Say Yes family support specialists provide wraparound services for Cleveland students

High school graduates stand in a line dressed in their caps and gowns

Cleveland celebrated its fourth year as a Say Yes city in January 2023. Since the launch of the program, Say Yes Cleveland has awarded over $8 million dollars tuition scholarships. In spring 2023, more than 1,600 students were enrolled in postsecondary education with a Say Yes Cleveland scholarship, while 89 Say Yes scholars earned an associate’s degree or career certificate, and nearly 100 have graduated with their bachelor’s degree. Overall, in their efforts to fund $125 million in scholarships for the next 25 years, they have amassed $100.5 million. While Say Yes is notably recognized for its scholarship funding and lessening the gaps in monetary accessibility for students searching for higher education, it also works to ensure that all students, as well as their families, are fully equipped with the resources to keep students on track with the help of family support services. 

Channon Cotton

Channon Cotton

“I really think kindness, knowledge, organization, and the willingness to ask for help are what make me successful,” says Channon Cotton, who has been working as a family support specialist at John Hay High School since 2022. “Knowing what we do as family support specialists at Say Yes is extremely key. Knowing that we are not discipline; we are support.” she adds. “I see myself as a light, a pillar of support.”  

“It’s been absolutely amazing. Say Yes was definitely a job that I prayed for and I’m sure that it was a good marrying of my background career and education,” Cotton continues. With a degree in psychology and a master’s in school counseling, she has experience working in children’s family services, social services, working with individuals with disabilities, and the education field. “Being able to merge those two together has been a really wonderful experience: to see the students grow, build relationships with them, and make sure they succeed,” she says. 

Through her first time working with high school students at John Hay High School, making her space readily accessible has been a big part of how she has been successful in her role. She states, “My office is located in what we call the Student Services Hallway. So, I try to make my room warm and inviting. A lot of students say it’s the room that smells good. So, when they come around the corner, they know how to find me. Just really assuring them that whatever they may need, whether it’s a referral, a challenge with transitioning into high school, if they have just lost a loved one, they can come to me.”  

Jerrald Goodloe was part of the initial team of family support specialists in 2019 and works with Pre-K-8 students at Stonebrook-White Montessori Campus. With almost five years of experience, Goodloe has not only seen the development of Say Yes as a means of ensuring the pursuits of higher education for Cleveland students but has also embodied the holistic accomplishments of Say Yes by remaining a motivator to the students he works with.  

Jerrald Goodloe

Jerrald Goodloe

“I’ve been around for all the growth, the changes, the challenges. I’ve seen great things happen,” he says. “The biggest reward for me is just to help students and their families remove barriers. Being able to sit down with them, get to know them and what makes them so great. Being able to help them identify what they need just in conversation is powerful to me.” 

While scholarship dollars funded by Say Yes offer a solution to affordability, the obstacles students face that can often disrupt their personal and educational development must also be addressed. Students in pre-K and elementary may not see themselves as connected to post-secondary education as much as high school students, but the need for accessibility and assuring them holistic support is all the same.  

“For me it’s important to be solutions-focused and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of creating a network that extends all over the city. Whether it be trying to identify a mental health partner, tutoring program, or summer jobs for kids. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of casting my net; making those connections to help others.” Goodloe says.  

As we look to the future of Say Yes Cleveland, continuous funding remains a main priority in maintaining Say Yes’s efforts of partnership with CMSD to enhance community, economy, and education in the city of Cleveland.  

As of Fall 2022, all 104 CMSD and partner charter schools have provided access to support services for more than 37,000 students PreK-12. Students and their families can access services such as academic tutoring, legal assistance, medical and dental services, and much more. 

To learn more about the Support Services and other Say Yes Cleveland opportunities, visit https://sayyescleveland.org/. 

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