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 2012 high school graduation rate for the Buffalo Public Schools was 47%. One in three adults living in the City of Buffalo is illiterate. 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 and 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

In December 2011, 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.

As of February 2014, Western New York individuals, families, corporations and foundations pledged over $19 million (toward an initial goal of $30 million) to fund the Say Yes Buffalo tuition scholarship for the first ten years, beginning with the class of 2013.

By combining this locally funded tuition scholarship with the comprehensive K-12 system of supports made possible with $15 million from Say Yes to Education, Inc., Say Yes Buffalo is tackling the city's unacceptable 47% high school graduation rate. 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.

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.

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.

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