Celebrating three years of Say Yes Cleveland

Students in bleachers cheer

Jan. 18, 2019 was a historic day for our community as Cleveland was officially named as the fourth Say Yes to Education community-wide chapter in the nation. With this announcement came the promise of holistic support – including tuition scholarships and wraparound support services – for students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and partner charter schools over the next 25 years. In case you missed it, you can watch the 2019 launch event here:

“Three years in, I can tell you that we are well on our way to making good on the promise and the hope sparked at the launch of Say Yes Cleveland.” – Diane Downing, Executive Director, Say Yes Cleveland 

How can you support Cleveland students’ success?

  • Donate to the Say Yes Cleveland Scholarship Fund here
  • Sign up to mentor a Say Yes scholar here

Learn more about Say Yes to Education Cleveland via sayyescleveland.org.

In the nearly three years since its launch, Say Yes Cleveland has successfully made progress building its infrastructure and rolling out supports in Cleveland schools, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Earlier this month, The City Club of Cleveland hosted a special forum to reflect on the progress made and share what’s next for this game-changing initiative. Diane Downing, executive director, Say Yes Cleveland, joined Lekisha Rogers, Say Yes Cleveland family support specialist at Joseph M. Gallagher K-8 School, and Leean Andino, a graduate student at Cleveland State University and the first student to obtain a college degree with support from a Say Yes Cleveland tuition scholarship, to talk about Say Yes Cleveland’s impact so far and what’s next. “Three years in, I can tell you that we are well on our way to making good on the promise and the hope sparked at the launch of Say Yes Cleveland,” said Downing. Here are a few highlights illustrating Say Yes Cleveland’s impact so far:

  • Support services have been introduced to more than 69 CMSD and partner charter schools, and Say Yes expects to meet its goal to have support services in every CMSD and partner charter school by 2023. So far, Say Yes Cleveland has outpaced the other community chapters in its rollout of support services.
  • Over the past four months, Say Yes has worked closely with CMSD leaders and staff to launch after-school programming in more than 40 elementary schools, with high school programs to be launched in the new year. In the future, Say Yes will work with schools to launch summer programming as well.
  • As the pandemic disrupted schools and lives across the country, Say Yes never paused its operations or support. Instead, the organization worked harder than ever to meet the increased needs of students and their families. In the past year alone, Say Yes family support specialists logged 40,000 case notes about individual students and made 6,000 individual referrals for services and support. Family support specialists helped families access mental health and medical services, devices and internet connectivity needed to attend school remotely, as well as legal aid for families facing eviction or other challenges. 
  • In 2021, Say Yes piloted its prototype program for physical, mental and behavioral health services in Cleveland schools. It began in four schools in 2021 via telehealth, and there are plans to expand the program in the future.
  • While the pandemic has negatively impacted college enrollment nationally, Say Yes is seeing a rebound in its scholarship applications for the class of 2022. In November 2020, Say Yes application completions were at 19%. This year, they are at 44% and climbing daily.

These are just a few highlights from the forum. Check out the Say Yes Cleveland 2021 Annual Report here, and watch the entire City Club program here:  


  1. Trudy Hutchinson

    I am very impressed with this report. Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard and continues to work on Say Yes Cleveland. I realize that Say Yes is a work in progress and that it is still being rolled out. However, at this stage, I am interested in a breakdown of the CMSD high schools that are represented in the 2020 and 2021 applications for Say Yes Scholarships. By breakdown, I mean the number of applications that were submitted from members of each high school’s graduating class. Next fall I will be interested in the same breakdown for the 2022 applications. Thanks.

  2. Cleveland Foundation

    Hi Trudy,
    Thank you for visiting our blog! We suggest you reach out to Say Yes Cleveland to see if they are able to share this information with you: info@sayyescleveland.org or 216.273.6350.

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