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Gates Foundation Grant to Support Say Yes Buffalo, Newly Established Buffalo College Success Network

Gates Foundation Grant to Support Say Yes Buffalo, Newly Established Buffalo College Success Network

Posted: July 11, 2019

The Say Yes Buffalo Partnership, a nationally renowned community collective centered on removing barriers to high school graduation, college access, and completion, is expanding its groundbreaking work to improve outcomes for Buffalo students.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing a $2.9 million, 22-month investment to support the newly established Buffalo College Success Network and other efforts to help students—with special emphasis on those from communities of color and who are from low-income households—make successful transitions from high school to college, and ultimately complete a postsecondary certificate or degree.  

The yearlong grant proposal submission process engendered the Buffalo College Success Network, inclusive of Say Yes Buffalo, Buffalo Public Schools, and the five local higher education institutions that admit the largest number of Buffalo students receiving tuition funding from Say Yes Buffalo: Buffalo State College, Medaille College, SUNY Erie, the University at Buffalo, and Villa Maria College. Leaders from the aforementioned institutions worked collectively during the past 12 months to identify specific opportunities for investment that could further remove barriers to postsecondary completion for Buffalo students.

“Buffalo State would like to thank the Gates Foundation for supporting Say Yes and for believing in the future high school and college graduates in our community,” said Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner. “At Buffalo State, Say Yes scholars have thrived thanks to support from faculty members and advisers, and through programming such as our innovative Buffalo State/Say Yes Summer Success Academy. With additional resources from the Gates Foundation to support these wonderful students, the Buffalo College Success Network will collectively lift up even more students to better futures and careers.”
Priority outcomes for the grant:

  • Increase postsecondary persistence of students who access the Buffalo College Success Network services;
  • Increase postsecondary enrollment of Buffalo Public School students;
  • Create a comprehensive data system allowing for cross system collaboration between the public school district and institutions of higher education.

The achievement of these priority outcomes will come to fruition through a variety of strategic efforts, including modeling best practices from Say Yes Buffalo’s existing preventive services, mental health, and mentoring initiatives:  

  • In Buffalo’s public high school classrooms, near-peer mentors (recent high school graduates who have successfully transitioned to college) will be embedded to share their personal experiences with current high school students and provide advice on what to expect and how to prepare for college;
  • The Buffalo Public School District will adopt a college transition curriculum to be made mandatory for all students graduating from high school;
  • Eleven new College Success Counselor positions will be created on the campuses of Buffalo State College, Medaille College, SUNY Erie, and Villa Maria College. These individuals will work one-on-one with students to remove any barriers to their academic success;
  • On-campus mental health clinics operated by licensed clinicians will be established to support students dealing with social, emotional, or traumatic challenges that could negatively affect their ability to complete a postsecondary degree.

 “Over the past six years, the Say Yes Buffalo Partnership has worked tirelessly to improve outcomes for all Buffalo students, daring to believe in a shared vision for educational equity,” said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo. “We are excited about the potential this expanded work has to positively impact young people in Buffalo for years to come.”

Read more about the Gates Foundation grant and the newly established Buffalo College Success Network in Thursday’s Buffalo News

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