Former Student Returned to Share Her Advice

The featured student graduation address this week comes from Briana Johnson, a 2016 graduate of Simon Youth Academy at Westminster Mall, who returned to her Alma mater to give an encouraging message to the Academy at Westminster Mall’s 2017 graduating class.

It is a true testament to the work that the Academies do when former students are able to give back and share their wisdom with new graduates.

Since her graduation, Briana has attended Cerritos College to pursue a degree in Nursing.

Briana’s graduation address:

Good evening fellow graduates, Principal Curiel, Mr. Villamor, Trustee Ms. Iverson, Dr. Bryan, Dr. Durnil, honored guests, family and friends. Thank you for being here tonight to honor these graduates, and congratulations to the Class of 2017. You did it, with determination.

Last June, I was sitting here just like all of you graduates. Anxious, with my cap and gown on, wondering what life had in store for me when I finally held that diploma in my hand. The teachers and staff of Simon Youth Coast High School Academy helped me realize that I had more potential than I knew.

 

In fall 2015, I finished my high school credits. However, I saw an open opportunity to strive to become the most successful person I could be. Shortly after finishing my credits the Coast High School Academy, I enrolled at Cerritos College a few months later. College was challenging and a huge step for me considering I was the first to graduate high school, let alone go to college, in my family. I can now say that I am one step closer to becoming a physician. I can now say I am one step closer to making an impact in our community. Along the way, there have been trials and tribulations, but I’ve managed to always take the good with the bad and I think we have all done that.

I know pursing your careers in times that are troubled is a challenge, but it is also a privilege because it’s moments like these that force us to try harder, to dig deeper, and to discover gifts we never knew we had and to find the greatness that lies within each of us. So don’t ever shy away from that endeavor and don’t stop adding to your body of work. I can promise that you will be the better for that continued effort.

Whether it is your dream to further pursue college or not, just remember: this is another milestone that you have created for yourself.

Since entering college, I’ve managed to learn what it is like to be an adult. There are nights where I just feel like falling asleep after studying for back-to-back finals, or days where I just felt like not going to school at all; I have felt this struggle, and you will too. Hard work will pay off, though. You can ask anyone, like your professors standing up here, dentists, doctors, the architects who helped design this mall, entrepreneurs. You will persevere and strive with excellence along the way!

Just remember, if you ever feel overwhelmed, which we all have at one point, don’t be afraid to seek help, whether it’s from a family member, friends, colleagues, teachers or counselors.

I also want to give a huge thank you to the Simon Youth Foundation, as I was one of the three recipients last year of their generous scholarship. They believed in my potential every step of the way.

So I want to end with this quote, as it has been an inspiration and kept me motivated for some time now.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It literally means a journey that will take you a thousand miles away from where you started.”

So, take that first step this evening, with your diploma in your hand, and create endless opportunities for yourself. The future is waiting for you with open arms. I wish you good luck and great success. Thank you all very much.

Navigating High School As an Anxious Teen

This week’s featured graduation address comes from Hailey Warhol, a 2017 graduate of Simon Youth Academy at Northgate Mall.

Hailey is the recipient of a two-year scholarship, valued at $8,000.

 

She will attend North Seattle Community College in the fall, studying Art, Music and Drama Education.

 

We wish Hailey all the best in her future endeavors.

 

Hailey’s Graduation Address:

 My name is Hailey Warhol and I have been asked to share my story with you all today, which is something I don’t usually have a problem with. I mean, if you ask me on any random day, I will gladly recount my entire life story in great detail. But, I’ve found that there’s something about sitting and writing it all down that makes me feel like I have to do it justice and tell it right… so I am going to take a shot at this.

Our struggles do not define us, they are only a part of our narrative. What I will be sharing today is only one chapter of my story.

In the seventh grade, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a panic disorder, depression and ADHD. That was one of the best days of my life. After years of telling people that I was hurting someone finally told me “I hear you, I know what’s wrong.” After being diagnosed and thinking back, I have never known a life without anxiety. One of my biggest fears was losing my parents, which made it hard to be away from my mother. I also developed a type of social phobia, where even the thought of school would induce a panic attack.

Halfway through my freshman year at Ingraham, I was withdrawn from all but two classes; the rest I took online. Thinking back, my high school experience before Middle College ended when a teacher I admired asked me what I was going to do when my parents died, which I had just confessed as one of my biggest fears. It was at this point that I fell into darkness. I stopped going to school entirely and shut myself away from the real world. I couldn’t do it any longer. I was tired of pretending that I was okay.

The darkness was a period of my life that lasted two years, where I didn’t leave my house. I lost contact with my friends, I stayed home, I watched TV, sorted little plastic beads and played with my cats. For about two years, that was my life.

I would like to take a moment to thank my mother; the bravest woman I know. Without her I probably would have dropped out of high school. She took on my battles when I could not fight for myself. My mother spent years fighting with schools and the district, searching for accommodations, making sure I was not forgotten. She has never given up. When I felt like people were upset or disappointed in me she’d say “They wouldn’t blame you if you had cancer.” She fought to get me what I needed so that I could succeed. She is the reason I am here today.

I don’t remember much from when I started at Middle College but what I’ve heard is that Courtney spoke with my mother on the phone for almost two hours discovering that MCHS would be my next chapter.

I started in the Home Study Program meeting once a week with a counselor named Geri Parker. We worked on classes at my pace, taking breaks to talk about our favorite shows and shared passions. With the help of Geri and Courtney I discovered that I was good at math, despite it always being my worst subject. Slowly but surely, we increased our time and began venturing out of her back office and into the classrooms.

Now you may ask “What changed? What happened,” and you know what to be honest I don’t know. One day something just clicked. I wanted to be with real people and I wanted a real life. I was done living in my imagination. My desire for friendships, relationships and life was stronger than any of my fears or worries.

That year I made the transition from Home Study to full time Direct Instruction. I joined the Japan and Leadership clubs. I met and got to know amazing people some of whom would turn out to be family. I founded the club Current Events. I represented our school by attending the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. In the last month of school, I was in charge of the first yearbook the school had in over ten years. This year, I served as President of the Leadership club and head of the Prom Committee.

I often talk about my old life like it was a past one, and in a way it was, because that Hailey, she’s gone. She is a part of me but I am not her. Climbing up from the darkness, I was able to pick up the pieces that I had once loved and put them together into who I am today. I would not be that person if it were not for Middle College High School and the people who love and support it.

