Dear Mr. President: Matt's Memo

Dear Mr. President,

When you arrive in Syracuse Thursday afternoon to talk about the future of higher education for families in our community here are the three unique programs you need to know about. If you are conversant in all three you will leave an impression on Central New York that you cared enough to prepare to learn about what is working when it comes to paving a road to college for students in Syracuse.

1. Hillside Work Scholarship program

2. Onpoint for College

3. Say Yes for Education

Hillside offers extensive one on one mentoring with students who are most at-risk for dropping out in the city schools. It makes sure they go to school and do their homework. The program offers tutoring, attention and more. The success rate of getting these teens from one grade to the next and ultimately to graduation is above 90 percent. It started with handfuls of kids and now handles hundreds per year.

Onpoint is a not-for-profit started by Ginny Donohue from the trunk of her car. Ginny's annual fundraiser brings tears to the eyes of those listening to stories of teens living on the streets with absent parents who had the capability to learn at a higher level, but not the opportunity. Onpoint provides mentoring, money for college applications, rides for college visits, transportation to attend college, help with housing.

Say Yes is a citywide education program which has delivers a financial benefit to families in Syracuse that can be measured in the tens of thousands of dollars per household. The Say Yes foundation has partnerships with 100 institutes of higher learning which provide free tuition to Syracuse high school graduates. There is an upper end income limit that caps the benefit, but thousands of city school graduates are taking advantage of the major reduction of their college bill. Say Yes is also fully integrating into the K-12 curriculum to offer educational enhancement opportunities to prepare students for college.

Mr. President, the combination of these three programs working alongside the hard working faculty and adminstrators of Syracuse schools has the potential to transform a community that has suffered from suburban flight, loss of legacy manufacturing and a preponderance of tax exempt property.

Ask the leaders and the beneficiaries of these programs about their efficacy. Once you do you will feel compelled to offer each greater assistance and you may want to carry them along on your bus tour to share in other communities.

One more thing, while you're in town - grab some Dinosaur BBQ. And if you are up for a game of hoops give me a call.

Any questions or comment please forward them to I may even use some of your thoughts on NBC 3 News at 5:00, the 10:00 News on CW6 or on

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