Community Foundation Pledges $1,000,000 to Say Yes to Education

December 4, 2008 (Syracuse, NY) – The Central New York Community Foundation Board of Directors approved a $1,000,000 grant, the largest in its 81-year history, to support the Say Yes to Education Syracuse Demonstration Program. Private contributions earmarked for scholarships for Syracuse City School District (SCSD) students will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Community Foundation up to $1,000,000 before the end of 2013.

The Syracuse Demonstration Program brings together Say Yes to Education, Inc., the SCSD and Syracuse University in a unique partnership to provide academic, social and financial assistance to economically disadvantaged youth in Syracuse.

“The Community Foundation has a long history of strong support for urban education, said Anne Messenger, Community Foundation Board Chair. “We were especially encouraged by this opportunity because it demonstrates clear, collaborative support from Syracuse University, the City of Syracuse and school district leadership.”

Say Yes is intended to provide students with the vision of college from an early age, supporting them in reaching this goal and following through on this promise by making college financially accessible. Over 25 private universities and colleges have partnered to form the Say Yes to Education Higher Education Compact. The Compact will provide academically prepared urban youth with education options at no or very low cost to students and their families.

The Community Foundation joined the partnership in response to a key missing element of scholarship support for SCSD students: tuition scholarships to graduates who qualify academically and would like to attend SUNY/CUNY colleges and universities during the project’s five-year implementation phase. The projected funding needed for this portion of scholarships from 2009-2013 is $5 million.

Partners in the Say Yes collaborative made significant progress during the most recent legislative session in securing budgeted state support of tuition at SUNY/CUNY schools for Syracuse City School District graduates. However, the current economic situation led the Assembly to not approve the funding.

The Say Yes to Education Fund, administered by the Community Foundation, helps ensure that SCSD students will be financially able to attend SUNY/CUNY two-year community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. The Community Foundation’s pledge to match contributions to the Say Yes to Education Fund will be up to $1,000,000 before the end of 2013.

“We hope that our commitment – which is the largest individual grant we have ever made, by far – will inspire others to support this effort,” said Peter Dunn, the Community Foundation’s President and CEO. “Our board and staff found this project to be compelling on many levels – not only does it provide basic support services and the promise of educational opportunity to some of our most vulnerable children, but it creates a true incentive for people to reinvest in city neighborhoods, move back into the city and enhance the quality of life in our urban core.”

In addition to the Community Foundation’s pledge, others have joined the effort to provide SUNY/CUNY scholarship funding. Members of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees pledged more than $350,000 of their own funds towards the project. Funds raised for SUNY/CUNY scholarships will be held in the Say Yes to Education Fund until it is needed for scholarship awards.

The Say Yes to Education Syracuse Demonstration Program is unique because it is the first Say Yes chapter to embrace an entire city school district, making it the largest school improvement program of its kind in the nation. The cornerstone of the Say Yes to Education program is the commitment of college scholarships for every eligible student graduating from the Syracuse City School District. In a comprehensive approach, this effort is also unique because it involves not only college scholarship support as an incentive for students, but also a variety of support services aimed at removing the barriers that prevent many students from reaching their full potential. These supports, provided in collaboration with other local not-for-profit organizations include: academic, financial, social and emotional as well as student and family health.

The Demonstration Program provides a catalyst for the local city and state economy. This initiative will create a powerful draw for new companies, and also raise the stakes significantly for existing companies considering a move. The partnership in this demonstration program will enhance the state by bringing a network of colleges and universities into New York State as partners for the long-term. Attracted by the incentive of free tuition for their children, it is the hope that families will be drawn back into the city and its aging housing stock will receive much-needed attention, stabilizing neighborhoods and raising property values.

Say Yes to Education, Inc. is a national, non-profit education foundation committed to dramatically increasing high school and college graduation rates for our nation’s inner-city youth. Say Yes provides comprehensive supports aligned with what research indicates is needed to enable every child in the program to achieve his or her potential.

The Say Yes promise and supports begin when a child enters kindergarten and continues through high school and beyond. The range of services Say Yes offers across its chapters include everything from after-school and summer programming, mentoring, tutoring, and school-day academic support to family outreach, scholarships, and social work/ psychological services. Additionally, not-for-profit organizations partnering with the Say Yes effort provide high-quality health care and legal assistance. These services help to create a positive, sustaining framework for each student’s academic experience, one that encourages and rewards continued effort.

Our region’s largest endowed philanthropic foundation, the Central New York Community Foundation administers more than 100 individual scholarship funds and a total of 500 individual funds of various types and charitable purposes. The Community Foundation annually makes more than $5 million in grants and provides leadership support in the fields of arts and culture, community and economic development, education, environment, health and human services. Founded in 1927, the Community Foundation strives to inspire philanthropy in Central New York.

Additional information about the Say Yes to Education Fund and the Syracuse Demonstration Project may be found at our Say Yes to Education page.


To donate online with a credit card, visit our Say Yes to Education page and click “Donate Now.”

Contributions by check, with “Say Yes” in the memo line, can be sent to: Central New York Community Foundation, 500 S. Salina Street, Suite 428, Syracuse, NY 13202

To arrange for the donation of other assets, such as appreciated securities or real estate, contact Dirk Sonneborn at 315-422-9538, ext. 222 or

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