Witnessing the Evolution of Orange

Contributed
by Brandi Young, Simon Youth Foundation Vice President, Advancement
This
week has been filled with preparation for some key SYF events.  Within the span of only two days, we will have
welcomed three new members to the Simon Youth Foundation Board of Directors,
and we will kick off a six-week tour of Simon Annual Meetings.  The latter will take us coast-to-coast to
share our mission with a very important group of stakeholders – Simon
Employees.
In
the bustle of preparing reports, travel itineraries and presentations, I could
not help but pause for a moment when asked to speak about SYF’s history from my
vantage point.  April, 2014 will mark my
15th anniversary with Simon; just one year off from the 15th
anniversary of SYF. 
I
began my career in a Simon Mall, and I remember the day our mall teams were
directed to focus philanthropic efforts toward SYF – at that time, a new
nonprofit. We knew the Foundation had the makings of something special, but few
of us fully understand the potential impact of the organization in its early
days.  
I
know I didn’t understand its full potential until my mall opened a Simon Youth
Academy, but it was incredible to see the entire character of the mall
transform as we added an academy to its “retail mix.” We were so proud to host
the school district and students who were filled with hope and ready to create
a change in their lives.
Mall
teams across the country were experiencing something similar, either through
Simon Youth Academies or later through Simon Youth Scholarships, and what began
as a directive grew to be something very different and very special. It didn’t
take long for Simon employees to truly embrace SYF.  Today, this important group of stakeholders
not only knows SYF, but they advocate for us and for the thousands of students
we serve. 
Simon
employees understand the impact of the Foundation, and they want to be a part
of our story as it is being written.  They
inspire me with their creativity and their drive to initiate new opportunities
for at-risk youth.
I
have watched SYF grow, win national awards and make an impact in every Simon
community.  With our Simon employees as
partners, we have now graduated more than 11,000 students and awarded more than
$11 million in scholarships, all while maintaining a 90% graduation rate across
all Simon Youth Academies.  I’m fortunate
to sit in an amazing seat – one that has allowed me to see the full
transformation of SYF from fledgling organization to national leader in non-traditional
education.  And in the words of one of
our recent Academy graduates, “we’re not stopping here.”


About the
Author:
Brandi Young is the SYF Vice President, Advancement serving as chief
liaison to the Foundation’s corporate donors, including Simon Property Group,
and facilitating a wide-range of nationwide fundraising events each year. A
native of the Hoosier state, Brandi joined SYF in 2004. Her professional experience
includes retail marketing and management with Simon Malls throughout the U.S.
Midwest. Brandi holds a bachelor’s degree in sports marketing from Indiana
University-Bloomington.

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