GREENSBORO, N.C. – Weaver Foundation has pledged $1.25 million to help bring the national Say Yes to Education program to Guilford County, as organizers begin to steer fundraising efforts toward their ultimate goal.
“Weaver Foundation is proud to support the Say Yes effort,” said Ralph Shelton, chair of the Weaver Foundation board of directors. “Over time Say Yes will help build a more level and equitable field of opportunity for all students, a basic principle of our foundation’s intent when making community investments.”
Its Say Yes pledge is a good fit with Weaver Foundation’s mission, Shelton pointed out. “In 1967, Mike Weaver and his father, Herman, formed Weaver Foundation to support activities and causes that benefit the greater Greensboro area and to further Weaver family’s involvement in the community. Since its founding, Weaver Foundation has been interested in youth development, educational development, helping the disadvantaged, promoting racial and religious tolerance, and environmental activities.”
A local Say Yes program would provide all eligible graduates of the Guilford County Schools system a last-dollar tuition scholarship for post-secondary education. Supporters say this would result in far-ranging, positive effects on the community, including a more educated labor force, incentives for businesses to start or relocate into the area, a stronger tax base, increased property values and more.
Fundraisers throughout the county are closing in on initial goals that have to be achieved for Say Yes to Education to officially select Guilford as its next community. Say Yes scholarships to public universities are supported by the monies generated from an endowment fund – and to fully support the student base of the Guilford County Schools system, it is estimated that $70 million must ultimately be raised for the endowment. With anticipation building that Say Yes will pick Guilford County as its next partner by this fall, fundraisers are now looking at the bigger picture.
“Before the Say Yes organization can choose Guilford, it requires us to demonstrate up front that our community has the financial capacity to fully support this program,” said Walker Sanders, president of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. “That translates to us obtaining pledges for at least 40 percent – or $28 million – of what is anticipated that we ultimately will need. With several organizations working together, and in a relatively short time span, we’ve so far raised over $21 million, leaving no doubt that individuals and families, corporate leaders and leading foundations want our students to graduate high school and continue on with a robust post-secondary education.”
“Weaver Foundation is the most recent to support this vision, and we thank them for their generosity and vote of confidence,” Sanders added.
Paul Lessard, president of the High Point Community Foundation, agreed.
“Over the past few months, the entire county has shown there is strong support to make Say Yes a reality,” Lessard said. “It has been exciting and inspiring to see how folks recognize the importance and economic value of investing in the creation of this scholarship endowment. We are confident the full $70 million can be raised from all corners of Guilford County and that its impact will dramatically change young lives for generations to come.”
Weaver Foundation’s commitment is the 10th pledge from throughout the county in support of Say Yes. All pledges are contingent on Say Yes officially choosing Guilford as its next community partner. To date:
- Phillips Foundation: $5 million
- The Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Foundation: Up to $5 million
- Earl and Kitty Congdon family, High Point: $2 million
- Anonymous family in High Point: $2 million
- VF Corporation: $2 million
- United Guaranty Corporation: $1 million
- Weaver Foundation: $1.25 million
- Rob and Susan Culp family, High Point: $1 million
- Anonymous individual in High Point: $1 million
- The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro: $1 million
Last week, the board of directors of the national Say Yes to Education organization met and was reported to be pleased with Guilford County’s progress, said Nora K. Carr, chief of staff of Guilford County Schools.
“It was nice to hear that their board was very impressed with all that has been accomplished thus far in Guilford County,” Carr said. “The generosity of our community and their commitment to our students and to our schools are truly remarkable. We remain very optimistic that Guilford County will become the next – and best – Say Yes community.”
In early 2014, Guilford County Schools and the Guilford Education Alliance – with the support and assistance of The Community Foundation and the High Point Community Foundation – launched an exploration of a potential partnership with Say Yes to Education.
Say Yes to Education informed Guilford County in January that it is the leading candidate to be the nation’s next Say Yes community. The national organization hopes to make a final decision about Guilford by fall.
Say Yes to Education is the vision of successful money manager George Weiss of New York, who promised 120 rising seventh graders in Philadelphia that when they graduated from high school, he would pay for their college educations. Weiss repeated this promise with four more large groups of students before launching Say Yes to Education, a national nonprofit organization, in 1987. Today, Say Yes college scholarships and services are available to more than 65,000 public school students, most of whom live in New York State.
What makes the Say Yes program unique is that it is not simply about providing last-dollar tuition scholarships. The national Say Yes organization also would invest $15 million to provide seed funding for supports to help students in the Guilford County Schools system succeed in school, starting with the youngest students and ending only after they reach their goal of college graduation. In other Say Yes communities, supports include tutoring, after-school programs, summer programs, medical care, counseling and legal help. Guilford County would decide what local supports are needed here, not the Say Yes organization.
Say Yes also invests in seed and expansion funding, capacity and technology. The national organization provides significant staff resources to put together long-term financial plans so that the work its partner communities engage in is sustainable. Its $15 million would be invested here over three to five years. After that, Say Yes would provide modest funding to cover the cost of a small coordinating staff on an ongoing basis.
Say Yes to Education already has invested more than $1 million in Guilford to conduct feasibility studies, share its vision and to create some basic structure for moving forward. The Say Yes team has visited area schools and met with diverse stakeholders from across the community to explore what it would mean to bring Say Yes here. This includes parents, students, teachers, nonprofits, business leaders, faith leaders, college and university administrators, and local government officials.
People can follow Guilford’s Say Yes efforts at GuilfordSaysYes.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/GuilfordSaysYes.