By David Rust
The past few weeks have given this city much to celebrate. First, the state Department of Education confirmed what many of us who work with students in Buffalo already suspected – there has been another significant jump in the rate of students who graduated from Buffalo’s public high schools this past year. While there is still much work to be done here, there is no denying that seeing the rate pass 60 percent for the first time in a decade is something to celebrate.
Credit and congratulations for these improvements lies squarely with the teachers, students, parents, administrators, board members and community partners who work hard every day to see our city’s young people have the tools and opportunities to reach their full potential. Kudos to all these individuals for their extraordinary work.
This past week the Say Yes Buffalo Partnership had further reason to celebrate; a new partner joined our work. The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation announced a generous $2 million grant to our scholarship fund that brings us one step closer to realizing an initial goal to provide tuition scholarships to all Buffalo public and charter school students through at least 2023.
At the event held to announce the donation, Mary Wilson articulated that the deciding factor in the gift was the depth, breadth and strength of the community partnership that has been formed around Say Yes. We are grateful for this commitment from the foundation to the students of the City of Buffalo.
This recognition of what has been built by the Western New York community – that is, a partnership of many entities that are working together like never before for the benefit of Buffalo’s young people – must also be celebrated. It bears reminding that Say Yes Buffalo is not one person or one entity – it is a true partnership of the Buffalo School District, teachers, parents, administrators, social workers, religious leaders, city and county government, community-based service providers, funders, institutions of higher education – and more.
Together we’ve created new programs to support students as they apply and matriculate to college. Together we’ve found a sustainable way to provide summer camp to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Together, this partnership is stronger than ever before.
As we celebrate these most recent gains we pledge to the students and families of Buffalo that we will continue this work, together, until all students have the services, supports and opportunities they need to successfully graduate high school, earn a postsecondary degree and participate in the renaissance and economic revitalization of the City of Buffalo.
David Rust is executive director of Say Yes Buffalo.