Earlier I said I have never known a life without anxiety, but I feel something changing. While I will always struggle with it for the first time in my life, I feel that I am more than my worries.

Congratulations to the class of two thousand and seventeen. We did it!

 

Be Phenomenal, or Be Forgotten

Ruth Sarai Pumarejo with her mom, Monica, having fun in SYF’s photo booth at graduation.

Our featured student graduation address of the week is  from Ruth Sarai Pumarejo from Simon Youth Peabody Learning Academy at Northshore Mall in Peabody, MA.

She narrates her journey through high school, which ultimately led her to where she is today. We are excited where the next phase of her journey takes us!

Ruth received a four-year scholarship valued at $32,000. She will attend Endicott College in the fall, studying Business.

Ruth’s graduation address:

There is one major difference between average people and achieving people: their perception of and response to failure. Good morning, class of 2017. Before I begin, I would like to welcome my family, friends, teachers and those of you who have travelled a long way to be here today. You are special to me and have played a significant part in my life and in my academic journey. When my alarm clock went off this morning, a smile spread across my face and I thought, “Yes! This is it! Today I am graduating!” It’s funny because I use to think I’d be stuck in high school forever, but to my surprise, these last four years have gone by all too fast. Each year had its own ups and downs, its failures with its successes, the embarrassing moments, the coming of age moments, and the ones that made me, me. The next few minutes will be comprised of highly personal anecdotes I now plan to take full advantage of.

When we were five, our teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grow up. We answered with things like astronaut, president, or in my case, the Little Mermaid. When we were ten, they asked us again, to which we answered- actress, cowboy, or in my case, a writer. But now that we’ve grown up, our elders want a serious answer. How about this- “who cares and who knows!” This is not the time to make hard and fast decisions. This is the time to make mistakes, travel the world, fall in love and marry. You have the ability to change your mind and change it again because nothing’s permanent. So make as many mistakes as you can so that way someday when they ask us what we want to be we won’t have to guess, we’ll know.

Now to those of my classmates and teachers who have told me that I am the most “positive” person at the school… today I want to take a moment to tell you the part of my story that I oftentimes omit and shy away from when I am talking to friends and those that I meet. Before the PLA, I was an introverted girl who didn’t believe in herself. I was not sure how to live in the moment. And when you worry about tomorrow, it can be very difficult to live in the today. When I began my journey at traditional high school, I quickly realized that the environment was too big, and I simply could not find a place to fit in. Transitioning to high school life was not an easy task for me, and for many. It’s ironic, because the space is so big and people are bustling everywhere, but I still felt lonely.

But if only I could have had a glimpse of what my future was going to look like fast-forwarding 5 years, I then would have never imagined life to be as bright and beautiful as it is today. The life that I live now is unlike anything I envisioned God had stored for me. A future immersed with visiting foreign countries, developing new relationships and embracing the faith I practice today. For a while, my road was very bumpy and I had difficulty seeing when the road would clear up. But like I tell everyone, anything good takes time. And it is no question that one must go through rough patches in order to achieve great things.

Towards the end of my freshman year of high school, a miracle came. I met a tall man with a shiny, bald head who offered me an opportunity to recover the high school credits I needed due to my numerous absences. Of course, I was skeptical. Would I succeed at the PLA? What would happen once I recovered my classes? Would they send me back to the high school? Sure, I had my doubts, but don’t we all? The good thing is, I was able to connect with this human being right away because I was able to understand that he only wants the best for all of his students. After thinking about his offer, I consulted with my mom and told her that I wanted to give it a try. I wanted to see what would happen if I gave my best to succeed in school because I wanted to be someone one day. So like that, I waved goodbye to yesterday. And this here was the first lesson I learned and one I hope you’ll take home with you today. The lesson is that you create your own opportunities.

I’m amazed at the wonderful things that can happen when you have enough courage to lose sight of the shore. You can discover new oceans, and like the butterfly effect, my whole life changed because of that one decision. You know what they say about change- change yourself, and the world changes. After this, I found myself succeeding in many areas. My grades skyrocketed, I made new friends; I even started my own business. Essentially, I became the young woman that I had originally aspired so hard to be and gratefully am today.

At this moment, I will share my experience of what it was really like to enroll at the Peabody Learning Academy. From the first few days, I quickly learned that at PLA, we recognize that everyone learns differently. Some people learn best when there is a teacher giving a lecture at the front of the classroom, others prefer taking online courses or listening to audios. What fascinates me the most is that all associates at PLA respect each other and understand that everyone is different and that that it is okay to different. Here I was able to complete my high school credits in a shorter time span. By the end of April, I could come in and draw, or watch movies because I had finished my classes. There is no exact method of learning; everyone is different, and Simon Youth Foundation is starting a revolution around America by opening up more and more alternative high schools for the youth of today. Here, I learned more algebra than I ever would have anywhere else because the teaching is highly personalized. The best part is, I actually enjoyed it. Thank you Mr. Tanglis, for making that possible. Not every teacher is as patient as you and Ms. Murray are. Of the other things, I learned how to efficiently manage my time. In my opinion, my experience here was very much like college. I had to take my own notes and do my own research for the online classes; it was a very self-starting experience. Coming to PLA had its other perks too. For example, my peers and I would regularly go for a Starbucks run on the second floor of Northshore Mall after school. Those are the perks you can only have when your school is in a mall.

Next, I will summarize my four-year journey. Freshman year was the longest of them all. The puzzle of entering high school was presented before us. Most of us were nervous, anxious or scared. We became more concerned with what we wore and who we hung out with and less concerned with Polly Pockets and Pokémon cards. Like many of my classmates, I left the high school by choice in the spring of that year. Sophomore year was a blur. You are still an underclassmen so there is nothing new occurring and you just want time to pass by. So if you are like me, you try working at a home department store and hope that the time flies by. Thus, we coasted through sophomore year and soon, junior year came. We started exploring careers with Soren Balea, PLA’s career advisor. Some people found prom dates while others travelled overseas during school breaks to explore the vast and multi-cultural world we live in. Senior year came alas. Now, I’m not going to paint a shiny picture for you. That fall was a stressful period. New doubts had resurfaced. Our heads were filled with questions like “Is my GPA high enough? When are the deadlines for the SAT’s? Do I have enough activities in my high-school transcript?” Then, the three month college search began. I looked for colleges everywhere- from San-Francisco to London to Florida- everywhere except for home. Juniors and sophomores: do yourself the favor of not stressing out over college. I promise you that in the end, it will all fall into place for the very best. To my huge surprise, I ended up staying home, because well, home is really where the heart is, and also, where Endicott College is. There I will begin yet another journey and study what I love most: business, psychology and continuing, law. I learned this lesson the hard way, and it is that you don’t have to swing hard to hit a homerun, if you have the timing, it will go.

