ELIZABETH, NJ - The opening of the Simon Youth Academy, a first in the state of New Jersey to provide at-risk youth an opportunity to earn a high school diploma has been opened at The Mills at Jersey Gardens Mall in the City of Elizabeth.

“The Union County Freeholder Board is proud to support the opening of Simon Youth Academy in our county, making this the first of its kind in the state,” said Freeholder Chairman, Sergio Granados, who announced the creation of the academy as part of his “Moving Union County Forward” initiatives for 2018. “This academy provides a positive, supportive academic experience for our county’s at-risk youth and allows them to chart their own course for their future success. 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.”

The academy is a partnership between the Simon Youth Foundation, the Freeholder Board and the Union County Vocational-Technical School District. The academy in Elizabeth has a capacity of 20 seats, available for students between the ages of 16 and 21.

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A ribbon cutting was held at the facility, which is on the ground floor of the Mall, and attended by Freeholders, prospective students and their parents, Union County Vocational-Technical School District officials, and members of the Board of Education and City Council of the City of Elizabeth.

“Our partnership with the County Freeholder Board and the Simon Youth Foundation has made it possible to offer this alternative route to county students looking to continue their education,” said Union County Vocational-Technical School District Superintendent Peter Capodice.

The Simon Youth Foundation builds high schools called Simon Youth Academies, through which students who dropped out of their traditional high school receive the personalized support needed to earn their diplomas. Primarily located in Simon Malls, Simon Youth Academies make learning accessible to students who struggle to connect with the material in a traditional classroom or school because of homelessness, bullying, serious illness, parenthood, supporting their families, or other challenging personal circumstances.

Since its inception, SYF has maintained a 90% graduation rate at its 35 Simon Youth Academies in 15 states, helping more than 17,000 students graduate.

For information about enrollment, eligibility criteria and curriculum, please contact Simon Youth Academy Principal, Syreeta McClain, by phone at 908-956-1519 or by email at smcclain@ucvts.org.

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