Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

The Say Yes Cleveland scholarship program has received a George Gund Foundation donation that brings the amount raised for college scholarships to more than $100 million.

The $2.5 million gift brings Say Yes closer to its goal of $125 million, which officials say will fully fund scholarships for eligible graduates of CMSD and partner charter high schools for at least 25 years.

To receive a scholarship, students must continuously live in the City of Cleveland or an approved nearby neighborhood. They need to enroll in a CMSD high school or a partner charter school beginning in ninth grade. They must stay enrolled and graduate. Students can take a gap year (or two, for those who graduated during the pandemic) before enrolling at a higher education institution. 

What you need to understand about Cleveland’s ‘Say Yes’ program (explainer)

“The Gund Foundation helped pave the way for Say Yes to launch in 2019 and continues to champion the mission of Say Yes today,” said Diane Downing, executive director of Say Yes Cleveland, in a July 27 news release. 

To date, the George Gund Foundation has contributed $21.5 million to the scholarship program.

Say Yes still looking to stabilize its family support services program

The scholarship funds are separate from the money used to pay for the salaries of Say Yes’ family support specialists.

Say Yes is still working out the budget for the program in the 2023-24 school year,  spokesperson Jon Benedict told Signal Cleveland. 

Last year, the program cost a total of $9.4 million, which covered the salaries of 105 family support specialists who provide wraparound services in CMSD and partnering charter schools. In October 2022, Cuyahoga County Council learned about a funding issue–the county would not be reimbursed for as many as many federal Title IV-E dollars as expected.

While Benedict said Say Yes is confident it will have the money to fund the program this year, it still needs to work out a long-term plan.

The program also wants to hire more support specialists. They need 105 specialists total in order to staff every CMSD and partner charter school building.

Benedict said this year’s staffing shortage comes after a period of uncertainty in funding for the program last year–14 support specialists left the program.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.