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Say Yes Syracuse Celebrates 15 Years of Supporting Thousands of Students, Awarding Nearly $15 Million in Scholarships

Say Yes Syracuse is celebrating 15 years of impact this year, transforming lives and empowering students through one of the most comprehensive student-aid programs in the United States.

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Say Yes Syracuse is celebrating 15 years of impact this year, transforming lives and empowering students through one of the most comprehensive student-aid programs in the United States. Recognized as a model for other school districts to follow across the U.S., Say Yes Syracuse has awarded $14.8 million in scholarships since 2009. Ensuring its longevity and continued success, this is one of the only fully endowed Promise Programs in the nation.

Since 2009, Say Yes Syracuse has awarded more than 6,000 scholarships to eligible students, making college more accessible and affordable by addressing the primary barrier to higher education – cost. The program partners locally with the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County and Syracuse University to support students and their families in graduating from high school, preparing for college, and affording its expense.

Say Yes graduates have gone on to work in a variety of fields including criminal justice, education, entertainment, medical, fashion, sports, government and other industries, in places all over the U.S. and world. Notably, the majority of Say Yes scholars have returned to Central New York to build their careers. Profiles of featured alumni are provided here at Say Yes Syracuse’s website.

“For 15 years, Say Yes Syracuse has opened doors to higher education for thousands of students. By removing financial barriers, we are not just helping students attend college; we are setting them up for lifelong success. Our community is stronger because of the opportunities provided by Say Yes,” said Melanie Littlejohn, president and CEO of the Central New York Community Foundation, which administers the program. Littlejohn was integral in Say Yes’s introduction to Syracuse as a member of the inaugural Say Yes to Education Syracuse scholarship board.

In addition to financial aid, comprehensive support services were developed in partnership with Say Yes Syracuse by Onondaga County, the City of Syracuse and SCSD to help students achieve their academic potential. This holistic approach ensures students are well-prepared for college and beyond, fostering an environment where every student can succeed. By leveraging these resources and remaining persistent, students from all economic backgrounds can pursue their college dreams and secure a brighter future.

Say Yes Syracuse is fully endowed and has significant resources to make college possible for students, but not everyone who is eligible applies for the program. In fact, less than half – only 43% of the class of 2023 – applied to receive scholarships, leaving many dreams unrealized in our community.

As we celebrate this milestone, Say Yes Syracuse encourages students, particularly those in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades, to explore opportunities to reduce the cost of higher education. “We want families to know that college is most definitely an option for them, and we urge all eligible students to apply for scholarships,” said Ahmeed Turner, Say Yes Syracuse executive director.

Eligibility: Scholarships are available to students who live in the City of Syracuse and attend a SCSD high school or charter school. While the program has strong local higher-education institutions in our community, there are more than 100 Say Yes Syracuse partner colleges and universities throughout the U.S. including a range of State University of New York (SUNY) schools, City University of New York (CUNY), as well as over 100 private colleges and universities, including historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions. A full list of partner colleges and universities is available online.

For more information on Say Yes Syracuse scholarships and to apply, please visit

About Say Yes Syracuse

Say Yes Syracuse provides full-tuition scholarships from a range of over 100 public and private college and university partners for eligible graduates to attend. Since 2009, 6,256 Say Yes Syracuse scholars have enrolled in 2-and 4-year colleges and universities after high school graduation totaling nearly $15 million in scholarships. Since inception, the Say Yes Syracuse Tuition Scholarship program has been funded by an endowment administered by the Central New York Community Foundation. The Say Yes to Education Endowment Fund became fully funded in 2016 thanks to the generous contributions of local individuals, businesses and government partners. View the Say Yes Syracuse 2022-23 Report Card here.