Press Release

Say Yes to Education and America’s Promise Alliance Announce Leadership for Weiss Institute

New national initiative helps communities prepare young people for college Louisville, Kentucky, is first community partner

Weiss Institute logoNEW YORK – The Weiss Institute, a new nationwide partnership that helps local communities expand their capacity to support students as they prepare for college and other postsecondary education, announced today that it has selected Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey to be its first president.

Schmitt-Carey will also continue to serve as chief executive officer of Say Yes to Education, the nonprofit organization founded in 1987 by George Weiss, who chairs its board. The Weiss Institute is a unit of Say Yes. The Institute is a partnership with America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest network dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth, as well as its research arm, the Center for Promise at Boston University.

The Institute was created in April as a forum to bring together the best thinking, latest research and field-tested strategies to support communities seeking to help more students get on a path to success in higher education and beyond. It was launched by George Weiss, alongside the respective chair and founding chair of America’s Promise — Alma J. Powell and General Colin L. Powell, USA (ret.) — at a summit celebrating the 20th anniversary of America’s Promise.

The Institute also announced today that Louisville, KY, is the first community to engage the Institute as a partner.

“Through Say Yes, and now the Institute, my dream is to help communities create opportunities for upwards of a million children to afford college as well as to have the preparation, skills and support to succeed in earning a degree,” said Weiss, who began Say Yes by making a commitment to 112 sixth graders at an inner city elementary school in Philadelphia that he would pay for their college education upon their graduation from high school. “Our colleagues at Say Yes and the Weiss Institute, working with our partners at America’s Promise, comprise a leadership team that can knit together communities and foundations across this great nation around the goal of paving a pathway to adult success for our young people.”

“America’s Promise has always believed in the whole child, whole community approach to providing more young people with the opportunity to reach their full potential,” added Mrs. Powell. “We are excited to work with Say Yes and the growing Weiss Institute team on this new venture as our shared purpose transitions into a shared effort. Together we will strive toward building stronger, more knowledgeable communities because that’s how sustainable change happens.”

Since joining Say Yes as its president and chief executive in 2006, Schmitt-Carey has built and led a team that guided the transformation of Say Yes from an organization that provided support services and postsecondary scholarships to several hundred public school students to a nationwide effort now serving tens of thousands of students around the nation.

Eugene Chasin, the chief operating officer of Say Yes since 2008, has been appointed as its president, the organization announced today.

In addition, the Weiss Institute said that Felice Nudelman, the Chancellor of Antioch University in Yellow Springs, OH, from 2011 to 2016 — a period in which it built a new campus in Seattle, and added an array of online courses —is joining the Institute leadership team as its executive vice president.Since last year, Nudelman has served Antioch as chief global officer of innovation and partnerships; from 2000 to 2012, she worked on the business side of The New York Times Company, including as executive director of education.

Angela Romans, who most recently was co-director of district and systems transformation at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and who formerly led the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s College Readiness Indicator Systems project, is also joining Say Yes and the Weiss Institute as senior vice president of programming.

Dr. Jonathan Zaff, executive director of the Center for Promise, will lead the creation, collection and analysis of research and on-the-ground learning about how communities come together to help all young people achieve a college degree or other postsecondary credential.  

As part of the partnership between America’s Promise Alliance and Say Yes to Education, John Gomperts, the chief executive of America’s Promise, is joining the Say Yes National Board of Directors, and Schmitt-Carey will join the board of America’s Promise.

About the Weiss Institute

Launched in April 2017, the Weiss Institute is a partnership between Say Yes to Education and America’s Promise Alliance that seeks to expand the capacity of communities to make it possible for all young people to earn a college degree or other postsecondary credential. The nationwide initiative provides communities with applied research, technical assistance and other guidance as they seek to create or scale scholarship programs, as well as the support services to enable students to seize those opportunities.

About Say Yes to Education

Founded in 1987, Say Yes to Education is a nonprofit that partners with communities around the goal of every public school student not only graduating high school – but doing so with the preparation to complete a college or other postsecondary education, and with the wherewithal to afford it. Say Yes works with its community partners to bring together local stakeholders and arms that coalition with the tools to boost postsecondary participation and success. Those systems and structures enable the work of the local Say Yes partnership to 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, pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Most are in communitywide chapters in Syracuse and Buffalo, NY, as well as Guilford County (Greensboro-High Point), NC. Say Yes, which has begun the search for its next community chapter, has smaller chapters in Harlem in New York City and Philadelphia.

About America’s Promise Alliance and the Center for Promise

America’s Promise Alliance leads the nation’s largest network dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by the Class of 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century workforce. The Center for Promise is the applied research arm for America’s Promise Alliance, housed at the Boston University School of Education and dedicated to understanding what young people need to thrive and how to create the conditions of success for all young people.