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Say Yes steps up again, this time with a creative after-school program

Say Yes to Education continues to be the gift that keeps on giving to Buffalo Public Schools students, their parents and the community as a whole. The recent announcement about partnering with the district to provide after-school programs at half the city’s 56 schools this fall is yet another example.

And that’s not all.

Say Yes Buffalo also unveiled a four-year, $4.5 million grant from the Wallace Foundation intended, in part, to develop a system that tracks student progress.

And there’s more.

Say Yes, a nationwide nonprofit organization that provides college tuition for Buffalo high school graduates, just added 11 more colleges and universities to a growing roster of schools. There are now 54 colleges in the national Say Yes program, with Dartmouth, Princeton and Cornell added to the Ivy League list of Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. Also on board are the 74 colleges and universities in the State University of New York and City University of New York systems.

The nonprofit has managed to pull a variety of stakeholders together to help the city’s students. Alphonso O’Neil-White, former president of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and a key person in bringing Say Yes to Buffalo, called community support involving schools, the teachers union, principals and other parties unprecedented.

It should be noted that the school district is fully on board with the after-school partnership and has assembled $14 million in funding, mostly through various grants.

The new after-school program, which will be rolled out in November and include all city schools by 2015, will be revolutionary.

Say Yes is touting a program that closely resembles what has been offered in other countries, in particular China, for years. This isn’t just quiet time to do homework but an extension of the school day, complete with tutoring and hands-on learning.

Say Yes will provide facilities at each school to ensure the transition from school day activities to after-school efforts. That follow-through should prevent education from getting lost in translation. What’s the old saying, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure?”

The monitoring of student progress will provide critical data to educators. Besides monitoring, the Wallace grant also will fund professional development and communications efforts.

Amid all the well-deserved criticism of city schools these days, Say Yes to Buffalo stands out for creating innovative solutions and offering students hope for the future.