We are Say Yes Guilford
Say Yes Guilford is committed to providing access to support services and scholarships designed to prepare Guilford County Schools’ students for success in college, career, and life. Our staff, volunteers and partners are dedicated to classroom-to-career success through equity-based programs and services designed to support students with tutoring, career exploration, college access and scholarships. We have deep respect for our diverse community and value our partnerships with Guilford County Schools, local foundations, businesses and individuals who are working to educate our future leaders.
Say Yes Guilford is committed to providing access to support services and scholarships designed to prepare Guilford County Schools’ students for success in college, career, and life.
Our History — Say Yes to Education was founded in 1987 by money manager George Weiss, who promised to prepare 112 Philadelphia sixth graders for college, and to pay their college tuition if they graduated high school. Say Yes now helps entire communities make a similar commitment to every public high school student.
Four leading groups in Guilford County recognized the potential for a partnership with Say Yes and set out to pursue a dream. That dream became reality within two years and, as a result, will change lives for generations to come!
In 2013 Representatives of Guilford Education Alliance, The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, High Point Community Foundation and Guilford County Schools came together to explore the possibility of bringing Say Yes to Education to our community. They quickly recognized the tremendous impact the partnership could have for students in the Guilford County Schools system and for the long-term future of Guilford County. Once Say Yes to Education and Guilford County got to know one another better, this became a robust, organic and community-wide undertaking, involving volunteers from all corners of Guilford and one of the most successful fundraising efforts in the county’s history. Generous supporters throughout Guilford also recognized the potential of Say Yes, and quickly made financial commitments. When Say Yes Guilford officially launched on September 17, 2015, nearly half of the funds needed to fully support the endowment — $70 million — had already been raised!
In the fall of 2016 the first Say Yes Guilford scholars began their college careers. Since that time Say Yes has helped GCS graduates secure millions of scholarship dollars to prestigious colleges and universities all over the country. All 28 GCS high schools have graduates who are Say Yes Scholars.
Also in 2016, Say Yes guilford began to build a robust network of success supports for students kindergarten through 12th grade including tutoring, career exploration and college access.
On July 1, 2018, Guilford County became the first community in the country to locally own and operate its Say Yes to Education chapter allowing expansion of services to every part of the county. Services include: tutoring for students K-8th grade; career exploration for middle schoolers; free ACT and SAT classes, college application assistance and financial aid guidance for high schoolers; and scholarship and career support for graduates.
Say Yes Guilford continues to collaborate with GCS community partners to eliminate barriers to student opportunities, to support diversity and equity, and to improve upward mobility from the classroom to the workplace.
We are committed to maximizing collaboration across community partners to serve all Guilford County students.
We are dedicated to offering equitable supports that actively engage difference and work to eliminate barriers to opportunity.
We believe every student has the potential to succeed, so equality drives our scholarship distribution process.
We are advocates for educational opportunities that will improve upward mobility from classroom to career.
We think and act strategically to maximize impact for students and our community.
“It takes a village is more than a saying for me. This is how I choose to live my life.”
Say Yes Guilford Board Member and First Scholarship Donor
Jennifer Bowden, Attorney at Steve Bowden and Associates
Ann Busby, Community Volunteer
Nora Carr, Assistant Director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
Dr. Anthony Clark, President, Guilford Technical Community College
Dr. Sharon Contreras, Superintendent, Guilford County Schools
Dr. Larry Czarda, President, Greensboro College
Nathaniel “Trey” Daniels, Assistant City Manager, City of Greensboro
Jakki Davis, Founder and CEO of D-UP
Alan Duncan, NC State Board of Education
Camille England, Microbiologist, Proctor and Gamble
John Englar, Former Burlington Industries Executive
Michael Halford, Guilford County Manager
Cyril Jefferson, Principal Consultant at Change Often, and member of High Point City Council
Jason Jones, Assistant Guilford County Manager
Chartarra Joyner, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Budget and Planning, North Carolina A&T State University
Willie Kea, Senior Process Engineer, Luxfer Gas Cylinders; GCS parent
William Laney, Financial Advisor, Pinnacle Bank
Paul Lessard, President, High Point Community Foundation
Gisell Mansi, Director of the Latino Family Center, YWCA High Point
Alice Moore, Community Volunteer*
Mindy Oakley, Executive Director, Edward M. Armfield Foundation
Courtney Payne, Senior Vice President, Bank of America Triad Market Manager
Robert Pompey Jr., NC A&T, Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance
Mildred O. Poole, First Donor to Say Yes Guilford and Community Volunteer
Wendy Poteat, President & Chief Executive Officer, Say Yes Guilford
Dominick Robinson, Guilford County Schools Chief Student Services Officer
Steve Russell, Partner at Turningpoint Litigation
Walker Sanders, President, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro
Penny Simmons, Ralph Lauren Corp., Global People and Development (HR)
Holly West, Marketing and Communications Manager at Greensboro Chamber of Commerce
Wendy Poteat, MPA
President & Chief Executive Officer
Wendy Poteat grew up in Caswell County, NC in a little community named Sweet Gum. She spent two years at NC A&T and graduated from Guilford College with a degree in Criminal Justice and African American History.
