She said yes to success: Leean Andino is the first-ever Say Yes scholarship recipient to graduate from college since the advent of the Say Yes to Education program two years ago in Cleveland. Andino graduated from Cleveland State University on May 15, 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and she did it in just two years.
She was recently admitted to CSU’s master’s program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, which she will begin this fall semester—and she just learned that she has been hired as a graduate assistant at CSU’s Center for Student Involvement.
The Say Yes to Education Cleveland program launched in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) in 2019 and is the fourth U.S. city to offer the program. The initiative provides full tuition scholarships at Ohio’s public universities and colleges for all students who are City of Cleveland residents. For students interested in living on campus, Parker Hannifin partnered with CSU and Say Yes to provide two years of free on-campus housing at CSU for CMSD graduating seniors.
“I was a high school sophomore and we had an assembly where the Say Yes program was announced. I started to cry, because I knew that this program would allow me to rise above the financial barriers of college tuition and enable me to earn my college degree, without graduating with a ton of debt. This program has opened doors of opportunity for me and so many of my peers, who otherwise would have had a difficult time going to college,” Leean said.
Along with the Say Yes program, Leean emphasized that she wouldn’t have been able to achieve her goals without the lifelong encouragement of her family and friends, especially her parents, Glenda and Juan Andino, sister Yareida and grandmother, Ana Rivera.
“My mom, dad, sister and grandmother have always been and continue to be my biggest supporters, and they’ve always encouraged me to keep going, especially during tough days. My grandmother lives in Puerto Rico and travels to Cleveland for all the milestones and events involving me and my sister. Whether they are big or small moments, she never misses anything and is here to celebrate with us.”
The Say Yes program enabled Leean to begin taking college courses at the start of 10th grade, and she finished high school with an associate degree from Tri-C and several CSU credits by the time she graduated from high school.
When asked if she encountered challenges or stress while taking college courses during high school, she shared that there were “definitely times that I felt overwhelmed, but I have a strong support system that helped me step back and regroup in order to keep moving forward.”
Staying connected to high school friends and activities also helped. “It’s tough sometimes to strike that perfect balance, but also necessary to maintain emotional and mental health. That’s something that I learned while taking college classes in high school. I was involved in other activities aside from coursework and participated in high school clubs and activities, including the Anti-Bully program and Mock Trial Club,” she added.
When not working or studying, Leean tries to maintain a strong life balance by spending time with her family and pursuing her hobbies of drawing and painting. She is the youth pastor at her church, Iglesia Casa De Dios Puerta Del Cielo in Cleveland.
Andino said that she chose CSU because she did her research and knew that CSU had an excellent psychology program, and because she preferred to commute from home rather than live on campus.
“CSU has excellent psychology and counseling programs, including advanced degrees. And I also know that I made the right choice because I feel very supported here. I’ve been working on overcoming my shyness and I couldn’t have done that without the guidance and support of faculty and staff at CSU—and especially, my Say Yes mentor, Ann Gynn.”.
To help support students in navigating through their first years at college, the Say Yes program pairs each student with a mentor to guide them through their journey. Ann Gynn, owner of GForce Communications, was assigned to Andino.
“I am so excited to begin my master’s journey at CSU.I am so grateful for my parents, grandmother, family, friends, Ann Gynn, and all the faculty and staff who have supported me along the way—at both Tri-C and at CSU. Achieving my college degree and going for my master’s is like a dream come true, and I couldn’t have done it without them.