Dr. Ellen Grant, Former Deputy Mayor of Buffalo and County Mental Health Commissioner, Joins Say Yes to Education’s National Organization.

Press Release

NEW YORK, NY – Dr. Ellen Grant, who has served for the last two-and-a-half years as Deputy Mayor of the City of Buffalo, where her responsibilities included overseeing education and health policy, as well as many of the office’s day-to-day operations, is joining Say Yes to Education as the national nonprofit organization’s Senior Vice President for Chapter Programming.

As Deputy Mayor in the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown, who leads New York State’s second largest city, Dr. Grant worked closely with community partners to develop and implement the Say Yes Buffalo partnership. As a citywide chapter in the Say Yes National organization, Say Yes Buffalo is a partnership of local education stakeholders and other community leaders who have come together to ensure that graduates of the city’s public and charter schools have access to college or other post-secondary scholarships — as well as to academic, social-emotional and other supports and services intended to eliminate barriers to achievement.

“The City of Buffalo is stronger today because of Dr. Grant’s work during the past two-and-a-half years to bring this community together around education and health initiatives,” Mayor Brown said.  “While my administration is sorry to lose her we know it will only benefit this community to have someone who cares so deeply about this region operating at the national level.”

In her new role on the senior management team of the Say Yes national organization, Dr. Grant will provide programming support to community-wide chapters in the upstate New York cities of Buffalo and Syracuse – as well as to a smaller cohort chapter in Harlem in New York City.

Say Yes expects to establish a third community-wide chapter – outside New York and the Northeast – as soon as this fall, and Dr. Grant is also expected to support programming activities there. Earlier this year, Say Yes identified Guilford County (Greensboro-High Point), North Carolina, as the lead candidate to be that community. Dr. Grant, who resigns as Deputy Mayor effective July 6 and who will join Say Yes immediately, will report to Gene Chasin, the organization’s Chief Operating Officer.

“Ellen Grant has been a strong partner to Say Yes to Education in Buffalo – not only in driving the development of the partnership’s work in the city but also in helping us learn from that experience at the national level,’’ said Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the President of Say Yes to Education. “We are excited to have her frontline expertise, passion, and persistent dedication to the betterment of all children as part of our national leadership team.”

Dr. Grant said: “Servant Leadership continues to be one of my core values,” Dr. Grant said. “I am happy to assist in carrying out the mission of Say Yes to provide the opportunity for students to achieve their dream of securing a college education or trade.”

Dr. Grant has a Ph.D. in communications and organizational behavior from the University at Buffalo, where she also held faculty teaching positions.  Before joining the Buffalo City Government, she served in a number of leadership positions throughout Western New York including as director of Cornerstone Manor, the women and children’s division of the Buffalo City Mission; vice president of community affairs at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, and president and CEO of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

She served as Commissioner of Mental Health from 1988 to 2000, during Erie County Executive Dennis T. Gorski’s administration, and has been a licensed private therapist for 25 years.  She continues to serve as a volunteer, emeritus on the University of Buffalo Foundation Board. Her other volunteer work includes National Co-chair of the Black Women’s Health Study at Boston University. She describes herself as “a proud product” of the Buffalo Public Schools.


Say Yes to Education was founded in 1987 by money manager George Weiss, who boldly promised more than 100 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 communities around the goals of every public school student graduating high school — and then being able to attain, afford and complete a college or other post-secondary education.  The organization currently works with nearly 65,000 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). The organization has smaller chapters in Harlem and Philadelphia, and expects to add a communitywide chapter, outside of New York State, later this year.

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