Her career began at the Greensboro Partnership as the Government Affairs Manager. Then she spent time as COO of A United Community, Director of Government Affairs at the Winston-Salem Chamber, and Executive Director of The Forsyth Promise United Way of Forsyth County. Poteat came to Say Yes Guilford in June 2019.
Three sons, PJ, Tré, and Walter keep Poteat busy, as do her three dogs: Chocolate, Lola and Marley. She loves to nosh on seafood, and if you’re lucky you might hear her singing in the office. Poteat is a published author and a certified sports mom.
“I am passionate about Say Yes Guilford, because I believe in the core of the mission,” says Poteat. “I believe that all students have the ability to be successful if provided access to equitable tools to succeed. I believe that Say Yes has a long-term impact on social mobility and workforce development for Guilford County. I believe that the team at Say Yes is committed to creating lifelong impact as an organization dedicated to the entire county.”
Chief Impact Officer
As a North Carolina native, Amanda Rosemann attended college at Meredith College in Raleigh where her passion for education began. After completing a dual degree in Biology and Psychology, she moved to the Triad in 2012 to begin her professional career.
Rosemann has spent her career in the non-profit sector working to better education outcomes for students and families in the Triad. Most recently, she served as the Senior Director of Engagement at United Way of Forsyth County where she oversaw the organization’s community relations, engagement efforts, special events, affinity group development and fundraising efforts. In this role, Amanda led the Women’s Leadership Council’s investments in education initiatives focused on increasing the graduation rate from 70% in 2007 to 90% by 2020. Previously, Amanda served as a behavioral therapist at ABC of NC, a specialized non-profit school for children with autism. She joined Say Yes Guilford in July 2019.
When Amanda is not pursing her professional passions, she enjoys spending time traveling with her husband, Dan and their two dogs Jake and Louise. “Say Yes Guilford’s mission of preparing students for success in college, career and life aligns perfectly with my passion for improving lives, equity and access for individuals via education,” Rosemann says.
Elizabeth Paul, J.D.
Vice President of Donor Impact
Growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, Elizabeth Paul set her sights on a career in law. She earned her undergraduate degree at USC Columbia, and her law degree at the Charleston School of Law, but it was politics, not law, that started her on her fundraising career path. After fundraising for statewide and mayoral races back to back, she became a full-time fundraiser first with Trident United Way and then with Sea Island Habitat. “Access to education has always been a common thread throughout my work: in politics, in my non-profit roles, and of course at UNCG.”” She moved with her family to Guilford County in 2017.
As the daughter of a long-time public school educator, Paul says the opportunity to work for Say Yes Guilford was one she couldn’t let pass. “We have the unique opportunity to fund something that is going to transform lives today and generations of lives in perpetuity. Who wouldn’t want to get behind that?” Paul shares her time with her husband, two young boys and beagle, Patches.
Warché Downing, M.Ed.
Senior Director of Data and Postsecondary Success
Warché K. Downing grew up in Washington County, NC and graduated from Plymouth High School. He went on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a minor in social-economic justice. Then he came to Guilford County to work as a college adviser, where his passion for college access and student success was invigorated. Ever trying to improve himself, Downing earned his master’s degree in Student Personnel Administration in Higher Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro while working at Say Yes Guilford as the FAFSA Project Coordinator. He then transitioned as Interim Scholarship Director to his current role. He continues working towards earning his PhD degree in Educational Leadership in Cultural Foundations at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Downing is married to the wonderful Briana and together they have two sons and a dog. He’s active within ministry, church, community, and much more. Asked why he is passionate about Say Yes Guilford, he says, “I believe each student has limitless potential and opportunity—not only for one’s own upward mobility but to be liberated through the power of education and to be transformational in our society.”
Brandi Kennedy, M.Ed.
Director of Student Outreach and Postsecondary Access
Brandi Kennedy grew up in Winston-Salem, NC and attended UNC Chapel Hill. She then went on to obtain her Master’s at UNC Greensboro. Currently she is doctoral student at UNC Greensboro studying Educational Studies. Go Heels, and Go Spartans!
Following college graduation Kennedy had the opportunity to serve as a College Advisor in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District with a nonprofit called the College Advising Corps. This experience inspired her to bridge the gap in equitable opportunity for marginalized students. She also worked with TRIO programs as a college counselor and served at a variety of higher education institutions including Elon University & Salem College. Kennedy is a dog mom to a big baby puppy named Marley who weighs 40 lbs.
“I am passionate about Say Yes Guilford, because I believe every student deserves access to college and career opportunities,” Kennedy says. “The mission and core values of Say Yes Guilford work to combat inequity within our community, and I am glad to be a part of an organization that works to support students from classroom to career.”
Manager of middle school programs
Chris Huntley was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina and is a proud graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. While at N.C. A&T, he studied Marketing and Business Administration. AGGIE PRIDE!
