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Mentor Mondays: First Say Yes students graduate from college

The scholarship program, which pays for CMSD students to go to college and pairs them with mentors, is celebrating its first group of college graduates.

CLEVELAND — This year, we’re calling our Mentor Monday segment Mentor Mondays. Twice this month - and for the 3rd year in a row - we’re celebrating some of the most influential people under the educational umbrella - mentors. 

In our 1st of the two installments, we spotlight Say Yes to Education Cleveland. The program has paid the college tuition of virtually every Cleveland Metropolitan School District high school graduate since 2019. And now, the program is celebrating its 1st class of Say Yes college graduates – mentors by their side all the way.

"I graduated from Cleveland State University. I didn’t have to worry about getting a 2nd job. I didn’t have to worry about my parents working to help me pay for school. I was just really able to focus on studying, getting good grades, and finishing as soon as I can, and my mentor Ann was there all the way" says former CSU psychology major – now clinical psychology Master’s student - Leean Andino. She's the very first Say Yes Cleveland scholarship student to graduate from college.

Through millions in donations from dozens of Northeast Ohio companies, foundations and individuals, Say Yes makes college tuition free for virtually all CMSD high school graduates. Each student pays only living expenses and gets paired with a volunteer mentor.

"The person who I got paired up with was incredible. She was there whether it’s personal, or professional, or just general college questions about things that are going on," says Baldwin Wallace graduate Michaela Spoljaric – also in the inaugural class of Say Yes college grads.

Michaela, who majored in Film Studies and minored in Asian Studies, credits her mentor Sydney for not only mentorship, but lasting friendship.

"We still talk to this day," says Spoljaric.

"There is no question under the sun that is too crazy to ask a mentor. They are there for the students for questions they have about not only school, but about life, and direction," says Lauren Welch, Assistant Communications Director with Say Yes Cleveland.

"We are extremely proud of them. We couldn’t be more thrilled. As you’re seeing from the success of these graduates, you’re really seeing the fruits of the labor of mentors," says Welch.

College Now of Greater Cleveland – who provides the mentors for Say Yes – is in need of more mentors. About 100 volunteers signed on last year during the week Mentor Monday aired on 3News, and they're hoping for even more this year. If you’d like to become a mentor with Say Yes, click here.

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