Cleveland Said Yes to Education! What’s Next?

A group of students on stage at graduation

After years of careful planning and collaborative fundraising, Cleveland was announced as the newest Say Yes to Education community-wide chapter in January. Just as the first class of Say Yes to Education Cleveland scholars begins their first year of college, The City Club of Cleveland held a forum on August 23 featuring a panel of key leaders in Cleveland’s Say Yes efforts: Diane Downing, Executive Director, Say Yes to Education Cleveland; Lee Friedman, CEO, College Now Greater Cleveland; Eric Gordon, CEO, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD); and Monyka Price, Chief of Education, City of Cleveland.

Thanks to Say Yes, eligible CMSD students can now receive tuition gap closing scholarships to attend two- and four-year colleges as well as industry recognized credential programs. But each of the panelists emphasized that Say Yes provides much more than scholarships. Say Yes support services – including after-school programming, free legal services and mental health assistance – will be available in CMSD schools from kindergarten through high school, all with the goal of breaking down the barriers that prevent students from succeeding inside and outside of the classroom. Over the next four years, these wraparound services will be accessible in every CMSD school.

“It’s changing the hope, aspirations and culture in our community, so every student knows from day one that they have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams – there is an expectation that they will and there is a means to do that,” Lee Friedman said of the impact Say Yes has on the attitudes of eligible students.

And extra support from the organization does not end when the scholarship recipients leave high school. “Say Yes is about creating capital and social capital for our kids and families here in Cleveland that middle and upper-middle income families already enjoy,” Eric Gordon explained during the forum. One way Say Yes is building social capital is by connecting each Say Yes Scholar with a mentor through the College Now Mentoring Program. These mentors will support the students throughout their postsecondary experience and serve as a networking resource to help them succeed after earning their degree.

The panel also elaborated on how Say Yes Cleveland is not only benefiting our students, but all of Northeast Ohio. Monyka Price explained, “In 2020, 65% of all jobs and careers will require some form of postsecondary education. Postsecondary education attainment is also a revitalization tool. If we increase just 1% of postsecondary attainment rates in our region, it will add about $2.5 billion to our region annually.”

The following are just a few of the accomplishments Say Yes has realized in its first year:

  • 1,400 + volunteers have signed up to mentor Say Yes Cleveland scholarship students
  • 16 CMSD schools will receive Say Yes Support Services this year
  • 770+ CMSD graduates from the class of 2019 are eligible for a Say Yes Cleveland Scholarship (As of August 16)

Want to help Cleveland students succeed? 

Click here to support Say Yes to Education Cleveland


View the full City Club forum here: 

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