County celebrates landing of Say Yes
Updated: September 23, 2015
By: Stephanie Butzer SButzer@hpenews.com
GUILFORD COUNTY — Ragsdale High School students Junior Valentina Vilaipanh and Xandria Shields said they didn’t fully understand what Say Yes to Education would do for them until Thursday morning.
But at a ceremony Thursday morning in the school’s gym announcing that leaders of the scholarship initiative chose Guilford County Schools as its next benefactor, the goal of the program became clear to them — to make a postsecondary education possible for every student in Guilford County Schools through scholarships.
Say Yes promises to help Guilford County Schools students — all 72,000 of them — get the support they need to graduate from high school and go on to get a postsecondary education.
“It makes it less about how much money a college will give you and more about what college would be best for what you want to learn,” Shields said.
Vilaipanh added that she was surprised to learn that she could receive funding to attend a private university or college. The girls, both of whom attended the announcement, will be directly affected by Say Yes to Education Guilford. Students graduating in the spring will have the chance to apply for the money.
Jennifer Noble of Greensboro, who also attended the event, said she has been following the effort to land Say Yes in Guilford County since it started early this year. Noble, who has a first-grader, fourth-grader and sixth-grader, remembers when she first heard of Say Yes to Education.
“I thought it was too good to be true,” she said. “How can this be? And then I had a chance to go and see it in Buffalo, New York with the Guilford County delegation. And what I realized is the same kind of I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening — I saw in that whole community. People said, ‘I can’t believe it’s happening to us.’”
She said she is excited to be a part of a community that is embracing every child and taking responsibility for their future.
“I get to be part of a community where we are embracing all of these kids,” she said. “And that makes me very proud.”
Alan Parker, principal of Southwest Guilford High School, brought about 50 seniors from his school to Thursday’s event to represent Southwest High.
“As a high school principal, I immediately saw the advantage for high schools in that it removes some barriers for students and families that might not otherwise think that they could afford to go to a college or to a university or a two-year school,” he said.
The current economic climate has put pressure on families when it comes to college, he added. Say Yes offers assistance and hope to those families.
Parker said he also was happy to see many different entities of Guilford County in one room for the same cause Thursday morning.
“I’ve been in Guilford County for 32 years, and it was the first time I’ve seen everybody at one time in one place … making education a priority in Guilford County,” he said. “It was great to see.”
He said he predicts to see an increase in graduation rates, GPAs and test scores as students realize a postsecondary education is available to them.
“They still have to do the work,” Parker said. “They still have to meet the criteria to go to school and still have to meet the admission standards of the colleges, but to me, it removes the barrier and/or excuse that kids would use to not work toward their full potential.”
Carlvena Foster, a longtime Guilford County Board of Education member and current executive director at the Carl Chavis YMCA, said she wanted to fully understand the wraparound services that would come with Say Yes. Such services may include after-school programs, tutoring and legal help.
“I fully believe that you have to prepare children for graduation,” she said. “It does not do us any good to have scholarships when you can’t get children to the point where they can actually get into a four-year or a two-year college.”
The wraparound services are supposed to help identify the needs of the students and then find suitable solutions so they can learn in class.
From what Say Yes has presented, eliminating duplication of services would be great, she added.
“If I’m doing SAT prep and another agency is doing SAT prep and you eliminate one of us, then the one that is eliminated can pick up a different service if they’re capable,” she said. “I think you would be able to provide more services without duplicating the same services.”
That, plus ensuring there are enough people providing those services, will take some time, she said.
Foster also was in the crowd Thursday morning and said it was wonderful to see the students excited about the opportunity they had just gained.
“The amount of money that has been committed in this county is just phenomenal,” she said. “
“Just to know there are so many people rallying around this effort to make this successful and provide these opportunities for all of the students throughout Guilford County. I was glad to be a part of it.”
High Point City Councilman Jeff Golden said he remembers first hearing about Say Yes and the initial excitement followed by logistical questions. He said he knew there would be concerns from the private schools sector and from charter schools. Now that Say Yes Guilford is in place, he said he is looking forward to seeing it work and the opportunities it will create.
“I think it’s a great deal, and people from Guilford County should be shouting from the rooftops,” he said.
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