Access to a quality education is a foundational value that addresses numerous community challenges — from poverty and unemployment to kindergarten readiness and healthcare outcomes.

Nearly 15 years ago, our board of directors identified the region’s low literacy rates as a community issue which needed to be addressed. In response, we launched an initiative called read ahead, mobilizing more than 200 community stakeholders around the goal of achieving 100% literacy through 100% community engagement in Onondaga County. As a result, vibrant Onondaga, Madison and Cortland county-wide coalitions were formed to address literacy across the lifespan of our residents. Serving as a managing partner, we continue to support each coalition with grants, research and management assistance. Most recently, we partnered with all three coalitions to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to our region’s children. Together, we are helping more than 14,000 local children develop a love of reading that will last a lifetime.

In 2008, we recognized the amazing potential that Say Yes to Education (Say Yes) held for future generations of our community and volunteered at its inception to serve as the home for the local scholarship endowment and fiscal sponsor for family and student support grants. Say Yes guarantees a path to college for students of the Syracuse City School District and provides support to students and their families that enhances their opportunities for academic achievement. More than 3,000 Syracuse students can now say that they have used Say Yes scholarships to attend college, and that number is steadily growing every year. We are proud to be a part of this landmark achievement that is creating opportunities for Syracuse city youth and their families.

Nourishing the education of our region’s residents — from infancy to adulthood — remains a priority within the Community Foundation’s initiatives and grantmaking. Over the past 10 years alone, we have awarded more than $6 million in grants to local programs addressing literacy and education. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the number of lives we have been able to change for the better is immeasurable.