- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - In a headline to the story Sept. 17 about the Guilford County School District receiving money to help students graduate and help graduates with college tuition, The Associated Press reported erroneously that a $15 million donation from the Say Yes to Education organization would go toward college tuition help. That money will go to help increase the graduation rate.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Guilford schools launch Say Yes to Education project

Guilford County schools get financial help to raise graduation rate, make college more affordable


Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Foundations and philanthropists promised students of North Carolina’s third-largest public school system on Thursday that they’ll get extra help to graduate from high school and money to afford college.

The New York-based nonprofit Say Yes to Education said it’s pumping $15 million into Guilford County’s schools to help provide social support and coaching to help increase the graduation rate. Community foundations and affluent families raised about 40 percent of the $70 million endowment needed to make permanent a no-strings-attached tuition promise for all students in the school district, which is larger than Atlanta’s and struggles with poverty.

“This scholarship would really help me pursue that college career with not having to worry about the burden on my family,” said Brittani Williams, 17, of Greensboro. She hopes to study pre-medicine after graduating next spring from Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, where the scholarship program was announced.

The Say Yes scholarships would cover tuition bills remaining after Pell Grants and other aid has been tallied for students attending in-state public universities or community colleges regardless of family income. Similar community-wide Say Yes scholarship efforts in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York, provided awards last spring averaging $3,449 and $3,304, respectively, the organization said.

The tuition money for graduates of the district, which includes the city of Greensboro, will come from interest earned off the local endowment. The money does not cover books, room and board and other school fees.

Dozens of cities around the country including Winston-Salem and Charleston, South Carolina, have launched community and nonprofit efforts to encourage children to graduate from high school, go on to college and earn degrees that can power lifetime earnings, according to the Lumina Foundation. Over the past decade, about three dozen cities from Pittsburgh to El Dorado, Arkansas, established funds to help public school graduates pay for higher education.

President Barack Obama has campaigned to make two years of community college free. Tennessee and the city of Chicago have already done so.

Guilford County’s schools comprise the state’s third-largest behind those in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, but its 72,000 students still rank it among the country’s top 50 ahead of Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. About two-thirds of the district’s students are in poverty. About 41 percent of students are black, 35 percent are white and 13 percent are Hispanic.

Say Yes is the brainchild of New York money manager George Weiss, who began the philanthropy in 1987 after committing to help 112 Philadelphia sixth graders to graduate high school and pay for their higher education. Weiss, who lives in Miami and West Hartford, Connecticut, personally contributed or invested for the foundation a pool of money worth about $275 million, he said.

“My dreams and goals is this should be in dozens of cities,” said Weiss, 72, who attended the announcement.

More than 100 private colleges involved with the Say Yes network provide full-tuition scholarships and sometimes more to students who meet entrance requirements and come from families with annual incomes below $75,000. Those schools range from the California Institute of Technology to Duke University and all eight Ivy League colleges, according to the organization.

The Say Yes organization will work through a local chapter to seed local programs with $15 million over the next six years to help students with academic, medical and even legal pitfalls that sidetrack many from earning a diploma. In Buffalo, that included Say Yes specialists in every public school who coordinate family supports and services and in-school mental health and free legal clinics.


Emery Dalesio can be reached at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio

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