I Say Yes! to Education

I’m really excited about this program, Say Yes! to Education, that is going to start in 2013 for the students enrolled in the Buffalo Public Schools. I’m especially excited for my friends with siblings who will graduate at that time or after because they will benefit from it. They have a whole new opportunity presented to them.

I was talking with one of my best friends yesterday and she said that this news came at the best time for her. She comes from a home where she is the first graduate in her entire family. She struggled to learn the ropes of college on her own and is currently enrolled at the University at Buffalo where she is getting her master’s degree in Social Work. Now, she’s working on making sure her 16-year old brother and 13-year old sister can afford the same opportunities she’s managed to work for.

Financing is usually the hardest part about picking schools.

If you’re like me, you got extremely lucky with the amount of scholarships that were invested in you. Canisius grants, Community Action Organization stipends, Buffalo Urban League scholarships, Lafayette High School scholarships, TAP, Seneca Nation scholarships, NYS Indian Aid Fund, and last but not least, Buffalo State merit scholarships. I filled out A LOT of paperwork during my 4.5 years. That and for every parent lost, PELL decides to kick in because obviously you aren’t as supported as you once were. Silver lining, I suppose? (I’d still rather have had them around but hey… they’re not and at least I’m not in any significant debt.)

If you’re the luckiest of the lucky ones, your parents are either meeting you half way or paying off your whole student loan debt. Must be nice.

Not all parents feel it is their duty to help pay that off or feel they could contribute. This is especially true of the student populous of the Buffalo Public Schools. I remember applying to schools as a senior, excited to begin, but money was cited as the biggest barrier among my peers. My friends, people I have great respect for to this very day, couldn’t afford to go to college. They have great potential to help others but they feel like they can’t break through the overshadowing burden of a $30,000 price tag.

Like my friend I was talking to yesterday, a lot of my friends are/would be the first in their families to graduate from college. They have the desire and the will but what they don’t have is the confidence in student loans. In some cases, they don’t know the scholarships and opportunities out there. Sometimes, they’re just downright discouraged.

Say Yes! to Education’s mission is to help the dismal graduation rate in the city schools. At an embarrassingly low 47% graduation rate, something needed to be done to show the students that they have something to work for. My graduating class from Lafayette High School in 2007 was drastically smaller than my entering freshman class in 2003. Don’t quote me on this but I vaguely remember a count of around 500 freshman in 2003. I do remember around 120 graduates going across the stage in June 07.

Lafayette High School (Picture from the Buffalo News)

And when The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo gets involved and a program is praised by their President Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, I have faith in the program. My mother worked closely with the Community Foundation while she was Program Manager at Good Schools for All and she had a great deal of respect and confidence in the Community Foundation, Dedecker, and then-President Gail Johnstone.

I for one am excited that this tuition guarantee is going to happen for Buffalo Public students. The stipulations seem to be fair.

Is it a perfect system? Perhaps not yet. But it’ll be interesting to see how the promise of a brighter future can motivate students to strengthen their grades, and most importantly, their skills.

All we need to do is have faith and give them a chance to prove they’re hungry for more.

That’s all I ever wanted out of colleges/employers.

((This is near to my heart. I am a graduate of the Native American Magnet School P.S 19 on Buffalo’s West Side and of Lafayette High School and their National Finance Academy. I then attended Canisius College and then graduated from Buffalo State College in December 2011.))

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