College bound Buffalo Public School students return Wednesday for a two-day Say Yes Buffalo workshop in the WNED-TV studio. It's titled 'Count Down to College', Designed to help Say Yes scholars achieve a smooth transition from high school to college this fall. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says about 200-city high school students, who just graduated, are attending the event and excited about heading to college.
“What’s in your future man?” asked one of the workshop leaders asked a student. “After general studies I’m going to transfer to Buff State,” the student responded.
Fresh off high school graduation, these city students are sharing their future aspirations. They attended various sessions presented by Say Yes colleges, Villa Maria, D'Youville, ECC and Medaille. They are learned about time management and priorities for college students.
The workshops include creating personal budgets, study skills and understanding a college syllabus.
“So what I want you to do is go through the syllabus,” instructed another workshop leader.
Naesia Woods just graduated from Lafayette High School.
“Stay on track. Make sure you do your work and stay focused, you know,” Woods commented.
Woods is headed to ECC this fall for start in liberal arts. She says she's an artist and eventually wants to attend UB.
"Yes ma’am, I am happy. I’m excited for myself,” Woods told WBFO News.
"Oh, I’m get goose pimples just thinking about it. All of our young people now have an opportunity to continue their dreams, continue what they’ve worked so hard for,” Cash noted.
Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash attended the opening of the workshops, proud of students like Woods, for achieving what he says is the first big milestone.
“But we still always have a lot of work to do. It’s like building a house or owning a home, you always have more work to do, but it’s really exciting to be here at this time,” said Cash.
Say Yes scholarships provide free college tuition city school students who are eligible. This is the first time since Say Yes started four years ago that it has hosted this type of workshop.
Say Yes Buffalo Executive Director David Rust says it's important to help students learn about college culture.
“The other think we are doing is supplying students with mentors if they need it. When they complete their freshman year we provide paid internship opportunities and that’s the local business community, so this entire community continues to rally around our young people,” Rust explained.
Say Yes keeps a close watch on students making sure they complete their higher education. It provides a number of support services and Buffalo is outpacing similar public school districts on matriculation.
“Buffalo is now at 67-percent, so we are 14-percent ahead of similar districts in national averages. We are proud of that number and we want to continue to better and something like this make an impact on that number long term,” Rust said.
Say Yes scholars represent a diverse group of students and many refugees.
“I’m a little bit nervous, but excited,” said Hibo Abdillahi from Somalia. She came her two-years ago with her family and just graduated from Lafayette's Newcomer Academy. She's headed to ECC and wants to become a nurse.
“That’s my dream and I wish it could come true one day,” declared Abdillahi.
Aye Bay Na Sa graduated from Leonardo di Vinci. She came from Thailand almost eight years ago. This Say Yes scholar is nervous as she heads to UB this fall to study Bio Medical Science.
“I’m very nervous about college because it will be my first experience and I heard that UB is kind of rigorous and the classrooms are kind of big and I hope this workshop will elevate my nervousness,” said Na Sa.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown appeared for the kick-off and made a surprise announcement for those attending. BAK USA will provide free tablets to all attending the workshops.
"Just to show how much we believe in you, and to provide a little extra encouragement, working with the city council, my administration is going to provide each and every one of you with a BAK tablet, so that you will have some technology when you go on to college to be able to do your work," Mayor Brown announced.
Say Yes is one of the major program to boost graduation rates. Superintendent Cash tells WBFO News, while final graduation rates are not ready, he believes there will be another gain in the number of city graduates.
“I’m looking to get up, not maybe this year, but in two hops, get up to that 70-percent mark. Then I’m going to push for the 80-percent mark. We get into the 80-percent mark we will be as good as anywhere in the country,” Cash remarked.
And when it comes to achieving high school graduation, student Abdillahi has some sound advice for any city student.
“No matter if they are born here or not – stay focused, study hard and you will succeed one day,” Abdillahi stated.