It turned out that the tall man with the shiny, bald head was and is none other than the director of the PLA. I’ll release the identity of the man because everyone here needs to know his name, Mr. Seith Bedard. Thank you for being the best teacher God could have ever given me. You are extraordinary and what you do every day for us is beyond words. The second to last week of school, my family and I drove into Boston and as I watched the city move beside me in pictures, I thought about Mr. B. All of a sudden, tears roll down my cheeks like an avalanche and I started crying like a newborn infant. I couldn’t believe that soon enough, I would be leaving the school that for as long as I can remember, had encouraged me to reach higher and to give my best. Mr. Bedard taught me many things that I will always value. He supported me in every academic decision I made and I cannot describe the sad, and overwhelming feelings I had as both my mother and I cried. The tears would just come out and they would not stop. I could not imagine what college was going to be like without Mr. B always guiding me on the sidelines. But sometimes, you have to let go because our planet is huge and there is even more opportunity that is waiting for us to discover. So we have no choice but to continue forth on our own paths and to keep to learning as much as we can.

Mr. Bedard, Mr. Tanglis, and Ms. Murray: I would be here all day just talking about you. Helpful, endlessly supporting, caring, funny, are some of the words that come to mind to describe some of the greatest people I’ve honestly ever met. You are quite unique. You have been here with me the whole way and I am so sad to have to let you go. But I am not saying goodbye. I’m saying I will see you all soon. Every now and then, I promise to visit and bring the three of you iced coffee and bagels, because that is how much I love you all. I have the highest respects to them, for they taught me how to see differently. You see, a good teacher explains, a great teacher inspires. Together they took my hand, opened my mind, and touched my heart, leaving me feeling all the more encouraged to go out and pursue my biggest dreams. A special thanks to Jess, for always listening to me and reminding me that we are all human beings and it is in fact okay to cry sometimes, as long as we always get up and get going.

Class of 2017, where are you? Make some noise!

I am weirdly going to miss all of the times that I had to ask Mr. T and Ms. Murray to turn the heat up because the weather at the PLA was very, very cold. Oftentimes, I’d come into school like an actual Eskimo, with a huge puffer coat, ear-muffs, gloves and a scarf. Families and friends, the entire PLA student body sitting around you can serve as testimonies to this. I will miss the funny, yet bright conversations between Ms. Murray and I, I will miss watching Netflix’s Life series with my classmates and laughing at the flying fish. Because there are fish that fly. Or more so, glide as I learned and there are monkeys that can crack gigantic tree nuts. I will miss eavesdropping on the one on one conversations about black holes in space and Carl Sagan between Mr. T and Luciano because, if you know me well, you know of I love space science. Mr. B’s HD military style lectures, the cloudy days and the warm days. I will miss the silence everyone would make in the lunchroom because someone had done or said something too loud, or broken a rule. I will miss the flexibility between my classes, I am going to miss it all so much. But I am going to miss you the most, my brave and hardworking class of 2017.

Of the many I have to thank, my mother is certainly at the very top. Monica Weinstein, I would like to thank you for all the times you went out of your way in my cause. I will always be indebted to you. Thank you for raising me to be the young woman I am now. You taught me to be headstrong, independent, faithful, and to have compassion for others. You are the purest love I will ever know. Mama, you are the motor to my dreams and one of the biggest reasons they proceed in full scale. No matter where I go, I will always remember to take you with me. You are beautiful as can be. Noor. (In Arabic that means light). When I could not sleep at night, afraid that things would not turn out right, you were there to hold me and sing to me.

Rony, you have been the greatest father I have come to know. For all these years, you drove me to school and everywhere else I needed to go. When I look back, you were always there. You are as constant as the sunrise, the moon and the stars; I can always count on you.

My parents are truly an excellent bunch. For 13 years, they have fed me delicious food from Gallo Nero, crusty pizza from Plum Tomatoes on midweek days just because and Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Chai. You are amazing, but not just amazing for these worldly reasons, you are amazing because you have shown me undying love in every down point in my life and for showing me right from wrong. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.

Thank you to God. You have helped me find myself through the years and taught me how to breathe, and how to have ultimate faith in only you, the greatest. Thank you for teaching me to see with my heart, because you cannot see some of the best things in life, you can only feel them. Without God nothing is possible.

So now it is time to say goodbye to high school, and say hello to the future.

As I graduate today, I see this as a huge accomplishment, but I want to see more of my underclassmen up on here as well.

Whatever you do, (underclassmen) try to make the most of your time. It is so precious, and once you spend it, it will not ever come back. Strive to be the best versions of yourselves. Fly through the turbulence, and live life because you are a warrior. Remember that it is not about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It is about how much you can take, and keep moving forward. If you know what you are worth then go out and get what you are worth, but you have to be willing to take the hits. Fail forward like me, be a dream chaser and chase your dreams.

Thank you to my cousin Jabriela. You are also noor. I feel so happy knowing I can endow my life to you. That is not something you can say to everyone. You are my sister in faith, and in every other way.

A hug and thanks to the beautiful and hilarious Angelica Luna. You were my friend when I really needed one and ever since then all I see in you is light. I can always share an interesting yet good laugh with you. God bless you on whatever path you take.

I would like to shower upon everyone here a final note of gratitude and thanks for supporting me.

Today I feel immensely determined and empowered to live my life to the absolutely fullest. But I would not feel that way if it were not for all the love and help you have mercifully shown. The only thing left to say now is congratulations to the Peabody Learning Academy class of 2017 and to those who helped us get here. Think of it this way: the world we live in is plagued with dangers: Zika virus, global warming and facial acne. But despite all the odds, we still managed to graduate. So let’s give each other a big round of applause, because we did it!

Be phenomenal, or be forgotten.

The Bigger the Obstacle, the Bigger the Future

Nacole C. with members of Simon Youth Academy at Chester I. Lewis and Simon Youth Foundation.

Nacole’s story tells of her consistency, perseverance and determination, which has inspired all of us at SYF.

Nacole received one of four Simon Youth Foundation Best of the Best scholarships awarded this year. She was awarded a total of $40,000, over four years, to continue her studies at Wichita State University (Wichita, KS).

