Say Yes Cleveland receives $6.5M gift from the Gund Foundation to support CMSD graduates in college

Graduation mortar boards being thrown into the air.
Say Yes Cleveland is three-quarters of the way to the $125 million needed to grant every CMSD graduate college tuition for the next 25 years. [ConnectingTheDots / Shutterstock]

The George Gund Foundation is awarding Say Yes Cleveland $6.5 million to help support Cleveland Metropolitan School District graduates through college.

A portion of the gift — $1.5 million — will go to the Say Yes Cleveland Scholarship Fund. The goal is to reach $125 million in order to guarantee scholarships for CMSD students over the next 25 years. The latest contribution from the Gund Foundation puts Say Yes Cleveland three-quarters of the way to its goal. 

The additional $5 million grant from the foundation will establish a Living Learning Community at Cleveland State University. The money will cover most of the room and board expenses over four years for four cohorts of 30 Say Yes scholarship recipients who attend CSU.

Diane Downing, executive director of Say Yes Cleveland, called the gifts “unexpected, meaningful and deeply appreciated.

“There are few organizations as critical to the existence of Say Yes Cleveland as the George Gund Foundation, and few people as integral to our work as Dave Abbott,” Downing said, referring to the foundation's outgoing president. “Dave and the Gund Foundation not only helped lay out the strategic framework on which Say Yes is built, but they were also early and historically generous contributors to the Say Yes Cleveland scholarship fund.”

The gifts are being given in honor of Abbott who leaves Gund at the end of the year after 19 years at the helm.

“From our Foundation’s first investment in Say Yes Cleveland back in 2018, we have viewed it as a long-term investment in the young people of Cleveland. We are hopeful that our community can close the $125 million fundraising goal in these next two years, and then turn its attention beyond the tuition scholarship to the whole cost of postsecondary attendance,” Abbott said.

Anthony Richardson, executive director of the Nord Family Foundation in Amherst, will succeed Abbott as the Gund Foundation's president in January.

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