Our Strategy

The Say Yes strategy combines a comprehensive K-12 support system with the powerful incentive of college scholarships to remove the barriers to post-secondary access and success for urban youth. The Say Yes concept is bridging the well-documented "achievement gap" between urban and suburban children. This "gap" is the academic and social experiences and supports that lead to success in higher education for some, but not for others. The educational difference between what suburban students get and what urban students lack can be shown by their grades, standardized-test scores, dropout rates, college admission, and college-completion rates.

Say Yes support and enrichment systems address four major obstacles for low-income students: academic readiness, social and emotional readiness, health and well-being, and financial resources.

Statistics prove that the earlier this approach is applied in a child's scholastic career, the stronger the results in high school, as well as two- and four-year colleges.

Say Yes partners with every sector of the community from government organizations, the school district, and higher education institutions to community-based organizations, businesses, and faith-based organizations to ensure a collaborative effort is made to dramatically increase high school and college graduation rates, as well as create a city-wide transformation.

A City-Wide Solution


Initially, Say Yes served cohorts of students in Philadelphia, Hartford, Cambridge, and Harlem.

Bolstered by successes in these chapters, Say Yes embarked on a groundbreaking initiative that has begun to change the landscape of American education in urban centers. In addition to ongoing support for the original chapters, Say Yes now provides city-wide supports to 60,000 students in the Syracuse and Buffalo public school systems, offering them a clear path to college, career, and productive citizenship.

These districts, in partnership with Say Yes and its higher education partners, have committed to tackling the challenges low-income students face by recruiting a diverse coalition of supporters - including both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, mayors and county leaders, members of the business communities, local teachers and administrators (along with their unions), school boards, and dozens of local community and social service institutions to create publicprivate partnership teams with the power to encourage and develop a culture of high academic expectations for all students.

Together, these partners have committed themselves to launching and sustaining system-wide processes that provide:

  • Student diagnostic testing and ongoing monitoring
  • Comprehensive evaluation conducted by American Institutes for Research
  • Individual student growth plans
  • Tutoring
  • Evidence-based academic and social/emotional programming
  • High-quality professional development for teachers and administrators (10 full days of training each year)
  • Extended day/year programming
  • Counseling and family engagement services (one social worker per 200 students in each school)
  • Mentoring
  • Employment opportunities
  • College application and selection counseling
  • Scholarships for two- and four-year colleges
  • Legal supports
  • Health services