Earlier this year, Say Yes Buffalo announced their plan to raise $100 million by 2023 to ensure eligible students in the Buffalo Public Schools would have a chance to pursue postsecondary scholarships. They’re $2 million closer to meeting that mark after receiving a donation from the First Niagara Foundation/Keybank Tuesday.
Say Yes Board Vice Chairman Bill Joyce said this money should be viewed as an investment.
“I would encourage you to continue to watch our metrics because I think they are going to continue to show as we develop more and more experience,” he said, “starting in kindergarten all the way up through graduation from high school and then matriculation in postsecondary education.”
Joyce said he thinks their numbers will continue to grow. They have raised $37.5 million of their $100 million goal. Since the launch of Say Yes Buffalo in 2012, Buffalo public high school graduation rates have increased by 15%.
For an 8th grade student like Aubrea Cooper, this gives her security in pursuing her goal of getting a masters degree in literature and culture.
“Sometimes I get so overwhelmed to the point I just want to pull a Vontae Davis and retire half-way through,” she laughed, “but I know where hard work can take you and it’s worth it. Like my Dad always says, you get what you work for, not what you wish for. I know that I have a bright future ahead, but I will continue to work in silence and let my success and let my success be the noise. So if someone were to come to me and ask me what college means, I would simply say everything.”
The donation is the largest amount the First Niagara Foundation has ever made in Western New York.
First Niagara Foundation Director Elizabeth Gurney joined a Say Yes mentoring program a few years ago. She said she was matched with a senior from Riverside who was the first from her family to consider college.
“She took advantage of every program Say Yes has to offer. The scholarship, internships, mentor program, summer jobs, resume writing workshops,” she said, “you name it, Say Yes has been there for her every step of the way. I’m proud to say she’s now a senior at UB heading towards graduation this spring with a very bright future ahead of her.”
The First Niagara Foundation and KeyBank have now donated a combined $4.1 million to the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Fund.