Nacole plans to study Psychology.

Nacole’s graduation address:

The beginning can be summed up by being in state’s custody, repeatedly running away and several attempts to graduate. At 16, I found myself at Job Corps, but was asked to leave after my decision to not follow the rules, so back to the Children’s home I went. I ran away, again, and was arrested two weeks before my 18th birthday. The judge ruling on my case gave me a writing assignment. My task was to convince the court that I should be released from custody. One of my strengths is writing and I was able to convince the judge to release me. I finally had independence.

But, the fear of not being good enough and my math anathema crippled my determination. Eight years later, at 26, I was having my second son and I knew I needed to do two things: make money and go to school. It only took a short time for me to realize that I was not going to get anywhere without my diploma. I would lie in interviews and say that I had my diploma so that I could get jobs in customer service. As a result of this, I was unable to be happy when offered promotions, due to my fear of being found out. Anxiety kicked in, followed by depression; it was a vicious cycle.

I felt like I had wasted so much valuable time. I started really thinking about my future, my children and the importance of education.

My grandmother was the only consistency in my life, but I realized that she would not be around to support me forever; it was time for me to take care of her. She always believed in me. My pastor, mom and Dr. Cindy always believed in me, but I did not believe in myself.

Three years ago, I decided not to let fear be my driving force. I decided that no matter what people said or long it took, I was going to be consistent and graduate.

My intention was to repay my grandma for the sacrifices that she made for my children, my education and me. Unfortunately, she passed away last year, and her death catapulted my determination to finish school; that was all she ever wanted for me.

A year later, I was in my last two high school classes. I was on a roll: honoring my grandma and about to graduate. Then, my 11-year-old son, Hayden, was hit by a car, which left me having to focus on him and school at the same time. I was able to multi-task and finish my classes, whist caring for my temporarily disabled son. I am grateful for all of the lessons that I have learned along the way. I know that my children are proud of me, and encouraged. My counselor, family, teachers and friends are proud of me. I know that my grandma is smiling down on me and probably, playing her tambourine,

I plan on starting an organization to help under privileged youth called, “Actions Speak Louder.” I want people to understand that it takes more than book smarts and words. Sometimes it takes action. I am not discrediting book smarts, though, I just know from experience that you also have to have the ability to relate to another person’s pain.

My son is recovering, my consistency paid off and so did yours. We are all, in a way, recovered from whatever kept us from graduating.

SYF’s Testimonial Thursday – Sage A.,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graduation Speech by Sage A.
2017 Simon Youth Judson Learning Academy at Rolling Oaks Mall

Good evening and welcome family, friends, and most importantly, my fellow graduates of 2017! I am honored to stand before all of you tonight speaking on behalf of my class.  I know everyone here has worked extremely hard in order to be on this stage tonight. With that said, I also know that a lot of us would not be here today if not given the chance by the Judson Learning Academy. You see, JLA is not a school that just anyone can attend; it is a school like no other, a school that thrives from improving the educational opportunities of “at-risk “youth.

You may be asking yourselves what I mean when I say “at-risk youth”. Simply put, we are the example.  At some point in our educational careers, we all fell behind, so much so that without this school most, if not all of us, would not be here today. However, we are defined by the choices we make now, not the mistakes made in the past. We chose to leave that life behind us, in order to come to JLA, and become high school graduates.

Now, don’t get me wrong…that doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park. I still have reoccurring nightmares of all the modules we had to go through, so many paper cuts! But it was all worth it, not only for us now, but for our future. We still have a long road in front of us. Although we are all adults, we are only now able to close the final chapters of our childhood.

We will leave here today excited, proud, and ready to take on the world! To my fellow graduates, I ask each of you to remember how great this feeling is and whenever you come to a fork in the road, just remember this day and what you have accomplished to keep moving forward! So be proud of yourselves and most of all…enjoy the moment that you walk down this stage. I hope that the choices you make going forward reflect the choices you made this year.

To everyone who came out to support us, I hope you are able to enjoy watching us, the “at risk” students, beat the odds and finally receive our diplomas. Each student in this room deserves a pat on the back for hanging in there and defying the odds.

Thank you JLA for having the patience and optimism for a student like me, a former drop out and now father, and giving me the opportunity to come out here on this stage and talk with honor and dignity on behalf of my class as I receive my high school diploma. Allowing me to not only make myself; but my family proud, and for that, I will forever be grateful!

And finally, thank you all for showing us your support and giving me your time. Congratulations once again, class of 2017!

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2017 Masquerade Honors John and Sarah Lechleiter

Long-time Indianapolis civic leaders and philanthropists Sarah and John Lechleiter will be honored at the 16th Masquerade on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Masquerade, a premier date on the Indianapolis’ fall social scene, is the signature fundraising event of Simon Youth Foundation and Pacers Foundation and has raised nearly $11 million for the two organizations since its inception. Both work to ensure youth in need, in Indiana and across the country, are given education and other opportunities to better their lives. The Masquerade has dazzled attendees over the years with top-tier entertainment and high-profile attendees.

The Lechleiters are being recognized for their years of civic activities and other efforts that have strengthened the Indianapolis community.

Currently, Sarah serves on the boards of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  Sarah was a founding member and served as chair for what is now United Way of Central Indiana’s Women United, as well as Women of Tocqueville.  She is a sustaining member of the Children’s Museum Guild, the St. Augustine Guild of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Proctor Club.

Sarah graduated in 1976 with a degree in Sociology and Social Welfare from Edgecliff College, which is now part of Xavier University in Cincinnati.

John Lechleiter has served as chairman of the board of directors of Eli Lilly and Company since January 1, 2009. He retired as Lilly’s president and chief executive officer on December 31, 2016, after 37 years with the company.  He joined Lilly in 1979 as a senior organic chemist in process research and development.  In 2005, he was named Lilly’s president and chief operating officer and joined the board of directors.  He became CEO on April 1, 2008.

John earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Xavier University in 1975 and master’s and doctoral degrees in organic chemistry from Harvard University.  He has received honorary doctorates from Marian University (Indianapolis, Indiana), the University of Indianapolis, the National University of Ireland, Indiana University, Franklin College, and Purdue University.

John is a member of the American Chemical Society. He is chairman of the board of United Way Worldwide and serves as vice chair of the board of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.  He is a member emeritus of the board of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.  John also serves on the boards of Nike, Inc. and Ford Motor Company.

