Dear Simon Youth Foundation Supporters,
Though SYF felt the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on our work with students, teachers, and partners across the country, we also had the privilege of watching dedicated Simon Youth Academy educators and committed students persevere through trials and adapt to ever-changing circumstances.
Simon Youth Academy students learned to complete their work outside the walls of their schools. Many shared a single device with multiple family members. Others served as essential workers who risked their health to ensure their communities could access groceries, medicine, and supplies. Several SYF educators offered out-of-school help to students – even if that meant visiting students in the drive-thru where they worked!
To meet our educators where they are, SYF transformed our four-day, in-person Annual Educator Conference into a year-long virtual professional development experience. Included were monthly offerings designed to support the evolving needs of the nearly 500 educators in our national network of 42 Simon Youth Academies in 15 states.
In adherence to local guidelines and grounded by our commitment to promoting the health and safety of our supporters, SYF canceled most of our annual fundraising events. We are humbled that SYF’s partners still prioritized donations: National Sponsors increased their sponsorship levels, Simon employees exceeded annual giving expectations, new virtual events were buoyed by support from Simon Mall teams,and hundreds of individuals gave to SYF for the first time. SYF even offered free cleaning products, washable face masks, and other supplies to support Academies with in-person instruction.
That is why, despite all the challenges in the 2020-2021 academic year, SYF students achieved a 96% graduation rate and brought SYF’s lifetime number of graduates to 23,968.
Though encouraged by these results, the coming months represent a critical time. The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank estimated that educational disruptions during the pandemic may increase the number of high school dropouts over ten years by 3.8% while also reducing the number of college-educated workers in the labor force. They estimate this will shrink the incomes of Americans for 70 years until the last of today’s students leave the workforce.
SYF has remained committed to ending the dropout crisis since our inception. Today, our mission has never been more relevant as Simon Youth Academies face record demands to enroll more students. With your continued support, SYF can ensure all students are seen for who they can be: graduates.
Deborah J. Simon, Chair, Simon Youth Foundation