Philadelphia

The Philadelphia chapter of Say Yes to Education was the first to be founded in 1987 with the Belmont program. Based on the success of the Belmont program (1987), Say Yes added two additional programs in order to support more students: The Jane and Robert Toll program (1990) and The Bryant program (2000).

The Belmont Program

Founded in 1987, a group of 112 7th graders from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia became the first cohort of Say Yes students. Say Yes provided everything from extended day/year programming, mentoring, and tutoring to school-day academic support, family outreach, and social work/psychological services. Additionally, Say Yes provided free medical and dental care, as well as professional development services.

Now, Belmont alumni are reinvesting in Say Yes. In keeping with the Say Yes goal of encouraging responsible citizenship among its students, a significant number of the initial 112 graduates from the Belmont Program of the Philadelphia Chapter are continuing to inspire younger cohorts of Say Yes students with the establishment of The Belmont 112 Alumni Association, which serves as a support network for Say Yes students entering post-secondary schools and pursuing higher education in line with the Association's motto, "Rebuilding Communities One Family at a Time." Members of the Association provide families with crucial personal support; utilize alumni experiences to create a model for success in the community; and engage in a range of activities to implement this goal, including mentoring, providing educational assistance, offering informational and referral assistance, supplying life skills training, and supervising recreational activities. There are now alumni giving back to the community from this chapter.

The Jane and Robert Toll Program

Founded in 1990, the Jane and Robert Toll Program was comprised of a total of 57 students from two 3rd grade classes from Harrity Elementary School in West Philadelphia.

This program benefited from links to the University of Pennsylvania, which included after-school tutoring, summer educational opportunities, and a variety of cultural and social enrichment activities. In one instance, Jane and Robert Toll took a group of Say Yes kids on an extended three-week trip through the American West. The Tolls' involvement in the Say Yes students' lives went beyond both the formal education setting, and recreational outings. Today, two Say Yes alumni work at Mr. Toll's company (Robert Toll is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Toll Brothers, Inc., the nation's leading builder of luxury homes). Mrs. Toll, who is herself a former teacher and education specialist, is still in touch with many of the former Say Yes students, some of whom call her regularly for guidance and advice.

The Bryant Program

In July 2000, Say Yes launched the William C.Bryant Elementary School program. Attending school in West Philadelphia, these 50 students were the first kindergarteners, the youngest Say Yes cohort at the time, to be a part of the Say Yes program.

Also for the first time, Say Yes extended the offer of educational assistance to the parents and siblings of the Say Yes students. Say Yes also invested time and resources into parent engagement, enabling the families of the students to become very involved in all aspects of programming and to meet monthly as a support group.

Supports offered through the Bryant program include reading and mathematics specialists to promote early literacy and numeracy for students in K-5 grades; parent and sibling financial assistance at two-year, four-year, or vocational institutions; one-on-one and small group tutoring; extended day/year programming; liaisons to meet with school teachers and leadership; and a Summer Service-Learning and Work-Ready program.

Because of the challenges of the educational environment, Say Yes representatives and parents agreed to transfer some of the students to KIPP Academy. After graduating from KIPP Academy, most students were accepted to competitive public and charter high schools. Those who did not transfer to KIPP Academy attended either competitive magnet schools or their neighborhood schools.

Currently, the program continues to support the younger siblings with tutoring and extended year programming. Say Yes also provides tutoring for parents and older siblings attending colleges or vocational schools. These different forms of assistance helped to ensure that the Say Yes scholarship recipients and their parents and siblings had the best support system possible for facilitating academic success.

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