In addition to their individual accomplishments, Sarah and John together chaired the 75th Anniversary Gala for Marian University and have been deeply involved in the United Way of Central Indiana’s efforts to strengthen early childhood education and support families.  The Lechleiters are proud parents of three children and grandparents of six.

“We are deeply gratified that we can honor the Lechleiters for their profound impact on our community,” said Masquerade Co-Chair Cindy Simon Skjodt. “The proceeds of this event go directly to benefit of youth both nationally and here in Indiana and have created opportunities and better lives many times over.”

Last year’s Masquerade honoree was Indiana Pacers Vice President of Communications and Fox Sports Indiana Pacers television analyst Quinn Bucker. Previous honorees include Jim Morris, Larry Bird, Deborah J. Simon, Cindy Simon Skjodt, Tamika Catchings, Rick Fuson, Steve Stitle, Frank Hancock, Jeff Smulyan, the Hulman-George Family, Melvin Simon, Herbert Simon, Reggie Miller, Bobby “Slick” Leonard, Clark Kellogg and Donnie Walsh.

The Masquerade evening will begin with a reception, followed by the dinner, tribute and live music. Special guests will include the entire Indiana Pacers team and basketball staff as well as many of the past Masquerade honorees.

The Masquerade is made possible through the generous support of many local and national sponsors. PNC Bank will return as the event’s title sponsor for the 16th year.

For ticket and sponsorship information, please contact Brandi Young at (317) 263-7694 or byoung@simon.com.

ABOUT SIMON YOUTH FOUNDATION: Simon Youth Foundation, a national nonprofit headquartered in Indianapolis, exists to help at-risk students who are on the verge of dropping out of high school stay in school. Through 30 Simon Youth Academies in 12 states and Simon Youth Scholarships, SYF advocates, creates and initiates educational opportunities for students so they can start here and go anywhere. In partnership with local public schools, SYF has maintained a 90% graduation rate at its Academies since inception, graduated more than 14,000 students, and awarded more than $16 million in scholarships. Learn more at syf.org.

ABOUT PACERS FOUNDATION: Pacers Foundation, Inc., the public charity founded by Pacers Sports & Entertainment, is dedicated to improving the lives of Indiana’s young people by building individual and corporate partnerships that will provide assistance for projects that benefit Indiana’s youth. Since its inception in 1993, Pacers Foundation has awarded more than $6 million in cash and in-kind donations through grants to youth-serving organizations, scholarships and Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever tickets.

SYF Student Takes First Place in Orlando 5K Race, Mall and Academy Team Up for Success

 

Top row: left to right
Chris Spafford (Simon Youth Academy student), Mr. Gerald Allen (OJT teacher), Ajay Bohra (Simon Malls)
Bottom Row:
Sonia Ledger (Lead teacher), Madison Shannabrook (little ducky), Maribel Lebron (Assistant Principal)

Simon Youth Academy at Outlet Marketplace teamed up with Mall partners for the Quack Attack on Poverty 5K race on February 18, 2017.

SYF student Chris Spafford led the way coming in first place in the Juniors age division.

“We had a great time getting some fresh air early in the morning, and our student came in 1st place,” Sonia Ledger, Lead Teacher at the Academy said.

That’s an impressive accomplishment because the Quack Attack on Poverty 5K is a nontraditional race.

Participants must complete the 3.1 miles wearing a duck-shaped pool inflatable around their waists while navigating bubbles, squirt gun and wacky quack zones.

After winning his division, Chris turned around to find his team.

“Chris won first place, then ran back to find us and walked the last 2 kilometers with us,” Ajay Bohra, Assistant General Manager at Orlando International and Outlet Market Place, said.

Bohra said the relationship between SYF students and teachers is unlike other schools.

“How often do you hear of teachers and students running a race together on the weekend? Not often,” he said. “That shows how committed each are to each other.”

That unique relationship is what makes SYF teachers and students so special, Bohra said. “We do what we can to provide support, but the recognition goes to the Academy students and teachers. We see the impact SYF makes in students’ individual lives, and we’re thankful to be a part of it.”

Ledger said she appreciates the amazing support the Academy receives from the Premium Outlets team. “We loved bonding with Ajay from the Outlet Mall team. He’s such a good partner to us.”

Kappa Delta Pi Experiences Unique Learning Environment at Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre

Left to Right: Laura Perkins, Susan Perry, Chris Beaman and Tina Paris of KDP Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership from Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), International Honor Society in Education, visited Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre.

The KDP team experienced firsthand the Academy’s nontraditional learning environment and different look and feel from a traditional high school.

Laura Perkins, KDP Director of Membership & Chapter Services, said, “The architecture is amazing. It really brings the school environment to a whole new level.”

The Academy is located on the third floor of Simon Property Group’s Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis and is designed to make students and teachers feel comfortable.

“Our space is open and flexible with bright colors that inspires student learning,” Michael Durnil, President and CEO of Simon Youth Foundation, said. “When you walk into our schools, it looks more like a modern office space than a traditional school.”

Durnil explained that everything in the classrooms are modular. “The walls, desks, and chairs are all on casters so teachers can move the furniture and use the environment in different ways,” he said.

KDP Director of Marketing & Communications Chris Beaman observed how the environment affected student and teacher interaction.

“I love seeing the students working with the teachers,” Beaman said. “It’s really encouraging to see the smiles and general happiness of the students and teachers at the Academy,” he said.

The SYF model meets KDP’s mission of “advancing quality education by inspiring teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges.”

“We let the educators educate,” Durnil said. “We support them with professional development opportunities like KDP, and then we get out of the way.”

The Foundation provides complimentary KDP membership to all SYF Academy teachers, making the SYF Affiliate chapter KDP’s largest at more than 200 members.

 

SYF scholarship recipient postpones higher ed for year of service in Senegal

Below is a slideshow of images from Brandon Callegari’s year of service in Senegal

 

 

When Brandon Callegari asked to defer his Simon Youth Foundation scholarship, he had a great reason. Callegari chose to spend a year serving others in Senegal.

As part of Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program, the SYF Award of Excellence scholarship recipient traveled abroad after graduation.

Staying with a host family, Callegari is immersed in the culture. He describes his time in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, as “absolutely beautiful, with amazing sunsets and lots of sand.”

Callegari said he feels welcomed by his host family and the people of Senegal. “The people here have so much kindness and hospitality,” Callegari said. “People go out of their way to help you here…helping you carry a heavy bag or helping you learn the local language.”

