March 12, 2021
Dear Parents,
Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa
We know families across New York State are struggling with the innumerable challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all aspects of our lives have been affected, including our routines, family, work, school, activities, and more. After more than a year since the pandemic began, the need for additional support to help New Yorkers navigate the pandemic continues. Fortunately, assistance is available, from resources to help families manage emotional stress to guidance to help students apply to college. I would like to make you aware of some supports that might be valuable to you and your family.

No one should have to choose between surviving a pandemic and applying to college, but college enrollments are trending downward among first-time, first-generation college students from low-income households and underrepresented backgrounds. In order to offer extra support to students to submit their college applications this year, the State University of New York (SUNY) launched the 'Big Dreams, Small Step' campaign. This new campaign builds on the 'SUNY For All' initiative, which aims to broaden access to the country's largest system of public higher education for learners at every stage of life.

A college degree can offer boundless opportunities for students and improve career success. SUNY’s campaign provides additional support, resources, and guidance to help students navigate the admissions process this year. Support options include:

  • Designated Application Weeks featuring individual appointments and personal support on the SUNY application (including assistance on how to apply to SUNY's Educational Opportunity Program). The first of these is next week, March 15-19.
  • Application fee waivers for eligible students, potentially adding up to $350 in savings when applying to multiple schools
  • SUNY's 'personalized support service' expansion to help applicants complete an application fee waiver and secure the endorsement of their high school counselor remotely
  • Enhanced 'College Advisor of the Day' programming, where high school students can book a focused, one-on-one conversation about SUNY's offerings and the application process
  • Immediate, easy-to-follow guidance on applying to SUNY and where to get help

If you have a child applying to college this year, please visit the SUNY website to access these additional supports.

Emotional support is also available if you are feeling stressed, isolated, scared, anxious, sad, or angry during this trying time. Trained crisis counselors are available at the NY Project Hope COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline to provide a listening ear, information, and referrals to a vast array of community resources. The helpline is open 7 days a week from 8 AM to 10 PM.

To meet increased need, NY Project Hope has expanded its crisis counseling program in 12 counties that have been highly impacted by COVID-19, including Dutchess, Erie, Nassau, NYC (all boroughs), Orange, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester. NY Project Hope has contracted with several local agencies in these 12 counties that will now provide COVID-19 related crisis counseling in their respective communities. By expanding the NY Project Hope crisis counseling program in these areas, more New York residents will be able to receive the emotional support they need, along with local resources and referrals from trained crisis counselors who know their community.

Finally, I would like to share the good news that NYSED recently honored three schools as New York State Green Ribbon Schools. These schools are New York’s nominees for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program distinction. The award recognizes schools that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education. This year’s honorees are the Magnet School for Environmental Studies and Community Wellness (PS90) in Brooklyn, Scarsdale Middle School in Scarsdale, and New Roots Charter School in Ithaca.

To be honored here in New York and nominated for this prestigious national award is truly an outstanding achievement and I congratulate staff, students, and school boards for their commitment to creating sustainable and healthy school communities. It is inspiring that these students are committed to creating a cleaner, greener environment, and they are positioned to be our future environmental and clean energy leaders.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support and for your dedicated involvement in your children’s education.


Betty A. Rosa