Huntley worked in advertising, retail, and then found his passion in teaching, spending 11 years working in Guilford County Schools as a business teacher. Huntley also coached basketball, tennis, and track. He was nominated for teacher of the year and voted coach of the year. “Teaching and coaching was very gratifying because it allowed me to see students shine and excel,” he says. Huntley has a passion for helping young people grow not only as students, but also as people.
The Guilford County native enjoys traveling and relaxing with his beautiful wife and daughter. He loves playing golf as much possible and being outdoors.
“I am very excited and passionate about Say Yes Guilford and the opportunity to help our youth realize their potential and dreams,” he says. “Together, we can help them be successful and be prepared for their futures.”
Manager of donor engagement and events
This Las Vegas born woman moved to North Carolina when she was 15, and never looked back. Toni Nelson attended UNC-Pembroke and earned a degree in Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Journalism. She found her passion for service the summer going into her senior year with an internship at Victory Junction. This is a small non-profit holds summer camps for children with serious illnesses and life-threatening diseases. She says her “passion for being part of something bigger than me started there.”
After graduation, Nelson worked in higher education at Drew University and Western Carolina University. As a fundraiser focusing on scholarships, the annual fund, and programmatic initiatives, she found her groove; and in planning events and engagement initiatives for alumni and friends of the university she found her joy.
Athletics have always been part of Nelson’s entire life, and now she stays active doing CrossFit. There’s always good-for-you food in her kitchen, and you might see her hitting the trails with her chocolate lab, Chip!
“I’m passionate about Say Yes Guilford because education is important to me,” she says. “Everyone at Say Yes is making an impact in these students lives and giving them an opportunity to better themselves and create the future they desire. It’s about making opportunities accessible and encouraging students.”
Executive Assistant & Office Manager
TaJuana Robinson was born in Arkansas, and her mom raised her and her brother and sister in Indianapolis, IN. She went to Indiana University – Bloomington and got her BS in Sports Management. Before coming to Guilford County, Robinson was a Leasing Administrative Assistant at Simon Property Group in Atlanta, GA. She joined the Say Yes Guilford team in September 2019.
Robinson has four children, two daughters: Summer 12, Danielle 10 and was lucky to add two more children to her life through marriage. Robinson loves seafood, and you will often see her in her favorite color- red (Go Hoosiers!). She is also a Girl Scout mom, so hit her up for cookies!
“I love that I can be hands on by interacting with our families and actually see the results our programs have on students, parents, schools and the community,” says Robinson about Say Yes. “It’s awesome to work with such a dedicated group of people that have so much passion for education and providing services for the community.”
Director of Communications
Rosemary Plybon grew up just outside of Greensboro and graduated from Northwest Guilford High School. A journalism and mass communication, she graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and set out for a career in TV News.
As a rookie reporter in Savannah, GA she covered everything from homicides to shuttle launches, and worked behind the scenes of the premier of the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Her career took her to Wilmington, NC where she worked for three years as a morning anchor before returning home to anchor WFMY’s The Good Morning Show for almost ten years. She joined Say Yes Guilford first as a volunteer and then as Communications Director in 2018.
Plybon is married with four children. She’s a passionate advocate for water safety and the opportunity for every child to learn to swim; she has taught lessons to children and adults for more than 25 years. She loves Guilford County and is an active volunteer for the Greensboro Children’s Museum, Enrichment Fund for Guilford County Schools and Greensboro Downtown Parks.
“Dreams are what childhood is all about, and educational opportunities should be available to support those dreams for all children,” says Plybon. “As a Say Yes community Guilford County has the opportunity to change outcomes for not just children, but the whole community.”
Navigator and Project Associate
Alexis Moore grew up in Goldsboro, NC, and attended UNC Chapel Hill. She graduated in 2016 with a double major in psychology and sociology. Right out of college she began working to improve student success spending four years working for the College Advising Corps as a college adviser.
I’m passionate about Say Yes because I truly believe in our mission to push next generations forward through the power of education and resources! Being part of a team that works tirelessly for our community is so rewarding,” says Alexis.
A self-proclaimed “small-town girl” from Stokes County, Ellen says she learned the importance of community at a young age. Charlotte was home while she studied at University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) and found a passion for telling stories.
As a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and an active volunteer leader for the Community Affairs department, Ellen felt the pull of community service. “I always dreamed of working in the public relations/communications field for a non-profit organization that makes a difference in the lives of others.” She worked with Family Services, in both Winston-Salem and Mocksville, as a Public Relations Coordinator for Pet Sitters International in King, NC, a Public and Media Relations Coordinator for Horn & Stronach (became Vela Agency) and Bouvier Kelly. After deciding to focus on the positive side of promotions, she found her way back to her writing roots, freelancing and telling inspiring stories of those who are making a difference.
Ellen is a dog mom to three fur babies: one in heaven and two 5-year-old beagles. Her favorite foods are mac and cheese and peanut butter. She cares deeply about helping hurting women and hopes to one day start a women’s ministry.
“My passion in life is helping others chase their dreams and to not give up on the life that God has for them,” she says. “I believe that Say Yes Guilford’s mission to prepare Guilford County Schools’ students for success in college, career, and life aligns with this goal because this organization is dedicated to helping children throughout their entire educational career.”