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Simon Youth Foundation is proud to announce that the nationwide academy network has reached their 10,000th graduate. Dustin Asbury of Simon Youth Judson Learning Academy at Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio, Texas was honored, along with the Academy staff at a surprise celebration today where students and donors were on hand to honor academy scholarship recipients and the historic graduate.
Upon completion of the scholarship presentation, the Rolling Oaks Mall team unveiled the new graduation wall of honor and as they did, the surprise of having the 10,000th graduate was revealed. Those in attendance erupted with applause and even a few tears of joy flowed from the eyes of those who have worked so hard to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth.
Igniting hope for 15 years, SYF reaches this milestone at a critical time in the high school dropout crisis. Every 29 seconds a student decides to give up on his or her dreams. As a result, they lose the ability to apply for 90% of all available jobs and will likely earn $350,000 less in their lifetime compared to a graduate. Because SYF has stepped in to curb this unfortunate reality, 10,000 at-risk youth are making a difference in their communities and families inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.
The Simon Youth Judson Learning Academy was the first academy established by Simon Youth Foundation. Since that time, more than 1,100 graduates have crossed the stage to receive their diploma. The economic impact to the San Antonio area exceeds $220 million which doesn’t include those going on to attend trade schools and two or four year higher education institutions. Having 23 Academies in 13 states, SYF works with more than 50 public school districts to ensure these at-risk students have educational opportunities and don’t fall through the cracks. While the work is still ongoing, reaching the 10,000th graduate is a remarkable milestone that will help propel the foundation towards expanding its ability to impact the nation’s at-risk youth.
Our 10,000th graduate grew up in Converse, Texas with a brother and his parents. Dustin was failing his classes and struggled with the distractions that are present in a traditional high school setting. When he got to the Academy, Dustin loved learning at his own pace and having an environment more conducive to concentrating on his work. Dustin earned his diploma and now has limitless possibilities. Today, he works in sales for Magnum Custom Trailers and loves his job. While Dustin isn’t sure what the future holds, he knows with diploma in hand he can go anywhere his dreams take him.
Many dignitaries were on hand to convey their congratulations to the student and the Academy including a graduate from 2000 who is now the Mayor of nearby Kirby, Texas the honorable Tim Wilson. His experience was much like that of our 10,000th graduate. Tim received a second chance at the Academy and did not take it for granted. He is now an inspiration to the students at the Academy and is an advocate of education in his city.
Rolling Oaks Mall presented a Simon Mall gift card to Dustin for $1,000 and SYF corporate partner Swatch gave him a branded orange and blue watch to commemorate the day. In addition to the individual honors, Simon Youth Judson Learning Academy was presented a check on behalf of corporate partner CVS Caremark for $10,000 and node chairs for the classrooms from Steelcase Education Solutions valued at more than $15,000.
SYF works to ensure at-risk youth don’t fall through the cracks and end up part of the high school dropout statistics. Not only do they succeed in earning their diploma, they succeed in inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.
In reaching this milestone, SYF wants to thank Tim Wilson, Mayor City of Kirby, Texas, Arnoldo Salinas, Judson Independent School District School Board President, Dr. Willis Mackey, Judson Independent School District Superintendent, Valerie Flores, Mall Manager, Rolling Oaks Mall, Ernie DuPont, Director Workforce Initiatives, CVS Caremark, Paige Barnett of Steelcase, Yvette Reyna, Executive Director for Judson Education Foundation, Beverly Oliver, JLA Founder, Rebecca Scoggins, Regional Vice President-Southwest, Simon Property Group, Chacko Sleeba, Regional Director of Operations-Southwest, Simon Property Group, Kimberly LaQue, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Rolling Oaks Mall, & Ashley Pearce, Vice President, Dancie Perugini Ware Public Relations.