Vinh Ho always knew he was going to college. Even though English wasn't his first language, even though his mom has only a grade-school education, and even though he grew up in a city where 51 percent of teenagers drop out of high school, Ho worked hard enough and was smart enough to earn a place at the University at Pennsylvania.
His hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., wants to instill that kind of academic ambition in every student. That's no easy task for the faded industrial city, in which more inner-city kids drop out of high school than make it to college graduation. But since 2008, a citywide collaboration called Say Yes Syracuse has promised full-tuition college scholarships to every graduate of the Syracuse City School District, and has ramped up support services for students starting in kindergarten.