Updated 05/30/2012 04:22 PM
Report card for "Say Yes" program
The "Say Yes" program has been in place for four years in the City of Syracuse. Now, the people behind the program have offered the first report card on the effort. YNN's Bill Carey says the numbers are looking better, but the challenges still remain.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse schools were in bad shape. The dropout rate rising. Graduation rates plummeting.
That's when a New York City investment expert came calling. George Weiss was pushing a program known as "Say Yes" to education. And he thought Syracuse would make a great fit.
Four years ago, Syracuse was first to launch a district-wide "Say Yes" effort, offering programs to improve student achievement, while also offering scholarships and support to insure that any city school district graduate could go on to college.
“What it says is there's a message of hope. Kids are realizing there's an alternative to dropping out. And when kids have hope, and I think that's one of the major problems in the inner city. Kids do not have hope,” Weiss said.
In a report card on the program, Weiss and school district leaders say they have seen a significant impact from the four year old effort.
“The college compact has significantly increased the number of students attending college. We are not only seeing more students entering college, but we are now monitoring their progress. The college compact is profoundly changing the lives of our students,” Syracuse Superintendent Sharon Contreras said.
Weiss says the statistics show a dramatic decline in the number of drop outs, higher rates for passing key exams and, most importantly, he says, more students finishing school.
Weiss said, “The number of kids, when you look back four years ago, that went on to post-secondary education, whether it be a two or four year school, the number versus last year went up 24.6 percent.”
While there are statistics that seem to show improvement, the Syracuse City School District still has a long way to go. Its graduation rate remains the lowest among the big five school districts in New York State. But Weiss still says "hope" is the key. That, eventually, the message will reach every child that a different future is possible.
“The songbird within my heart yearned to sing the carol of life, only to find it did not know the lyrics. I went through my adolescence feeling out of place. Education was not desired as I dragged my feet through the path of life,” said “Say Yes” scholar Jacquiel Ash.
Ash did not give up, thanks, he says, to "Say Yes". He graduated this year from Monroe Community College.