Going the Extra (15,857) Miles

Simon Youth Foundation’s tag line is, “Start here. Go anywhere.” For the spring graduation season, SYF staff took that to heart and started in Indianapolis and went almost everywhere.

The Simon Youth Foundation team traveled a cumulative 15,857 miles attending graduation ceremonies at Simon Youth Academies. Within the span of 5 weeks, SYF staff traveled to 18 academy graduation ceremonies at 15 different locations.

Simon Youth Foundation partnership districts graduated a total of 910 students for the spring semester 2015 year from our 22 academies. For the 2015 year, SYF awarded 300 scholarships in 38 states and Puerto Rico totaling $1,232,700. An interactive map of our travels can be found below.

Michael Durnil, President at Simon Youth Foundation, traveled to a portion of the academy graduations where he delivered greetings from SYF to the graduates of our Simon Youth Academies. The text of his speech follows.

It is my great honor to represent Simon Youth Foundation to share in this celebration with you!

As I was thinking about this graduation season, a saying popped into my head: “You don’t always get what you wish for, you get what you work for.”

I thought about this the other day as I was walking through a Simon mall and came across our Simon Youth Foundation wishing well.

If you spend a lot of time in the mall, you know what I’m talking about. Every Simon mall across the country has a “wishing well” for spare change.

People come by – usually little kids, but I’ve seen you adults who race the coins around the drain and think no one is watching – they close their eyes, make a wish, and drop in their coin.

Did anyone here used to be a little kid? OK…a few of you. So you know what kinds of things little kids wish for: fame and fortune, to be able to fly, super powers. I used to wish my sister would get sold into the circus.

Regardless of what your wish was, needless to say the wishes of little children do not usually come true.

Why is that? First, because they aren’t realistic. Second, because most people don’t actually try to make these wishes happen.

While I never really worked at selling my sister into the circus, I’m not sure they would have even taken her even if I did.

We don’t get the things we wish for. We get the things we work for.

But on days like today, the thing we wish for and the thing we work for intersect, and to me, and all of us at SYF – that is what is inspirational. 

I have been fortunate enough to meet hundreds of SYF students over the years, and almost everyone started out wishing:

Wishing that there was a school where they fit in.
Wishing that there were teachers looking out for them.
Wishing that they could just graduate and get a job that pays more than minimum wage.
Wishing that they could somehow find a way to get to college.
Wishing for something better.

If these were only wishes none of us would be here today. Instead, you showed up. You worked hard. You studied.  You made this happen. Of course, you didn’t do it alone.

I’m sure each one of you can think back and find one inspirational person – maybe several inspirational people – who believed in you and help you get to this day.

Maybe it was a parent or grandparent who supported you, encouraged you to continue your education, and worked long hours to provide for your family.

Or maybe it was one of your Academy colleagues who believed in you, challenged you, and pushed you to do your best.

Now, as a graduate, you have a role in helping out the next group of Simon Youth Academy students.
Across the country, we have 22 Academies like this, and there are more than 13,000 Simon Youth Academy graduates across the country.

Today, you are joining that alumni group and you have the opportunity to be an inspirational figure for someone who comes behind you.

So I encourage you to stay connected with us and tell us about your success. You can find us online (and for those of you who posted your Class of 2015 selfie, you may have already found us).
Or you can walk back through your classroom doors and reconnect with your teachers. I’m sure they’ll love it.

And whenever you’re back in the mall, I hope you find the SYF wishing well. You’ll never be too old to stop, take a coin from your pocket, and make a wish. 

Before I end my comments today, I want to ask you to do one more thing for me.

Close your eyes.

Now, instead of making a wish – take in this moment – this is what it feels like when a wish comes true.

On behalf of the Simon Youth Foundation Board of Directors, I offer my sincere congratulations to you, the graduating class of 2015!

View photos from those events on our flickr page . If you have your own photos, be sure to upload them to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with the hashtag #SYF2015.

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