We support public education because it is fundamental to American democracy. It promotes the common good, brings together children and families across different cultures, and serves all students, regardless of means, ability or circumstances. We believe in the premise and power of public education and we work to ensure every child in Cleveland attends a high-quality school and every neighborhood has a multitude of great schools from which families can choose. We work primarily with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and its partners to support schools that inspire joy and creativity, build resilience and character, impart and elicit knowledge, and produce just, kind and engaged citizens ready for college, career and civic life. We are committed to the values of racial and economic justice and to overcoming the continuing issue of segregated schools and communities. We support advocacy for sound and consistent statewide policy that furthers our work and mitigates the effects of poverty on learning.
Say Yes to Education Cleveland: An important illustration
There are many examples of our Foundation’s approach in action and here we offer just one major initiative—Say Yes to Education Cleveland—as an illustration. Say Yes has received sizable grants from our Foundation and many others. It illustrates the interconnectedness of our concerns and the values we apply to all of our work. Say Yes is a 25-year-program that awards postsecondary scholarships to Cleveland residents who graduate from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, combined with services, supports and extended learning opportunities to ensure students are prepared to be successful. It also strives to be much more and in doing so it expresses the continually aspirational approach we take.
Say Yes advances equity, especially racial equity, by providing human and financial support to a Cleveland school population that is largely African-American and whose families have been denied full participation in society by the systemic effects of racism throughout American history. Closing the racial education gap is one of the essential steps toward racial healing and full inclusion of African-Americans in the benefits of our country. Say Yes seeks to change the perception that African-American and other low-income children of color are not able and motivated to learn and excel when given the necessary pathway and supports to be fully equipped for success. Racial equity is a prime motivator of Say Yes and a central value of our Foundation.
Say Yes concentrates on children, starting with preschoolers. Children who are deprived appropriate stimulus, proper diet, personal care, and a safe, nurturing environment start far behind their peers. Say Yes is an important source of support beginning with the youngest children and continuing through high school to ensure that Cleveland’s children are ready to succeed. The well-being of children and their families is essential to our future.
Say Yes focuses on the city of Cleveland, reinforcing the broader plan to transform Cleveland’s public schools to make them a magnet for the city and its neighborhoods. By providing this financial incentive to live in Cleveland’s neighborhoods, Say Yes makes a powerful statement against suburban sprawl and its damaging environmental, social and economic impacts.
Say Yes fuels creativity by increasing after school and summer enrichment opportunities for students in the arts, sciences and technology. Say Yes and its high expectations will increase appetite and demand for enriching and stimulating arts offerings that wealthier school districts have always provided. Say Yes will open, broaden and stimulate minds.
Say Yes advances citizenship by uniting a community around educating its young people so they have the tools to influence the world around them, to understand how to do so and that their voices truly matter. Democracy depends on active public engagement, whether by being informed about issues and voting or by engaging in advocacy or protest. Supporting vigorous citizenship and building democracy are core activities of our work.
Say Yes builds human capital and our economy by advancing the capacity of Cleveland’s workforce to compete for and succeed in the demanding jobs of the global economy. Our economy needs skilled workers and Say Yes gives a boost to a large number of students who have historically been left out of the economic opportunity that quality education provides.
Say Yes is a system-wide change, not assistance for a few. It demands collaboration and cooperation from public schools, higher education, city and county government, philanthropy, supporting agencies, parents and students. Our Foundation seeks to maximize impact through collaboration, leverage, policy influence and systems change.
Executive Vice President,