Students give Simon Youth Academies high marks

SYF scores well in Center for Effective Philanthropy YouthTruth Survey

INDIANAPOLIS – Student perceptions of their education at Simon Youth Foundation (SYF) Academies are much stronger than national averages, according to a recent survey by the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s (CEP) YouthTruth Student Survey program.

CEP administered the YouthTruth Survey to students at Simon Youth Academies this winter, and the data indicates that SYF academies’ proportion of positive ratings surpass national norms in five out of six key categories.

  • Student Engagement: SYF – 82%, national benchmark – 69%
  • Academic Rigor: SYF – 85%, national benchmark – 72%
  • Relationships with Teachers: SYF – 75%, national benchmark – 54%
  • School Culture: SYF – 77%, national benchmark – 41%
  • College & Career Readiness: SYF – 62%, national benchmark – 49%
  • Relationships with Peers: SYF – 38%, national benchmark – 60%

Simon Youth Foundation is a national non-profit that provides grants to public school district partners to create high schools primarily inside Simon shopping malls targeting students who are at risk of dropping out of high school. Nationally, about 35 percent of students attending Simon Youth Academies will be the first in their family to receive a high school diploma. SYF prides itself on providing resources for students who might have otherwise dropped out of high school.

“These results confirm what we already presumed to be true,” said Leslie Fatum, an SYF board member who chairs the organization’s Programs Committee. “Not only are our students graduated at a 90% rate, they are satisfied with their overall experience.”

CEP first established the YouthTruth Student Survey in 2008 as a tool to help funders understand student perceptions of their experiences as a key indicator of effective funding.

“The Simon Youth Foundation Academies are incredibly thoughtful about using student feedback data to inform their work,” said Jen Vorse Wilka, YouthTruth’s Executive Director. “They are clearly committed to creating high-quality student experiences.”

SYF opens these academies in true partnership with local school corporations. SYF grants fund the building of an architecturally unique multi-classroom environment inside the mall, provides teacher professional development, and scholarships and workforce development partnerships for students. The school corporation retains full control of curriculum, staffing and student outcomes.

Dr. J.T. Coopman, the Executive Director of Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and an SYF Expert in Residence, said the results point to a program that Indiana and the alternative education community should be proud of.

“SYF has quietly been building one of the most effective programs for addressing the dropout crisis in the country. I hope these results show how big of an impact they are having,” Coopman said.

The survey results are another positive indicator that SYF is emerging as a premier organization in dropout prevention. In January, SYF was named a 4-Star Charity by Charity Navigator, one of only 32 education non-profits to receive that designation.

This year, SYF is expected to grow from 26 to 30 academies and enter its 13th state, New York. Additionally, the organization will graduate its 14,000th student and approach $16 million awarded in scholarships.

Simon Youth Foundation
Simon Youth Foundation, a national nonprofit based in Indianapolis, exists to help at-risk students who are on the verge of dropping out of high school stay in school. Through 26 Simon Youth Academies in 12 states and Simon Youth Scholarships, SYF advocates, creates and initiates educational opportunities for students by creating learning environments primarily inside Simon malls. In partnership with local public schools, SYF has maintained a 90% graduation rate at its Academies since inception, graduated more than 13,000 students, and awarded more than $14 million in scholarships.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s YouthTruth Student Survey
YouthTruth is a national nonprofit that harnesses student perceptions to help educators accelerate improvements in their K–12 schools and classrooms. Through validated survey instruments and tailored advisory services, YouthTruth partners with schools, districts, states, and educational organizations to enhance learning for all students. Founded in 2008 by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, YouthTruth has surveyed hundreds of thousands of students across 33 states and four countries, including Russia, Thailand, and Singapore. For more information, visit


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