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It takes a city to teach a child

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Say Yes to Education is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to dramatically increasing high school and college graduation rates for the country's inner-city youth. Based in New York, NY, Say Yes has thus far had a regional focus, rippling out from the office's epicenter to nearby neighborhoods and cities, including Harlem, Buffalo, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Hartford and Cambridge.
Say Yes has been around for 25 years now, and has provided college scholarships as well as academic, social, health and wellness support for the selected class of "cohorts" in each target city (a single grade of students starting in kindergarten or early elementary school who then are supported for the duration of their academic careers). The cohort in Philadelphia - launched when the students were in kindergarten and now in their senior year of high school - did not have a single drop out.
While Say Yes seeks to bridge the achievement gap between suburban and urban children, about six years ago the foundation decided to aim for a bigger impact, broadening their scope from a single class of cohorts in a specific city to a full-on citywide initiative partnering with mayors, county leaders, lawmakers, teachers, school administrative staff, teachers' union leaders, members of the business community, school boards, parent leadership, and local community and social service institutions for a fully collaborative effort to change the landscape of the education system in urban centers. The foundation plays the role of facilitator between all of these disparate groups.
Syracuse is now in its fourth year and Buffalo just launched in 2012. The cities had to respond to a request for proposals from Say Yes, and were then required to make a written commitment from representatives of each partner sector to be completely fiscally self-sustaining in six years. The initial investment of Say Yes into Syracuse was $19 million, and the city is now 80% self-funded. The foundation's ongoing role in post-fiscal sustainability will be to continue funding local directives and operate their scholarship program. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a city to teach it.
Say Yes pushes for transparency in both education outcomes as well as resources utilized, often finding that budgets for specific services are underutilized, and speeding up access to prevention dollars and support services to bring resources to bear early on and avoid pitfalls. They connect city leaders with different areas of expertise who can work together for a stronger education system, and even advocate for policy changes.
The citywide partners meet every two weeks and Say Yes continues to monitor student readiness as well as provide support programming, which ranges from high school counselors and mental health clinics to after school and summer programs, tutoring, college advisement, even pro-bono legal clinics. Each building has a site facilitator to connect kids with the services they need. Already Syracuse has seen a reduction in foster care, 9th grade dropout rates, and a huge increase in the college matriculation rate. 
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