Every Wednesday, Dana Lyons meets with students at Onondaga Community college and provides a bit of encouragement.
“You can do this.You’re a smart woman, you can do this,” said Lyons to a student who visited her table in the afternoon.
It’s an important part of her job. Lyons works for Say Yes to Education. She provides students with additional support so that they stay on track to meet their educational goals.
“Our goal is to make college tuition more affordable for students that graduate from the city of Syracuse high schools that reside in Syracuse at the time of graduation,” said Lyons.
It’s a scholarship that opens doors for many Syracuse residents. Syracuse was ranked by the U.S. Census bureau as one of the top ten poorest places in the country. The city’s poverty has ripple effects, in part impacting the Syracuse City School District. According to Syracuse.com the district had a graduation rate of 58.3 in 2018, far below the national average.
Following graduation, Syracuse City School District Students sometimes find that their higher education opportunities are limited by financial circumstances. That’s where Say Yes to Education comes into play.
Natalie Mooney is a recent Syracuse University graduate, but attending Syracuse wouldn’t have been possible for her without the Say Yes to Education Scholarship.
“I think that with the degree I have now, and the opportunities I have now, I think that’s all because of getting to go to Syracuse,” said Mooney.
But Mooney’s not the only family member to get help from Say Yes to Education. Three of her siblings also received scholarships.
“My mom raised us all by herself so I think it would have been next to impossible to pay for us all to go to college. As a single mother, it just would have been ridiculous for any of us to expect that,” explained Mooney.
Mooney’s older sister was in the first class of scholarship recipients. And each sibling has gone to a Say Yes Partner college ever since. Only her oldest siblings missed out on the tuition program, but that’s because the scholarship wasn’t around then.
“It’s so much more than just a college tuition program, they give you everything… If it weren’t for say yes we all would have had very different expectations even applying to colleges,” said Mooney.
This year, Say Yes to Education Syracuse is marking its tenth year of awarding scholarships. It’s a fact that surprised Mooney.
“Ten years? They’re going on ten years now? Just think about how many kids that’s helped and how many peoples lives have changed because they could afford to go to college,” said Mooney.