Say Yes To Education CEO Transition





Jacques Steinberg

212 415 7163

[email protected]



NEW YORK (July 31) – Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the Chief Executive Officer of Say Yes to Education, a leading national nonprofit organization that helps revitalize communities by giving public school students access to college and other postsecondary opportunities, has notified its board that she will step down at the end of 2018.

The board announced that it would embark on a national search, to include both outside and internal candidates, for the next chief executive officer.

Under Schmitt-Carey’s leadership over the last 12 years, Say Yes has partnered with Syracuse and Buffalo in New York, and Guilford County (Greensboro-High Point) in North Carolina. These partnerships provide every public school student with access to support along the pathway to graduating from high school prepared to earn a college degree or other postsecondary credential – and with the resources to make that education affordable and equitable. In the coming months, the organization hopes to decide on the application of a consortium of local partners from Cleveland to become the next site for a Say Yes community chapter.

In addition, by year’s end, Say Yes will have concluded the initial phase of the launch of its Weiss Institute consulting division – named for Say Yes founder and chairman George Weiss, and announced in Spring 2017 – including the onboarding of its initial cohort of client cities, which include Louisville, KY. The Institute seeks to leverage the lessons learned by Say Yes over three decades, as well as evidence-based best practice from across the field, to expand the capacity of communities to support young people along the developmental pathway from early childhood to adult success.

Schmitt-Carey said she wished to seek new challenges – including ways to further address inequities faced by young people from low-income backgrounds in particular – and that she would work closely with the board on a smooth transition of leadership.

“I’m grateful to George Weiss, the board, our senior management team and colleagues, and Say Yes’ many local and national partners for coming together to launch one of the most comprehensive and pioneering initiatives in the nation to systematically, sustainably and holistically address the needs of young people,” Schmitt-Carey said. “These needs are especially acute for young people from low-income, minority and other backgrounds historically underrepresented on the nation’s college and university campuses.”

She added: “I’ve shared with the board my belief that Say Yes has a strong bench, as well as enhanced brand awareness, positioning it well for the future.”

Weiss, who founded Say Yes in 1987, said: “I want to thank Mary Anne for the indelible imprint she has left on Say Yes, and the impact she has had on the lives of tens of thousands of young people and their families.”

Under Schmitt-Carey’s leadership, Say Yes received substantial investments from the American Institutes for Research; the Ford Foundation; the Kresge Foundation; the Lumina Foundation, and the Wallace Foundation, as well as BMO Capital and Southwest Airlines. It also received prominent recognition from leading national educational and political figures, including President Barack Obama.

Among the data points that underscore the growth and success of Say Yes during Schmitt-Carey’s tenure are these:

  •  Since the launch of the first proof-point site for the organization’s communitywide strategy in Syracuse in 2008, the number of students with access to Say Yes scholarships and support services has grown nearly 150x, from roughly 750 during the organization’s first two decades to about 130,000 in 2018.
  • During that period, about 13,000 young people have gone off to college or other postsecondary education institutions with scholarships and other support from Say Yes.
  • Since 2008, Say Yes Scholars have received college or other postsecondary scholarships from Say Yes and its partner communities totaling nearly $27 million.
  • Over that same period, Say Yes Scholars have leveraged those “last dollar” Say Yes scholarships to help obtain an additional $240 million in grants from federal and state sources, as well as colleges and universities.
  • Since the launch of the Say Yes communitywide strategy, Say Yes’ partner communities have secured commitments for a total of nearly $133 million in donations to the local Say Yes scholarship funds in Buffalo, Guilford County and Syracuse.
  • The number of private colleges and universities partnering (and standing) with Say Yes in its National Higher Education Compact has increased by nearly 200 percent since 2013 – from 36 to 105.
  • Since the launch of the Say Yes Buffalo partnership in 2012, the number of students graduating high school has increased from 49 percent to 64 percent (an increase of 30.6 percent overall – and of 36.2 percent for African-American students), and the number enrolling in college or other postsecondary education institutions the following fall has increased from 57 percent to 67 percent, a 17.5 percent increase.
  • Since the launch of the Say Yes Syracuse partnership in 2008, the 10-percentage point achievement gap – as measured by high school graduation – between African-American students, and their white counterparts, has been eliminated (Overall, the high school graduation rate has increased by 23.1 percent.)

“As the designer and lead implementer of the Say Yes community strategy over the last dozen years, Mary Anne has put a remarkable imprint on the lives of so many students — opening doors of opportunity and creating life-changing pathways to postsecondary attainment for a whole generation of America’s talent,” said Nancy Cantor, the Chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark and the former Chancellor of Syracuse University. “We should all be so grateful for her skill, resilience, and perseverance in what is genuinely a game-changer for communities.”

Said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown: “I’m eternally grateful for the vision, leadership and partnership Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey brought to the city of Buffalo. With the support of Say Yes, Buffalo has made an unprecedented commitment to meet the educational needs and fulfill the promise of every student in our city. We also worked together on how to do business in a fundamentally different and more collaborative way. Thanks to Say Yes and Mary Anne, I know we will remain committed to this new and more equitable path for many years to come.”

Eric J. Furda, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, a founding member of the Say Yes Higher Education Compact, said: “I have been fortunate to work closely with Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey and her colleagues at Say Yes, and I know how deeply this work matters to her. She has taken the transformative commitment made by George Weiss in 1987 to 112 sixth graders – to make a college education attainable and affordable — and worked with George and her team to expand that promise across 4 entire communities. The foundation she leaves behind is strong, and I look forward to seeing – and being part of – the organization’s next iteration.”

About Say Yes to Education

Founded in 1987, Say Yes to Education is a nonprofit that partners with communities around the goal of every public school student not only graduating high school – but doing so prepared for a college or other postsecondary education, and with access to resources to make that education affordable and equitable. At the heart of Say Yes is a powerful incentive for families and communities: the prospect of a college scholarship. Say Yes and its partners ensure that students have the support outside the classroom to clear the path to academic achievement. Say Yes works with its community partners to bring together local stakeholders and arm that coalition with the tools to boost postsecondary participation and success. Those systems and structures enable the work of the local Say Yes partnership to go to scale and be sustained through predictable transitions in leadership, and historically unpredictable funding from state and local sources. The organization’s support services are available to tens of thousands of public school students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. www.SayYestoEducation.org

About the Weiss Institute

Say Yes to Education launched the Weiss Institute in Spring 2017 to help communities expand their capacity to support young people along the developmental pathway from early childhood to college or other postsecondary completion – and on from there to adult success. The Institute partners with communities to address inequities and help boost economic development. It does so by marshaling the field’s best thinking, best practices and latest research, as well as by drawing on 30 years of our own experience, lessons learned, and expertise. www.WeissInstitute.org

Contact Us

Are you inspired by the goals and approach of Say Yes? We invite you to reach out to the Say Yes National office or to a Say Yes chapter, to learn more about how you can get involved.