YONKERS, N.Y. More Yonkers students are attending college than ever before, and many say a nonprofit group deserves some of the credit.
Community leaders, politicians and donors Thursday evening celebrated the work of Yonkers Partners in Education, a nonprofit that aims to help city students prepare for college by offering a variety of programs.
Hundreds of guests attended YPIEs fifth annual gala, a two-and-a-half-hour fundraiser and community event inside a luxury tent atop the Cross County Shopping Center.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, who was the honored guest, praised the group. Successful individual who are part of our city are here giving their time, making a difference and making a difference for our kids, he said.
As guests bid in a silent auction and snacked on gourmet dishes, several city school graduates shared their experiences with YPIE in a taped broadcast.
Yonkers High School graduate Nicholas Demoro said he might never have had the chance to attend Brown University without the help of the organization. There are always students that excel and want to succeed, the Ivy-league freshman said. And YPIE is going to help us.
Created five years ago by a group of businessmen and women, parents and community leaders, YPIE vowed to provide every child with an opportunity to attend college.
They created free SAT tutoring as well as several college and career centers, placing advisers in seven of the nine district high schools.
In 2011, more than 17,000 Yonkers students made visits to those centers, YPIE officials said. In addition, the SAT program tutored more than 300 students and raised average scores by 218 points, YPIE says.
The number of Yonkers students who applied to college increased by 11 percent in 2011 and graduates were awarded more than $50 million in college scholarships, nearly four times the amount given five years ago.
YPIE gained national attention this year when it was nominated for a CLASSY award , part of the largest philanthropic awards ceremony in the country.
We have a long way to go we have no illusions about that, said David Westin, chairman of the YPIE Board of Executive Directors. But we have come very far.
School administrators said they couldnt be happier.
The last five years they have really given a positive boost to the school district in areas we could not afford to cultivate, Superintendent of Schools Bernard Pierorazio said.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.