Our Impact

Say Yes began in 1987 with a promise by money manager George Weiss to 112 sixth graders at a Philadelphia public school: if they graduated high school, he told them, he would pay to put them through college and provide them with the support services in middle school and high school to succeed once in college.

Say Yes by the Numbers

Say Yes and its partners now provide access to support services and postsecondary scholarships to more than 170,000 public school students. With over 30-plus years, the Say Yes strategy has evolved – from its focus on a half dozen cohort chapters (ranging in size from 50 to 300 students) during the organization’s first two decades, to community-wide partnerships in three cities (Buffalo and Syracuse in upstate New York), Cleveland, OH and one county (Guilford, including the cities of Greensboro and High Point), in North Carolina. In contrast to its early, cohort chapters, Say Yes’ community-wide strategy (piloted in Syracuse beginning in 2008, and expanded in the years since to Buffalo, Guilford County, and Cleveland) is intended to be sustainable – with support services and postsecondary scholarships made available in its partner communities, by the local partnerships, in perpetuity.

$300 million

Scholarships and grants awarded

Scholarships and grants awarded to Say Yes Scholars in Syracuse and Buffalo

Beginning in 2009 (in Syracuse) and 2013 (Buffalo), and 2016 (Guilford), and continuing through the end of the 2017-18 academic year, the local Say Yes scholarship funds have awarded Say Yes Scholars $27 million in direct, postsecondary scholarships. That aid has helped leverage $242 million in additional scholarships, including Pell Grants, as well as aid from in-state public colleges and universities, and from the private colleges and universities in the Say Yes Higher Education Compact.


Say Yes Scholars that have gone off to college

Say Yes Scholars that have gone off to college or other postsecondary programs

Since its founding, more than 15,500 Say Yes Scholars have gone off to two- and four-year colleges and universities -- most in the last six years, since the founding of Say Yes Buffalo.



Private college and university partners

Private colleges and universities in the Say Yes Higher Education Compact

The over 100 private colleges and universities in the Say Yes Higher Education Compact provide "last dollar" tuition scholarships (after Pell grants and state aid) to Say Yes Scholars who are admitted and meet income eligibility. Our partner colleges are located in 26 states and the District of Columbia, and range from large research universities to small liberal arts colleges.


Percentage point increase in high school graduation

Percentage point increase in high school graduation in Buffalo

Since Say Yes began in Buffalo, the number of students graduating high school has increased by 16 percentage points, from 49 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2018. Furthermore, the number of African American and Hispanic students graduating high school in Buffalo has increased by 15 percentage points.



Percentage point increase in college matriculation

Percentage point increase in college matriculation in Buffalo

The number of students going off to college in the fall, following their high school graduation in the spring, increased by 10 percentage points, from 57 percent in 2012 to 67 percent in 2017.

$220 million

Amount of money raised locally by scholarship funds

Amount of money raised locally by Say Yes local scholarship funds

Each Say Yes partner community raises a scholarship fund locally to send every qualifying public high school graduate, in perpetuity, to an in-state public college or university, tuition-free. As of Spring 2018, Say Yes Syracuse had raised $31 million for its scholarship fund; Say Yes Buffalo, $25 million, toward the ten year goal and $35 million toward the endowment and Say Yes Guilford (Greensboro-High Point), over $42 million -- more than $100 million Say Yes-wide. At the time of Say Yes Cleveland’s launch in January 2019, Cleveland has raised almost $90 million, bringing the total endowment amount to over $220 million.



School-based mental health clinics opened

Number of School-based mental health clinics in Buffalo

Since the launch of Say Yes Buffalo, 524 school-based mental health clinics have launched. Services that keep students on the pathway to postsecondary readiness are critical to the Say Yes strategy; in Buffalo, these may be delivered through 6 school-based legal clinics or by the Say Yes Family Support Specialists assigned to all 54 public school buildings in the city.


Percent reduction in foster care placements

Percent reduction in foster care placements in Onondaga County (including Syracuse)

Within the first six years of the Say Yes Syracuse local partnership, Onondaga County (which includes the city of Syracuse) reported a 43 percent reduction in foster care placements.

Student Stories

Meet Our Scholar – Jasmine

Say Yes Chapter: Harlem, NY
School: PS-IS 180M

Meet Our Scholar – Karolina Espinosa

Say Yes Chapter: Buffalo
School: Hutchinson Technical High School
College: Buffalo State University

Meet Our Scholar – Juwan Rainer

Say Yes Chapter: Philadelphia, PA
School: Kipps Dubois Collegiate Academy Class of 2014
College: Villanova University, Fall 2014

Meet Our Scholar – Larisa Pechenyy

Say Yes Chapter: Syracuse, NY
School: Syracuse University Class of 2014