Say yes to education alumni stands at boys and girls club

Say Yes to Education Syracuse: Creating Opportunity 10 Years Later

Giving Voice Spring 2019: Cover Story

The financial costs associated with post-secondary education can seem daunting to many young adults. This was no different for Deka Dancil. As the oldest of nine siblings living in extreme poverty, Dancil’s main focus during her youth was the well-being of her family. When a representative from the Syracuse University STEP Program helped her to see her potential and think seriously about college, she realized she could set her academic sights high.

As Dancil was getting ready to graduate the 14th in her class of over 300 students at Henninger High School in 2009, Say Yes to Education was just being rolled out within the district – introducing her to a new opportunity to continue her education without tuition costs serving as a barrier to her dreams.

“My teacher at the time said we were all signing up for Say Yes,” said Dancil. “I’m forever grateful to her because maybe if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have taken advantage of what turned out to be an amazing opportunity.”

Say Yes is a nonprofit community-wide partnership designed to ensure every Syracuse City School District (SCSD) student graduates from high school. It strives to provide students with the necessary preparation and support to attain, afford and complete college or other post-secondary education. In addition to scholarship support, students from kindergarten through grade 12 can take advantage of after-school programming and wrap-around supports such as mental health services and legal clinics to break down common barriers to success.

When Say Yes launched in Syracuse ten years ago, we recognized its potential to increase post-secondary educational attainment for the city’s children. As a result, the Community Foundation agreed to contribute $2 million to support Say Yes’s scholarship promise and provide ongoing convening support, fiscal management and strategic guidance. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, more than 3,000 SCSD students have used Say Yes scholarships to attend college, and that number is steadily growing each year.

With milestones came monumental achievements. In 2016, the SCSD achievement gap was diminished, meaning the percentage of white students matched the percentage of African American students graduating from high school. That same year, the district witnessed a 17 percent jump in its overall high school graduation rate since 2008.

Dancil, a member of the second cohort of graduating students to take advantage of Say Yes in Syracuse, went on to attend Syracuse University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in policy studies and a minor in real estate.

Given her background, Dancil said she had difficulty trusting new initiatives to lift her out of poverty when so many have tried and failed before. Say Yes, however, was worth taking the chance on.

Dancil is now the teen program director at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Syracuse, where she helps inspire the next generation of children undergoing the same struggles she did.

“Say Yes has been the single most impactful program to help me overcome poverty,” said Dancil. “It paid for my degree and has changed the trajectory of my life forever.”

Just like it helped Dancil, Say Yes intends to continue assisting other students with finding success and achieving their goals. Together with community partners, including Onondaga County, the City of Syracuse, SCSD, Onondaga Community College, Syracuse University, Syracuse United Teachers, Say Yes and others, we have provided support to ensure the sustainability of this program.

Related Stories

hand holding growing money
Publications September 18, 2023

Helping your Clients Get Organized: Structure Is a Critical Step in Multi-Generational Philanthropy

Learn how Jeff Knauss and his wife use their donor-advised to engage their children in ...

Blogs September 15, 2023

Reflections: Continued Learning for Equity/Reflexiones: Aprendizaje Continuo para la Equidad

Yeisha Núñez-Denson, tells us about her experience joining our efforts toward an equitable internal work ...

Woman sitting with girl holding books
Blogs August 21, 2023

Unlocking Potential through Reading as A Book Buddy Volunteer

Juliet Nabinger, employee benefits senior specialist at OneGroup and Book Buddies Volunteer, shares how her ...

Blogs August 7, 2023

Reflections: Amplifying Voices for Equity

Juliet Maloff, senior communications officer, explains how we are shifting some of our storytelling to ...

Children looking through binoculars on Syracuse street
Publications August 1, 2023

Payment Pending: CNY Nonprofit Funding Delays From the State Level

Colby Cyrus, CAPM and Frank Ridzi, Ph.D. outline our analysis of how often New York ...

News Releases July 27, 2023

LeadSafeCNY: A Look at our Neighborhood Investments

A new heat map demonstrates the impact of our neighborhood investments so far through the ...

Woman reading to child
News Releases July 25, 2023

More than $1 Million Distributed to Local Nonprofits

The Central New York Community Foundation recently distributed $1,127,321 in grants to local nonprofits.

Two men standing, one sitting in a wheelchair
Blogs July 24, 2023

Community Voices: Promoting Adaptive Recreation in CNY through the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Challenge

Ashley Quimby-Simoni, program manager at the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, shares how adding adaptive ...

News Releases July 11, 2023

Community Foundation Awards Grants to Lead Testing & Awareness Projects

Runners-up of the Community Foundation's participatory budgeting project received LeadSafeCNY grants.

hand holding growing money
Publications September 18, 2023

Helping your Clients Get Organized: Structure Is a Critical Step in Multi-Generational Philanthropy

Learn how Jeff Knauss and his wife use their donor-advised to engage their children in ...

Blogs September 15, 2023

Reflections: Continued Learning for Equity/Reflexiones: Aprendizaje Continuo para la Equidad

Yeisha Núñez-Denson, tells us about her experience joining our efforts toward an equitable internal work ...

Woman sitting with girl holding books
Blogs August 21, 2023

Unlocking Potential through Reading as A Book Buddy Volunteer

Juliet Nabinger, employee benefits senior specialist at OneGroup and Book Buddies Volunteer, shares how her ...

Blogs August 7, 2023

Reflections: Amplifying Voices for Equity

Juliet Maloff, senior communications officer, explains how we are shifting some of our storytelling to ...

Children looking through binoculars on Syracuse street
Publications August 1, 2023

Payment Pending: CNY Nonprofit Funding Delays From the State Level

Colby Cyrus, CAPM and Frank Ridzi, Ph.D. outline our analysis of how often New York ...

News Releases July 27, 2023

LeadSafeCNY: A Look at our Neighborhood Investments

A new heat map demonstrates the impact of our neighborhood investments so far through the ...

Woman reading to child
News Releases July 25, 2023

More than $1 Million Distributed to Local Nonprofits

The Central New York Community Foundation recently distributed $1,127,321 in grants to local nonprofits.

Two men standing, one sitting in a wheelchair
Blogs July 24, 2023

Community Voices: Promoting Adaptive Recreation in CNY through the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Challenge

Ashley Quimby-Simoni, program manager at the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, shares how adding adaptive ...

News Releases July 11, 2023

Community Foundation Awards Grants to Lead Testing & Awareness Projects

Runners-up of the Community Foundation's participatory budgeting project received LeadSafeCNY grants.

View More