Girl standing on sidewalk

Say Yes takes her from scraps to fashion school

Giving Voice Fall 2021

From the time she was a little girl, Niamh Lacey has loved color and sparkle and fashion. “I was always doing designs on random pieces of scrap paper,” said Lacey, a 2019 graduate of Syracuse’s Corcoran High School now studying fashion business management at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

“I used to draw what I wanted to wear because I couldn’t always have it,” she said. “We did not always have the money for nice clothes and new toys. I would make doll clothes out of things like scrap fabric and tin foil. A lot of my creativity came from not coming from a lot of money and resources and learning to use what I had.”

As a high school junior and senior, Lacey served as costume designer for Corcoran’s musicals, “Cinderella” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” She created a “magic” dress (with Velcro and a pouch) for Cinderella’s rags to riches scene. For “Little Shop,” she sewed 25-foot arms for Audrey II, the human blood-eating Venus fly trap.

Her dad didn’t go to college, and her mom left school – where she was studying art – because of a family illness. But they were adamant that Niamh and her three siblings would attend good colleges. Say Yes Syracuse supports Niamh’s FIT education. Say Yes also supports the youngest Lacey, Orla, a first-year student at Syracuse University.

“It definitely helps me and my little sister,” said Lacey, who lifeguards at Oneida Shores during summers to earn college money. “It would have been harder for me without Say Yes. Orla would never have been able to go to SU.”

Say Yes Syracuse has sent nearly 5,000 Syracuse City School District graduates to state and participating private colleges and universities since 2009. We have administered the Say Yes scholarship endowment since the beginning. In 2020, the local Say Yes staff joined us and relocated to the CNY Philanthropy Center, deepening our support for Say Yes and its local impact.

Lacey praises Corcoran’s International Baccalaureate program for teaching college-level skills that “made me feel really prepared.” She especially appreciates learning to analyze and develop her own opinions.
FIT’s program also draws on strong math and logic skills. “In pre-calculus I realized I like this analytical stuff and using this part of my brain,” she said. “Fashion management is perfect for me.”

Lacey envisions working as a buyer for a store like Macy’s or researching fashion trends. She’s also keeping an eye on a luxury website with unique designs. “I’ve always been someone who doesn’t just follow what other people are doing,” she said.

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