Freeholders extend funding to Simon Youth Foundation for additional 18 months

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has voted to extend funding to the Simon Youth Foundation for another 18 months, beginning July 1 and concluding Dec. 31, 2021, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Out-of-School Youth Grant.

The Simon Youth Academy is a partnership between the Simon Youth Foundation, the freeholder board and the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools District. The academy, established at The Mills at Jersey Gardens Mall in 2018, provides at-risk youth an opportunity to earn a high school diploma.

Thirty-two students were enrolled during the 2019-2020 school year, with a waiting list of students wanting to enroll.

“The freeholder board is proud to continue to support the Simon Youth Academy in our community,” Freeholder Chairperson Alexander Mirabella said. “It provides a positive, supportive academic experience for our county’s at-risk youth and helps empower them to grow and reach their own individual goals.”

The Simon Youth Academy is the first school of its kind in New Jersey. It is one of more than 40 high schools in the United States established by the Simon Youth Foundation in partnership with local school districts. Located primarily at shopping malls owned by Simon Properties, the schools are designed to help make learning accessible to students who struggle to connect with material in a traditional classroom or school because of homelessness, bullying, serious illness, parenthood, supporting their families or other challenging personal circumstances.

“I am pleased that the Simon Youth Academy is continuing to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth in Union County,” said Freeholder Sergio Granados, who announced the creation of the academy in 2018 as part of his “Moving Union County Forward” initiative during his term as board chairperson. “I am a strong believer that education is the key to success, and we will continue to champion this through various educational initiatives that benefit our residents. This academy is providing students with a second chance to gain a high school diploma through a different educational approach than in their local school district that is tailored to them.”

The Simon Youth Academy at The Mills has maintained a 100-percent graduation rate, with eight graduates in the 2018-2019 school year and 10 graduates in the 2019-2020 school year.

For information about enrollment, eligibility criteria and curriculum, contact Simon Youth Academy Principal Syreeta McClain at 908-977-1697 or smcclain@ucvts.org.

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