Say Yes to Education Cleveland Advance By Leaps & Bounds Despite COVID-19

Say Yes to Education Cleveland Advance By Leaps & Bounds Despite COVID-19

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COVID-19 put a halt on a lot of things, but not the futures of high students who recently graduated from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. In a little over a year’s time, the Say Yes to Education Cleveland program has doubled and nearly tripled its impact on K-12 students.

What You Need To Know

  • In its first year, nearly 800 scholarships were handed out to graduating seniors continuing on with post-secondary education
  • CMSD in the top one percent statewide when it comes to improved graduation rates
  • 42 schools within CMSD will have wrap around and support services

This past year, nearly 800 scholarships were handed out to graduating seniors to enroll in a two or four-year college or trade school. Diane Downing, Executive Director of Say Yes to Education Cleveland, said, “That was an increase in post-secondary enrollment by about 6% from the prior three years.” Perhaps one contributing factor to that has been a boost in graduation rates recently noted by CMSD CEO Eric Gordon. “Our graduation rate is among the fastest improving statewide, placing us in the top one percent from 2011 to 2019. And the fourth fastest improving out of Ohio’s more than 600 school districts.”

That’s double the number of students graduating since 2012, giving many more students the chance to apply for Say Yes scholarships.

So far, Say Yes to Education Cleveland has raised over $93 million towards its $125 million private endowment goal that covers the next 25 years. Heading into its second year, Diane Downing says COVID-19 and its devastating impacts are in view, but it’s not stopped students from applying for scholarships and to colleges, which is something many across the state of Ohio were concerned about as unemployment hit families. She said, “We’ve seen more seniors, apply for the Say Yes scholarships, this year than in the first year.”

Aside from the scholarships, the program also supplies some of the most critical needs, which are wrap-around services and other support services. This upcoming school year, support services will be added to 26 schools, nearly tripling the number of schools they’ll service soon. Downing said, “Right now, we are in the finalist round of selecting family support specialists for each of the new schools to connect students and families to support services in the community, whether that’s legal services, mental health services.” While many have been working remotely during the pandemic to help families, downing believes the support services are important, maybe now more than ever. “Family support specialists, because they’ve gotten to know all of the staff at the schools and the students and their families, have really become go-to people at each of these buildings.”

Downing says with everything going on; it’s all been a pleasant surprise that their expansion efforts haven’t been delayed. So they’ll continue to forge ahead looking to reach more students this upcoming year. Say Yes to Education officials say by 2023, they hope to have wrap-around services and support systems in all CMSD schools. In the meantime, they are hoping they will continue to see increases each year of students applying for scholarships and enrolling in post-secondary education. This upcoming year, they hope to reach well over 1,000 students with scholarships.

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