Say Yes to Education

By Jackie Neal '13 and Meghan Hinton '14
4 students sit togetther outside of Medaille CollegeWhen the community brought an innovative educational program to Buffalo and local colleges were asked to participate, the decision was an easy one for Dr. Richard T. Jurasek, president of the College. He was the first to ‘Say Yes.’

And last year, for the first time in the College’s history, over 100 local Buffalo Say Yes Scholarship award recipients had the opportunity to say yes to acceptance letters from Medaille College. This was all because the national Say Yes to Education program in the Buffalo School District had begun its first year of enrolling students in participating colleges.

In 2009, motivated by watching a continued downward trend in high school graduation rates, the business community approached Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalolooking for a solution. She told them about an innovative program called the Kalamazoo Promise. Discussions continued with support from the Community Foundation, The John R. Oishei Foundation, and the business community.

After visiting Syracuse and meeting with the Say Yes representatives, Perez-Bode Dedecker met with the Say Yes national headquarters in New York City and from there the initiative began to take shape. With continued support of local individuals, foundations and businesses, Buffalo Say Yes is now underway and stands to change the direction of Buffalo’s future.

According to the Say Yes to Education Buffalo case statement, Say Yes Buffalo is an education-based initiative that provides a powerful engine for long-term

economic development through radically improving the life course of public school students in the City of Buffalo. Say Yes Buffalo combines a comprehensive K-12 and postsecondary support system with the incentive of a locally funded, postsecondary Tuition Scholarship to remove the barriers of financial, academic, social and health to college access and success for urban youth.

Positive results. Today, many Buffalo students are benefiting from the Say Yes program.

“I believe Say Yes will give students an opportunity to go to college if they didn’t have financial resources for school,” said Taisha St. Jean, a Say Yes scholarship student and communication major.

Medaille has admitted more Buffalo high school seniors this year than any other private college in Buffalo, but this is not the first year that Medaille has been actively involved with the Say Yes program.

Arielle Kaigler-Hall, who received a scholarship from the Syracuse area Say Yes to Education program, gradauted from Medaille this May with her bachelor's degree in communication. While a student at Medaille, Say Yes employed Kaigler-Hall as an enrichment specialist where she worked with students in grades kindergarten through fifth at Franklin School in Syracuse. As an enrichment specialist her role was to help those students succeed in school and after school. Needless to say, she was put to the test.

A smiling female student holding a sign that says "YES"“I’ve been through a lot with Say Yes,” notes Kaigler-Hall, saying she feels much closer to understanding what career goals she would like to pursue. 

Making the grade. Alysn Lyons, a communication student, found the scholarship to be a great opportunity but it also takes hard work. Lyons said she was a sophomore in high school when a Say Yes representative came to her school in Syracuse explaining the benefits of the program. Lyons had to start thinking about colleges and ensure she could keep her good grades to be a part of Say Yes. She applied to 12 different schools and was accepted to many. “Medaille happened to be the best fit,” says Lyons.

Even now, after making it into the program and college, Lyons still must uphold her good grades in order to maintain her scholarship. Lyons has learned to be persistent and looks forward to a possible career as a tour manager after she receives her diploma.

Expanding opportunities. Syracuse implemented this innovative program in 2007 and since then it has brought change to all 32 schools in the district. Medaille was a founding partner with the Syracuse chapter when it began. Now the College also partners with the Philadelphia chapter of Say Yes.

Tiana Butts, a communication major from West Philadelphia, is the first of her siblings to attend college. “If I wasn’t in the Say Yes to Education program, I don’t know if I would’ve attended a four-year school,” says Butts.

“This program can change people’s lives by offering better opportunities. Being in Say Yes is so helpful; if you need help with work you’ll always have a support system.”

Shyhiem Prosser, a communication major from South Philadelphia, was selected for assistance in the Say Yes program through a lottery. While he is

certain he would have pushed himself to achieve success and found a way to go to college without the assistance he is receiving, he acknowledges the overwhelmingly positive view Medaille College has shown for Say Yes.

“This program will show people how to take full advantage of opportunities in life,” says Prosser.

One thing is certain — completing a degree at Medaille will give these students and many more the opportunity to ‘Say Yes’ to a much brighter future.

Pictured: (Top)Tiana Butts, Shyhiem Prosser, Taisha St. Jean and Arielle Kaigler-Hall, all ‘Say Yes’ students; (Bottom) Taisha St. Jean. Photos by Meghan Hinton '14.


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