2020. These hubs provided tutoring and academic support to students so their parents and guardians would not have to make the choice between work and being home while their children learned remotely.
Say Yes Buffalo continues to provide scholarships to eligible graduates of Buffalo public and charter schools to all SUNY/CUNY schools and more than 100 private colleges and universities across the United States. Since its 2012 launch, Say Yes Buffalo has awarded more than $15 million in scholarships across six graduation classes of students. The number of schools “in good standing” has tripled from 12 to 37, and the graduation rate in Buffalo has increased by 27 points. Now at 76 percent, it is the highest it has been in decades.
While these are remarkable results, the strength of Say Yes Buffalo was certainly tested in 2020. By rallying behind Buffalo students and their families, and supporting them in new and meaningful ways, Say Yes Buffalo demonstrated the essential role this community partnership plays in Western New York and how a strong support system can benefit students, both in and out of the classroom.
We continue to help many more students attain post-secondary education as a partner, supporter and advocate of Say Yes Buffalo.