In addition to learning Wolof, the local language, Callegari is teaching children English through a program with the national YMCA Senegal.

SYF is proud to support Callegari during his bridge year and eager to follow his story.

SYF Scholarship Recipient Does Not Give Up

In 2015, Cherise Sheffner graduated from Coast High School in California and received a scholarship from Simon Youth Foundation.

Sheffner chose to enroll in a community college to pursue an associate degree, as she was diagnosed with a rare disease that made it difficult for her to go far from home and commit to more than a two-year program.

Earning a 3.7 GPA, Sheffner will graduate this May with an Associate Degree in Psychology from Orange Coast College.

It hasn’t been easy, but Sheffner persists. “It has been a hard couple of years,” she said. “The health troubles that I faced in high school came back. However, that has not let me give up.”

SYF’s scholarship extension opportunities enables Sheffner to apply for additional scholarship money to fund future years at a four-year institution.

Sheffner thanks Michael Durnil, SYF President and CEO, for encouraging her when she was in high school. “Your support gave me more motivation to not give up on my higher education,” she said of Durnil.

SYF congratulates Sheffner on her accomplishments and perseverance.

The Season of Giving

The following guest post was written by Brandi Young, SYF’s Vice President of Advancement.

It is my favorite times of year! I love the decorations, the atmosphere, and I love hearing all my favorite holiday tunes. One of my favorite holiday carols is “Silver Bells” by Bing Crosby.

To steal from the lyrics, when you step into a Simon mall, the holidays are definitely in the air. The malls are dressed in their own holiday style, folks passing each other from store to store, meeting smile after smile, children laughing around the holiday train and jolly St. Nick.

Even through all the bustle, Simon Malls, Premium Outlets, and The Mills, find ways to support Simon Youth Foundation. While purchasing your Simon GiftCards or other gift cards available at Simon Guest Services, you can make a donation, or make a holiday wish by dropping your extra change into a wishing well or fountain. Or, if your Simon Mall is home to holiday valet provided by Ameripark, proceeds from the valet benefit Simon Youth Foundation.

The malls’ support reaches beyond SYF too. Many malls host gift wrapping stations by partnering with local charities. So before you rush home with your treasures, find the gift wrap station and not only support SYF, but a hometown charity.

December is a season of giving. While it’s common these days to get frustrated with the commercializing of the holidays, it’s good to be affiliated with a company in Simon that views the season as a time to be generous and give back to the community.

Wishing you and yours the merriest of holiday seasons!

 

On Remembrance and Thanksgiving

The following guest post was written by, Michael Durnil, President and CEO at SYF.

If you have been a regular reader of the SYF blog, you will have caught on to the fact that each month we have asked a member of the staff to be a contributing writer. I was thrilled this year when I was assigned the month of November.

November has long been the month of the year often associated with remembrance and thanksgiving; driven in part by two very iconic American holidays – Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. And while I could give you several paragraphs about my thoughts for those themes, I am going to use a bit of dramatic license and co-op those themes into how I see them come to life in the workings of Simon Youth Foundation.

Fall is the busiest season for us at SYF. Amid the regular routine of back to school, our annual conference, the coming year’s budget preparation, committee and board meetings, SYF also is the beneficiary of several large scale fundraising events hosted within the Simon Corporation. In fact, the Foundation raises nearly 75% of our operational budget in the last quarter of the year through these events.

Through the generosity of our Simon colleagues, several regional fundraisers are hosted across the country. I am thrilled to report that these are on track to raise over $1.2 million dollars in 2016. In Foundation terms, that represents enough donations to help SYF see a years worth of Simon Youth Academy seniors to graduation day. Additionally, our Simon colleagues participate in our Employee Contribution Campaign which showers our mission with an embarrassment of riches – moneys from our colleagues own pockets that serve as a testament to their belief in the work of our students, teachers and staff across the country. I have the great privilege to represent the Foundation at many of these events. While it is easy to recite the chapter and verse of the statistics that we know about our work, for me it is the ability to tell the story of our students, our partner teachers and the impact that such giving has on all of us.

Telling our stories, remembrance if you will, reminds me of what our work is all about.

As I tell the stories about our students and their great ability to overcome the overwhelming challenges they face, I catch myself letting my mind wander and thinking about the nearly 8500 graduate’s hands I have been so fortunate to shake over the last several years. I try to remember as many of the graduation speeches as I can. Sometimes, I will see faces or have flashes of moments of conversations with a graduate and their family; but what I often remember most is the feeling of joy for them, what they have accomplished and now what possibilities lay ahead for them.

This time of year, too, allows me to acknowledge and celebrate the great thanksgiving for the generosity of all of our donors. While I tell all our donors about the impact of their gift, it is easy for them to see how a donation can impact a single student. What I want our supporters to know is that their donation isn’t just a one-time thing, but rather an investment in the future.

So in this season of remembrance and thanksgiving, I challenge all of us to fully appreciate what cumulative impact our graduates and scholarship recipients have in our communities. While we use our resources to provide programs in the present; the true fact is that we do not know where or how the investments in our students will show dividends in the future. In fact, our donor’s gifts multiply exponentially when they invest in SYF’s students, faculty and staff.

This is SYF’s “butterfly effect”.

Definitely something to remember and be thankful for this season!

Looking Back to Help Students Look Forward

The following guest post was written by Amy Updike, Vice President, Finance and Administration at SYF.

2016 is the State of Indiana’s bicentennial. On June 24, 2016, I had the privilege of attending a bicentennial ceremony honoring one of the 43 delegates to draft and sign the Indiana State Constitution, my 4th great-grandfather William Cotton. Two areas William Cotton was passionate about were (1) freedom for all – slavery should never be allowed in Indiana and (2) the creation of a “general system of education, ascending in regular gradation from township schools to a state university wherein tuition shall be gratis and equally open to all.”

I am proud of my ancestor and proud that he was able to include the most important of his two passions in drafting Indiana’s Constitution in 1816– anti-slavery. As with so many of our Simon Youth Academy students, William began his life in Indiana with very little, and yet he had such a profound impact of the founding of a State that is still going strong 200 years later. When William and his wife first came to Indiana, they lived in a large hollowed out tree while they cleared land to build a cabin. I can only imagine the primitive conditions they encountered. When their son was born, his playmates were the Native American children in the area. William’s secret to success was that he was educated and hardworking.

