June 11 2018

Burlington Students Graduation from Simon Youth Academy


Six Burlington students graduated from a program aimed at helping youths with difficult circumstances find success in their education.  

On Thursday, June 7 at 6 p.m., six students graduated from Simon Youth Academy (SYA) at Burlington during the school’s formal ceremony, a blog post by Burlington High School Principal Mark Sullivan said.

“Students donned their red and white caps and gowns and entered their graduation ceremony to the sound of the Burlington High School students Christopher Costello (senior) and Rayna Parry (junior) playing the iconic ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’” Sullivan wrote. “BHS senior Ivy Saltsman sang the national anthem. SYA Director Jill Graham welcomed everyone to the ceremony and SYA teacher Gerard Coughlin performed as master of ceremonies.”

The academy’s Class of 2018 graduates were Sofia DeMacedo, Georgina Lopez Silva, Stephen Nigro, Kenneth Putney, Trishona Williams and Evan Yancy.

Burlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Conti greeted all in attendance.  

“We are so proud of our Simon Youth Academy at Burlington graduates and teachers,” he said. “Congratulations!”

Sofia DeMacedo delivered the student address. On attending the academy, Sofia said she felt that she had found the right fit for her.

“I quickly realized that this was the place for me and that the program, the teachers and my peers would eventually be great supports to me during my journey toward a high school diploma,” she said.

Simon Youth Foundation President and CEO Dr. J. Michael Durnil and Associate Director of Programs Jonathan Shapiro presented scholarship awards to SYA students Sofia DeMacedo and Evan Yancy.

Durnil reflected on the students' achievements when he said, "Sofia and Evan represent what SYF is all about. They are students who recognized the importance of a high school diploma and - rather than letting circumstances define them - persisted and persevered to reach their graduation day. As Sofia and Evan set their sights on earning their college degrees, SYF is humbled to play a small role in helping them achieve their goals and pursue their dreams”.

“SYF believes all youth, no matter their personal circumstances, should have the opportunity and resources to pursue their dreams through education, and that financial reasons should never prevent students from achieving their goal. We are humbled to have the incredible support of our corporate partner, Simon, and its Simon Supports Education movement, in our effort to help all students reach their full potential,” Durnil added.

Jill Graham, director of the SYA at Burlington, said she was happy to be able to recognize the achievements of the students.

“We were able to celebrate the accomplishments of six young men and women who were each presented with some difficult circumstances in reaching graduation day; we celebrated this milestone in their education with their friends and families in a memorable ceremony that recognized each individual student,” she said.

The Simon Youth Foundation partners with Burlington Public Schools and other public schools to build Simon Youth Academies. Simon Youth Academies and Simon Youth Scholarships provide opportunities for meaningful education and professional development, ignite hope and serve as a starting point for students’ journeys toward lifetime success and achievement.

The SYF is funded by Simon Properties, the entity that owns malls, including the Burlington Mall, across the country. The goal of the programs is to help students facing difficult situations succeed in education.

“Through 30 Simon Youth Academies in 12 states and Simon Youth Scholarships, SYF advocates, creates and initiates educational opportunities for students so they can start here and go anywhere,” the group’s website states. “In partnership with local public school districts, SYF has maintained a 90% graduation rate at its Academies since inception, graduated nearly 16,000 students, and awarded nearly $17 million in scholarships.”

 According to the website, Simon Youth Academies offer flexible schedules and small class sizes that 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 facing other challenging personal circumstances.

Photo: Post-Graduation photo (Courtesy)


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