Press Release

For Immediate Release: July 28, 2020

Union County Freeholder Board Extends Funding to the Simon Youth Foundation for an Additional 18 Months

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce that it has voted to extend funding to The Simon Youth Foundation for another 18 months, beginning July 1, 2020 and concluding December 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 was established at The Mills at Jersey Gardens Mall in 2018, providing 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,” said Freeholder Chairman, Alexander Mirabella. “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 U.S. 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 chairman. “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% graduation rate, with eight graduates in the 2018-2019 school year and 10 graduates in the 2019-2020 school year.

Over the summer of 2019 the Raymond J. Lesniak Experience Strength and Hope (E.S.H) recovery high school became the second Simon Youth Academy in New Jersey.

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

For more information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including guidance for the free Drive-Through Test Center at Kean University, visit ucnj.org/coronavirus-update.

For general information about COVID-19 and phone contacts for 24/7 assistance with questions, visit the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

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For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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