Students at Simon Youth Academies come from a variety of backgrounds. For one reason or another, they have fallen behind their class in their traditional public schools. However, each school year proves our students, many of whom seriously considered dropping out, have become both educated and hardworking. Since SYF’s founding, our students have achieved a 90% graduation rate. Many of our academy students face daunting health issues, have children of their own, or work support their families. The hard work and perseverance they display in juggling these challenges while studying at an accelerated pace to catch up with their graduating class is truly inspiring. Many of our students also go on to pursue higher education with the financial aid of a Simon Academy Scholarship. One Simon Youth Academy graduate and scholarship recipient is currently a junior studying Pre-Med in college. Nichole has already had a tremendous impact on her family and classmates. Other academy graduates are serving our country in the Armed Forces and still another has been the Mayor of Kirby, Texas.

When I look back with pride for what my ancestor was able to accomplish in the creation of the State of Indiana, I can’t help but look forward and imagine the impact our Simon Youth Academy students will have on their families, friends and the larger community. To learn more about Simon Youth Foundation and our academies and scholarship programs and to donate to help SYF reach even more students, please go to syf.org.

No Bad Kids

Leila Robbins has an insatiable love of learning. Her boundless curiosity has her catapulting between subjects almost faster than her teachers can keep up, and when flipping through a course catalog from a nearby community college, she struggles to decide on just one or two classes to enroll in.

But just a short time ago, Leila was so leila-robbins-rose-tree-mediadisengaged from traditional public school, that the former star student had become one of the 1.2 million students who drop out each year. How did it happen?

“I started believing what I was hearing,” said Leila. “That I really was a bad kid.”

Though Leila excelled in school as a young girl, she began struggling from anxiety in third grade. She begged her parents to let her stay home, or found herself visiting the school nurse, hoping for a reprieve, just for the day. But avoiding school at all costs caused Leila to struggle academically, which only fed the anxiety. As the absences piled up, Leila said she felt even the office staff at her school begin to lose patience. Absences led to detentions, which snowballed into suspensions, and by fifth grade, she was in court for being truant.

In middle school, she began seeing a therapist, but the classroom, once a place of joy and discovery for Leila, continued to trigger her mental and emotional struggles. Finally, her therapist advised her parents to remove Leila from school all together. Relieved to be free from the pressures of traditional school, Leila finally gave up.

“I didn’t make any more plans for my future,” said Leila. “I didn’t plan to have a future.”

But a break in the darkness finally came when a social worker suggested that she look into Simon Youth Academy at Rose Tree Media. Though she was skeptical to return to the the classroom environment, Leila decided to give herself one more chance at a future.

At Rose Tree Media, Leila’s love of learning was reignited. Today, Leila has made up for lost time, and is on track to graduate early. She has already begun taking classes at the Delaware County Community College, and has her sights set on a career in healing. But it’s what she has learned about herself, rather than any school subject, that is the most important lesson of all:

“There are no bad kids,” said Lelia. “Only lost ones.”

Leila, fortunately, is no longer lost, after finding a home at SYF.

SYF Students are Ready for Their Close Up!

Simon Youth Foundation is committed to supporting not only high school graduates, but contributing members of society who will positively impact their communities for years to come. By exposing our students to educational and professional development opportunities both in and outside the classroom, we aim to broaden their horizons and impact their worldview. In 2015, we launched the Simon Youth Academies- Civic Leadership Program (CLP) to present opportunities for students to understand their role in society, an
d better learn how to effect change.1231

One program offered through CLP is Close Up, a non-profit, non-partisan foundation that serves to “inform, inspire and empower young people to understand and embrace the rights and responsibilities of active citizenship.” Close Up’s primary purpose is to complement what the students have learned in a classroom with experiential learning to help the kids understand their government on a deeper, comprehensive level. Since its beginning in 1971, the Close Up Foundation has given over 800,000 students and educators an in-depth look at government and politics.

Participating students spend a week in Washington, DC, experiencing visits to multiple museums and monuments; workshops; lectures; debates; and even a meeting with congressional representatives, all of which are guided by trained professionals who are experts in their fields. Students are encouraged to learn how to form their own, reasoned opinions about government happenings, effectively communicate their viewpoints to others, and have civil discussions with others who might have differing opinions.  As the trip draws to an end, students work together to formulate constructive ideas for a community project, and are encouraged to bring those ideas to life when they return home.

Each Simon Youth Academy can apply to be a part of the program; however, only about 25 spots are available for students. The chosen academies will then select four student leaders to attend with one chaperone that will get to participate in the teacher portion of the program.  Students interested in the program must be in good academic and behavioral standing with his or her Academy. Academies establish their own criteria for selecting students to participate.  Many utilize an application process that may include essays, interviews, leadership skills, and community service.
“A lot of our students come to us feeling disengaged not just from the high school experience, but from their communities as well. Close Up helps teach our students the importance of civic engagement, and empowers them to go home and make a difference in their community,” said SYF Programs Coordinator Kimb Stewart.

In June 2016, 23 students from five Simon Youth Academies participated in Close Up.  Academies selected to participate were Simon Youth Academy at Coast High School, Huntington Beach, California; Simon Youth Academy at Outlet Marketplace, Orlando, Florida; Simon Youth Career Quest Academy at Port Charlotte Town Center, Port Charlotte, Florida; Simon Youth Academy at Edinburgh Premium Outlets, Edinburgh, Indiana; and Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Close Up’s motto is, “What happens here can change your world!” and for many of our students we can see the change starting to take place during the week.  One of our Indianapolis students experienced many firsts during her trip to Washington, D.C., including her first trip on a plane.  She also unexpectedly ran into a family friend while walking along the mall.  Many aspects of the trip were eye opening to her, particularly visiting with a Senator and the Representative from her district.  At the end of the week, though, she was so impressed by the staff and the learning experience; she expressed interest in becoming part of the Close Up team, as soon as she completes her college education.  She wants to help other students have the same impactful, eye-opening experience she did.

Our students from Florida departed for the trip with heavy hearts.  They left for Washington, D.C. while news reports were still coming in about the shooting at an Orlando nightclub during the early morning hours.  While they were looking forward to their meeting with Senator Bill Nelson, they saw him in action instead.  They watched as he and his colleagues debated restricting access to weapons like the ones used in the nightclub. Being on hand to see the debate was very impactful for them.

 

To learn more about Close Up, visit www.closeup.org.

