Last year, Guilford County Schools and the Guilford Education Alliance (GEA) – with the support and assistance of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and the High Point Community Foundation – launched a thoughtful and conscientious exploration of a potential partnership with Say Yes to Education.

Founded in 1987, Say Yes is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that organizes and Say Yes logogalvanizes communities around the goal of every student in the public school system graduating high school, and then helps those students access, afford and complete a college or other post-secondary education. A key component of a Say Yes partnership focuses on how a community effectively addresses the social, emotional and financial barriers that prevent students from achieving this goal.

Say Yes is planning to add at least one Say Yes community to its program in 2015 – and to do so outside New York State and the Northeast.  Say Yes has informed Guilford County that it is the leading candidate to be the nation’s next Say Yes community.

“Last November, the National Board of Say Yes to Education voted to authorize the organization’s Chief Operating Officer and me to provide guidance and support to an array of community partners throughout Guilford County, as it seeks to become the nation’s next Say Yes Community,” said Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, President of Say Yes to Education.  “We’re very excited about the prospect of collaborating with students, parents and so many others in Greensboro, High Point and the surrounding townships – which collectively would become the first Say Yes partner community outside of the Northeast United States.”

Say Yes’ college scholarships and services currently are available to nearly 65,000 public school students in grades K-12 in Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y. Most are from low-income or other backgrounds historically underrepresented on the nation’s college and university campuses. A partnership with Guilford County would more than double the number of students Say Yes now serves.

“Our manufacturing history in Guilford County did not require extensive post-secondary education for an individual to work and enjoy relatively high pay,” said Chuck Cornelio, President of Retirement Services at Lincoln Financial Group and Chairman of GEA.  “As our economic base has changed, so has the demand for job candidates with post-secondary certifications and degrees.  This partnership with Say Yes is a long-term effort that would transform our culture over the next 15 to 20 years. It is the fuel that can drive economic growth in Guilford County.   Individuals, families and the whole community would benefit.”

The possibility of this unprecedented opportunity for students, families and employers throughout all of Guilford County is very exciting! There is another important and unique opportunity, as well – to bring together in an inclusive and collaborative way many different organizations and support services throughout our county to build on our work together. This would truly be a community undertaking.

We are gaining valuable insight into how Say Yes works and look forward to inviting representatives of many other organizations to join us as this important and ongoing learning process evolves.

For more information about Say Yes to Education, visit sayyestoeducation.org.