If you go to one of your favorite watering holes on Saturday, Jan. 22, to watch the Syracuse University Orange men’s basketball squad take on Villanova, you can do more than a raise a glass in support of your home team. You can also bring your cell phone and send a text message donation to a cause that is becoming as much identified with the city of Syracuse as Jim Boeheim’s high flying men’s basketball squad.
The cause is Say Yes to Education, the program that promises every graduate from the Syracuse City Schools both a college scholarship and the academic and social supports they need to graduate high school. Syracuse is the only city in the country to have such a program available districtwide.
According to Rachel Gazdick, who directs Say Yes operations at SU, “Say Yes at the Dome” day is the biggest community outreach that the program has done to date. “This is a way to engage the entire city,” said Gazdick. “There is no better venue than the Carrier Dome to raise awareness about Say Yes.”
“Everyone in the crowd will be able to give $10 by texting the word “COLLEGE” to ‘27722’,” she added. “The money will go directly to Say Yes Syracuse.” Those donations will be matched by the CNY Community Foundation and the Say Yes Foundation, up to $2 million.
In addition, special T- shirts will be sold that day with the slogan “Because every kid deserves to watch a game from the student section.” All proceeds from the $10 shirt will also benefit Say Yes. If you can’t be one of the 30,000-plus to watch the Orange take on the Wildcats live at the Dome, you can belly up to the bar at any one of the following establishments, and make your donation on your cell phone.
Al’s Wine & Whiskey Lounge, 321 S. Clinton St.; Faegan’s Cafe Pub, 734 S. Crouse Ave.; University Sheraton, 801 University Ave.; Mulrooney’s, 239 W. Fayette St.; Empire Brewing Co., 120 Walton St.; Syracuse Suds Factory, 320 S. Clinton St.; PJ’s Pub & Grill, 116 Walton St.; CiCi’s Pizza, 3237 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt; Kitty Hoynes, 300 W. Fayette St.; Blue Tusk, 165 Walton St.; J. Ryan’s, 253 E. Water St.; Swallows, 1914 South Ave.; Rosie’s, 1443 W. Genesee St.; Blarney Stone, 314 Avery Ave.; Coleman’s, 100 S. Lowell Ave.; Laci’s Tapas Bar, 304 Hawley Ave.; Prime Restaurant, 103 E. Water St.; Gio’s Tavern, 207 Walton St.; Gentile’s, 305 Burnet Ave.; 1060 Restaurant at the Genesee Grand Hotel, 1060 E. Genesee St. Game-watching parties will also be held at a number of businesses and community organizations, including Greater Evangelical Church of God in Christ, 4325 S. Salina St.; Elmwood Elementary School, 1728 South Ave.; Boys and Girls Clubs at 2100 E. Fayette St., 201 Hamilton St., 201 Shonnard St., and 212 Van Buren St.; Westcott Community Center, 826 Euclid Ave.; Southwest Community Center, 401 South Ave.; Starbucks, 177 Marshall St.; and Barnes & Noble, 3454 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt.
Since this game is being nationally televised, Syracuse can piggyback on the drinking reputation Mayor Stephanie Miner helped create for us during her memorable Pinstripe Bowl video appearance atop a mound of snow. In that webcast, in which she announced her ultimately successful bet with Bruce Snead, the mayor of Manhattan, Kan., Miner told the world that besides snow removal, two of the things Syracuse does best are food and beer.
On Saturday, the mayor will make a special announcement about Say Yes, making a point to the world that in addition to shoveling snow and swilling brew, Syracusans are dedicated to quality education. No word yet on what the special announcement will entail, but Say Yes founder George Weiss will be among the dignitaries on hand.
Syracuse is the only city in the nation with a districtwide Say Yes program. Say Yes promises each child in the city school system a college scholarship when they graduate high school and the support services needed to help them graduate.
As it happens, Say Yes and NCAA basketball are being linked in another way this season. Pat Driscoll, who has served as the commissioner of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth Programs since 2002, is leaving that job in mid-March. He will become the operating director for the Say Yes team. Driscoll is also a referee for Division I NCAA men’s basketball, a part-time job he’s held for a dozen years. He hopes to continue officiating games as his time allows.
“Part of my motivation,” said Driscoll, “is that I have three kids in the city schools. The beauty of Say Yes is its ability to bring together community organizations, Syracuse University, city government and the school district to make services available so kids can take advantage of them.
“I guess you could say,” the affable Driscoll added, “that I’ve gulped a big gulp of the Say Yes Kool-Aid. This is something that we need to celebrate. We need to recognize the students who have been successful because of this program.” Driscoll also sees the economic development potential of Say Yes, which also seeks to draw people back into the city with the promise of a quality education and free college.
Whatever you’re drinking on Jan. 22, remember to tip well, and text those $10 to Say Yes. It will be money well spent.
Newly named Say Yes to Education operations director Pat Driscoll: “We need to recognize the students who have been successful because of this program.”