A successful dropout prevention and recovery program is expanding its capacity to serve local high school students through a new, larger academy space at Outlet Marketplace on International Drive.
Simon Youth Academy at Outlet Marketplace held its grand opening on Thursday, Sept. 25 and is one of 22 Simon Youth Academies nationwide. The program has been operating since 2001 as a partnership between Simon Youth Foundation, Simon Malls and Orange County Public Schools. The academy helps at-risk students stay in school. To-date, the foundation as a whole has graduated more than 12,000 students, awarded more than $12 million in scholarships and maintained a 90 percent cumulative graduation rate across all academies. In Orlando, the existing academy — which was formerly housed at The Florida Mall — has served more than 650 students and awarded $234,000 to local college-bound high school students.
The ribbon cutting event was hosted by representatives of Orange County Public Schools, Simon Malls, Simon Youth Foundation as well as academy faculty, staff and students.
“In economic development circles, malls are often referred to as community anchors,” said Chris Speca, area general manager for Simon Malls. “At Outlet Marketplace and Orlando Premium Outlets, we know what it means to be a community anchor. And we’re proud to claim that distinction.”
“When the ribbon is cut on this new space, we will be able to serve nearly twice as many students in this community – something that would not be possible without support from incredible community partners, including Orange County Public Schools and Simon,” added Dr. Michael Durnil, Simon Youth Foundation president and CEO.