Two teams. One mission.

Contributed by
Kevin Cutrer, Office Administrator, Copley Place

I’m a proud
member of the Copley Place
mall team in Boston, MA, and I am also part of the Simon Youth Foundation
team.  Incredibly, the two roles never
compete.  They complement each other, and
I feel a great deal of pride in knowing that our two organizations have
partnered to make such a positive impact on the lives of thousands of at-risk

This week, the
SYF team visited the New England region, and as part of that visit, I had the
opportunity to hear the story of Brandon Pressley – a student at Simon Youth
Academy at Opry Mills in Nashville, TN. Like many of the students SYF serves,
Brandon overcame immense challenges in his life to finally earn his high school
diploma, making him the first in his family to do so.  He doesn’t live anywhere close to Boston or
my hometown, but Brandon’s story hit close to home for me.

I grew up in a
small town in Louisiana. Like Brandon, many Louisiana students have to make
tough choices, including the choice of whether to put food on the table or
attend classes. I was lucky. My family owns and operates a small business that
has thrived for more than fifty years. Business was not always good, but
thankfully, I was never faced with the same tough choices that students like
Brandon face every day.

When I look back
on my high school years, I can’t think of any time when I seriously doubted
that I would graduate. Yes, I worked hard, and I had to earn every single “A”
on my report card—no one ever gave me
anything. But there was never any thought that I might lack the time and
resources to complete my studies. I know this is certainly not the case for a
number of my friends, many of whom dropped out of high school, and I know I
could have been one of them. As hard as my parents worked to keep their business
running—and my father often had to take on second and third jobs—businesses
fail, despite sound practices and prudent planning.  We were fortunate.  Many are not. 

If you are like
me, you take your high school diploma for granted. If you are like me, when you
were younger, you were blessed with the good fortune of never having to put any
other consideration ahead of your education.  But fortune does not smile kindly on everyone.
It touches each of us differently, and this is why the work of SYF is so important.
 When good fortune seems to shun certain
students in favor of others, SYF steps in and creates opportunities. 

To-date, SYF and Simon Malls working together have helped more
than 11,000 young people overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and
graduate from high school.  Brandon’s
story touched me, yet I know his story is just one among 11,000. That number
gives me a lot of hope, even in the face of some disheartening dropout statistics.
Brandon’s story and 10,999 others are proof that we can reverse the dropout
trend, one student at a time.
About the Author:
Kevin Cutrer earned his B.A. in English at Southeastern Louisiana University in
2004. Since then, he has lived in the northeastern United States and the
northeast of Brazil. In Brazil, he taught English as a second language and
helped manage a language school for working class students. Currently, he is
the office administrator of the management office at Copley Place, a Simon
property. Cutrer’s poetry has appeared in a wide range of journals and
magazines internationally, including The Hudson Review, The Cimarron Review,
and The Dark Horse. He lives with his wife in Hyde Park, the
southernmost neighborhood in Boston.
  • Anonymous

    Tremendously said!

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