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Wilson Foundation donates $2 million to Say Yes for scholarships

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is giving the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Fund $2 million, the largest gift ever to the education assistance agency.

The Wilson donation means Say Yes is less than $10 million away from its goal of $33 million, which would provide postsecondary tuition scholarships for graduates of Buffalo public and charter schools through 2023.

“Today’s gift from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is a resounding example of what can happen when a community comes together,” said Alphonso O’Neil-White, chairperson of the Say Yes Buffalo Scholarship Board.

The Foundation announced the $2 million grant Wednesday morning at the Emerson School of Hospitality on Chippewa Street.

The Wilson Foundation last year said it will operate as a grant-making organization focused primarily on Wilson’s hometown of Detroit and his football town of Buffalo, two of the poorest cities in the country. Foundation trustees have identified priority areas based on Wilson’s personal causes that resonated with him in his lifetime, including health lifestyles, early childhood and youth development, caregivers, community development and economic growth.

Creating opportunities for young people was a passion of Wilson’s, according to his widow, Mary.

“The Say Yes Buffalo Partnership that has come together to support the students of Buffalo is impressive and well on its way to removing barriers to academic success. We are proud to support this effort,” she said.

Say Yes provides locally funded tuition scholarships to more than 100 colleges and universities for Buffalo public and charter school students, who meet residency and admissions requirements. In addition, Say Yes Buffalo and its partners provide services directly inside public school buildings. These survices include 42 mental health clinics that operate one to two days a week in 55 schools, two mobile health units, mentoring services and legal clinics open one day a week at six schools across the city. The clinics offer advice on matters like immigration, child custody and housing.

Also a family support specialist provides intervention to families who need help with food, clothing or shelter or when they are at risk of child welfare workers stepping. The specialists also makes home visits and match families with the services they need.

Joining Wilson and O’Neil-White at the announcement Wednesday were Foundation trustees Mary Owen, David Colligan and Jerry Mazurkiewicz as well as Foundation President and CEO David Egner, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash and David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo.

For more information about the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation visit For more information about Say Yes Buffalo visit