Our Story

We collaborate with communities to bring together the best thinking, best practices and latest research, as well as draw on the three decades of experience, lessons learned and expertise of the pioneering, national nonprofit organization, Say Yes to Education.

1987

Our Story Begins with a Promise

Say Yes was founded in 1987 by money manager George Weiss. And it all began with a promise. Weiss promised 112 sixth graders at a Philadelphia elementary school that he would provide them with a range of academic, social-emotional and health-and-wellness support services to remove predictable barriers along the pathway to their high school graduation — and to pay for their college or other postsecondary education.

We’ll lay all these little funky little things in there. Let’s make some happy little clouds in our world. Let’s do that again. You can do anything your heart can imagine. That’s what painting is all about. It should make you feel good when you paint. Nice little clouds playing around in the sky.

1987-2007

Building Upon the Promise

For its first two decades, Say Yes worked with cohorts of children, all from low-income and other backgrounds historically underrepresented on the nation’s college and university campuses. The chapters ranged in size from about 100 to 300, in cities and states where Mr. Weiss had a personal connection.

These included Philadelphia (Mr. Weiss is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania); Cambridge, Mass. (he was raised outside of Boston); Hartford, Conn. (the original site of his money management business, and where he still maintains offices) and Harlem in New York City (Mr. Weiss’s firm, Weiss Multi-Strategies, has offices in Manhattan.)

In each of the original Say Yes cohort chapters, students graduated high school — and college — at rates exceeding those of students from similar backgrounds in the public school district as a whole.

All kinds of happy little splashes. We’ll take a little bit of Van Dyke Brown. The very fact that you’re aware of suffering is enough reason to be overjoyed that you’re alive and can experience it. Isn’t that fantastic? You can just push a little tree out of your brush like that. We don’t have to be concerned about it. We just have to let it fall where it will.

2008-Present

Say Yes Communitywide Strategy

Drawing on lessons learned by Weiss and Say Yes in a half dozen, small cohort chapters serving a total of about 1,000 young people, the organization embarked in 2008 on a communitywide strategy. That strategy centers on the goal of every public school student in the community not only graduating high school – but doing so ready to succeed in earning a college degree or other postsecondary credential, and with access to the resources to make that education affordable and equitable.

At the heart of the Say Yes Communitywide Strategy is a powerful incentive for families and communities: the prospect of a postsecondary scholarship. Say Yes and its partners ensure that students have the support outside the classroom to clear the path to academic achievement. Say Yes works with its community partners to bring together local stakeholders and arm that coalition with the tools (including analytics) to boost postsecondary participation and success.

Those systems and structures enable the work of the local Say Yes partnership to go to scale and be sustained through predictable transitions in leadership, and historically unpredictable funding from state and local sources.

The organization’s support services are available to tens of thousands of public school students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 – through partnerships with three communities intended, in part, to yield proof points as well as lessons learned.

They are: Syracuse (launched in 2009) and Buffalo (2012), in upstate New York, and Guilford County (including the cities of Greensboro and High Point, launched in 2015.) The organization announced in Spring 2017 that a local, public-private consortium in Cleveland had satisfied the early milestones on the extended path to becoming Say Yes’ next partner community.

2017-Present

The Weiss Institute

The Weiss Institute was launched in 2017 as a support service for communities seeking to expand their capacity to support young people on the pathway from early childhood to adult success. At the Weiss Institute, we leverage our three decades of experience, lessons learned and expertise to help communities develop solutions that break down predictable barriers to success for students – as well as, ultimately, for schools and communities.

The Weiss Institute tailors its advisory services to each community and its unique set of assets and challenges. In doing so, the Weiss team works to provide the technical assistance to ensure all young people can point toward, and reach, the North Star of college or other postsecondary completion, as a gateway to adult success.