May 30, 2012 Stephanie Bouvia Uncategorized
That was the word emphasized and reiterated time and time again at the Say Yes to Education press conference held at McKinley-Brighton Elementary School this morning.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras and Say Yes to Education Founder George Weiss stressed the need for children to have hope in order to develop and grow.
Say Yes to Education officials held the press conference to update residents on the progress of its program, which was implemented in Syracuse in 2009. Officials also presented four children’s books that were written by SCSD students through Say Yes’ Young Authors Series, supported by the National Grid Foundation.
“In your eyes, I see hope. I see promise, I see leadership, I see tenacity, I see strength, and most importantly, I see our future,” said National Grid Foundation Board member Melanie Littlejohn to the many students in attendance.
Littlejohn announced that National Grid will be giving $30,000 to the Say Yes Young Authors Series, in order to produce five additional books.
Weiss presented the Syracuse program’s “report card,” and described how Say Yes has affected students in the city school district. Syracuse is the first city to fully implement the Say Yes model across its entire school district.
Weiss said the number of students who dropped out of high school in the district decreased by 44.3 percent since last year; the number of ninth-grade students who passed the New York State algebra regents exam increased by 31 percent; and the number of students who are graduating from the district’s high schools increased by 6 percent since last year.
“This is a model … that has really created great excitement,” Weiss said, addressing those involved in the Say Yes program. “You really should be proud of the great job that you guys have done. It’s been absolutely phenomenal.”
Mayor Miner also sang Say Yes’ praises, adding that the Syracuse Say Yes initiative would not have been possible without support from Weiss as well as Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, who were also in attendance.
Miner also addressed the SCSD students, and stressed the importance of reading.
“The entire world will open up to you, and you will appreciate all that it has to offer if you continue to cling to all that reading has to offer you,” Miner said.
Kristi Eck, assistant to the operating director and higher education program specialist at Syracuse Say Yes, introduced the Young Authors Series, which was established in 2009.
The series started with 11 third-graders and 34 SU students working together to produce one book. This year the program has grown to reach four schools, 52 SCSD students and 46 SU students, Eck said. The students produced four books, which they presented at the press conference.
Students from LeMoyne, Bellevue, McKinley-Brighton and Salem Hyde elementary schools came up with the stories and helped write the books. Illustration majors at SU helped with the art for each of the books. In total, Eck said, students worked on the books for an entire year.
Five students — Aliyah White, Marqui Cheeks, Yannis Gilbert, Carlissia Cree Ford and Khalil Davis — spoke briefly about the books they produced through the program.
Eck, the Say Yes higher education program specialist, reiterated the importance of the program in the Syracuse City School District.
“This program really epitomizes Say Yes to Education because it’s built upon the partnerships that we’ve all spoken about today,” Eck said. “It really unites creativity, community and scholarship. That is the three pillars of the program in general, and again, the program that results in these books.”