My Summer at SYF

Doc1My name is Allison and I spent this summer as a communications intern for Simon Youth Foundation. On my third day here at SYF, I decided to write down my thoughts about the job so far. This is what I wrote:

“Today is my third day working as a SYF Communications Intern. I’ll admit that I was very nervous to begin this job, because I have never worked in a business setting like this before; however, I am absolutely blown away by the mission of this nonprofit and the people who are behind it all. I feel lucky to be able to learn from this staff to better myself personally and professionally.”

The same ideas that I wrote on my third day here remained true through my last week with SYF.

This fall, I will be a senior at Indiana University studying Journalism and Public Relations. While at school, I’m involved with a few different student organizations, all with the same focus: improving the lives of children. Through my experiences with those organizations, I found that I could make a career out of helping people and decided that’s exactly what I want to do with my life.

It felt like fate when I found the SYF internship listing, involving the combination of education and fundraising, two of the things I enjoy most.

I was elated when I got the job because I knew it had the potential to change my life and I truly believe that it has.

From the moment I stepped into the SYF office, I knew that this was where I needed to be. All of the SYF staff was extremely welcoming and willing to help me learn every single day that I spent here. I often tell my friends and family that I’ve learned more from the people that I work with than the actual job itself. I think that speaks volumes to the types of individuals who lead Simon Youth Foundation and make it the incredible organization that it is.

Every single person on the SYF staff has impacted my time here- something I am very grateful for.

I’ve learned an immense amount about the nonprofit world during my time here, but the largest takeaway that I’ve found at SYF this summer is the magnitude of generosity you can find if you simply ask.

I have had the privilege of meeting so many incredible people involved with the Academies, including educators and students. Witnessing the commitment and passion behind this mission, on every level, has inspired me to truly find my own passion and see where that can take me in terms of helping as many people as possible during my career.

I’ve also had the opportunity to interact with people in our community who support SYF such as Simon employees, sponsors and volunteers. Through these conversations, I’ve learned how generous people in the community can be, which gives me a great amount of hope for the future.

Now that my time here has come to an end, I am so thankful for my experience with SYF. My entire life, I was unsure of what I wanted to do and what I was capable of doing in my lifetime. This internship has opened my eyes and pushed me to find things that I care about and find how I can work to better them. Within this small office of 11 professionals, I have learned that with hard work, passion and determination, you can change someone’s story and help them reach a better future.

A friend once told me, “It only takes one person to completely change someone’s life.”

This idea is demonstrated every single day at each of the 29 Simon Youth Academies. Because of SYF, I am confident that I can be that one person and make a positive impact wherever I go. I’m leaving this internship feeling so inspired. I feel so lucky to have had a small role in the efforts of this monumental organization.

SYF Scholarships Helping Students in Every Corner of the U.S.

“I am extremely privileged to have SYF as one of the angel investors in my post-secondary education.” –Lei Lily Tam, SYF Community Scholarship Recipient

SYF provides scholarships to students who live near every Simon mall in the United States. That means your donations are helping students all over the map.

Lei Lily Tam spent the first half of her life at a private international boarding school in China on a full scholarship. Tam says that this school provided her with the environment to grow up bilingually while her parents worked for a Chinese company. She later moved to Hawaii and began her time with the Moanalua school system, near Waikele Premium Outlets. Lei Lily graduated from Moanalua High School in Honolulu, Hawaii earlier this year. As a first-generation college student, Lei Lily has been accepted to the University of Southern California and will attend classes in the fall to study Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Despite all of her success as a student, one harsh reality that Lei Lily learned through living on the island was that students in Hawaii aren’t always connected with the continental U.S. In terms of programs; they are often not afforded the same opportunities as other students.

The same could be said about students in the state of Alaska. Amir Williams grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, but always dreamed about going out of state for college. This year, SYF and Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall  awarded a Simon Youth Community Scholarship to help her achieve that dream.

Amir will attend Kansas State University in the fall to study Engineering and Education. She hopes to serve as a role model to other girls who wish to pursue the STEM field of study.

Similarly, there are students in Puerto Rico who have been touched by Simon Youth Foundation as well. Priscilla Soler was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where she developed a love for helping people. Priscilla was awarded a Simon Youth Foundation Community Scholarship by Plaza Carolina, which will help her reach her dreams of becoming a pharmacist. She will attend University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez to study Chemistry.

Simon Youth Foundation takes pride in the fact that our scholarships extend all over the country. In our 18-year history, SYF has awarded scholarships to students in 46 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. These scholarships have provided nearly $16 million to more than 14,000 students.

We have a great amount of diversity within our scholarship program. Out of more than 300 students selected for awards in 2016, we will have an SYF recipient at all 8 Ivy League Institutions, and more than 10 students attending Big Ten universities. There are also many SYF recipients at institutions all over the nation who are first generation college students.

With the help of many gracious SYF donors, Lei Lily, Amir, and many others can continue on their path toward higher education and a successful future regardless of their circumstances. Not only are we hoping to improve the lives of at-risk youth, but also relieve deserving students of financial uneasiness all over the nation.

After being involved with SYF, we hope these students and their families can inform other families of our mission—which will result in the growth of our organization and impact in years to come.

Coast High School Academy Encourages Science Through Local Competitions

In March, students at Simon Youth Coast High School Academy in Huntington Beach, California participated in Physics Day at Knott’s Berry Farm. A group of 7 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) students spent the entire day working together to formulate solutions and solve problems involving different physics principles.

The day included a variety of different activities including conversion and Fermi puzzles, a paper airplane contest, and a paper tower building contest. The most popular activity, however, was the 2nd annual Build Your Own Rollercoaster Contest.

This is the first year that our Coast High School Academy students have participated in the Physics Day competitions, but the results do not reflect that at all! This team of student physicists took home both first and second place prizes for the Best Overall Paper Roller Coaster.

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Additionally, the team participated in the Solar Cup, the nation’s largest solar-powered boat competition. Check out our recap of last year’s event here: http://www.syf.org/coast-high-school-participates-in-2015/.

The Coast team did extremely well with this contest, winning 4 different awards. The team claimed first place in three different South County Region categories: Endurance Race, Outreach Project and Technical Reports. They also took home the Bart Bezyack Sportsmanship Award.

Overall, the team took 3rd place among 39 other California high schools, an accomplishment to be extremely proud of.

We are so proud of all of our students who are finding ways to learn, both inside and outside of the classroom. Congratulations to our Coast High School Academy students who found great success in both the Knott’s Berry Farm Physics Day and Solar Cup science competitions!

 

Below is a slideshow of the participants.