In Orlando, SYF has partnered since 2001 with Orange County Public Schools and Simon Malls to operate a successful dropout prevention and recovery program. When the program outgrew its former site, Outlet Marketplace on International Drive stepped in to help create Simon Youth Academy at Outlet Marketplace. As the first student walked through the door for the first day of school on September 25, 2014, he exclaimed to his classmates, “Wow! This is the best school ever. Can you believe this is ours?”
September 17th is Constitution Day in the United States. Since it’s not a national holiday in the outdoor BBQ sense, it will probably not be on anyone’s radar.
And that’s a shame.
In all of recorded history, are there any documents that rise above the U.S. Constitution in its impact on human freedom? Perhaps a few…but in the family photo of such things, our Constitution is in the first row, front and center.
Civic literacy is something we associate with the social studies curriculum in primary and secondary school. Based on statistics gleaned from just about every poll and survey in the public domain, civics—government, history, etc.—is something perhaps learned, but quickly forgotten.
According to the Civic Mission of Schools web site (http://www.civicmissionofschools.org), the numbers reflecting the adult population’s understanding of basic American civics is less a report and more of an indictment. One-third of Americans could name all three branches of the federal government; one-third couldn't name any. Only 47 percent of Americans know that a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court carries the same weight as a 9-0 decision.
Not yet worried about the future of our democracy? In mid-term elections (when
the presidency is not on the ballot), turnout has not broken 50 percent for the past 16 cycles.
What is the foundation of this apathy? Is it the polarization of our political discourse in general? The busy lives of people as they go about their daily business? The weather? All or none of the above?
Or, sadly, is it weakness in civic literacy education? A sense of civic responsibility is best planted when our children are surrounded by smart teachers who inculcate the benefits of knowing how our system of government works, how it was constructed, and why men and women have fought and died to preserve it.
The Simon Youth Foundation is dedicated to working with our schools and ancillary organizations to raise the level of civic awareness among our students. Through an increased understanding and enthusiasm about the role of citizens in government, we hope to make civic literacy a point of pride.
Our nation is passing through one of its greatest periods of trial in our 238-year history. We need everyone—regardless of income or education level—to pay attention to the currents of democracy.
While rising to the occasion has always been a hallmark of the American people, we cannot rely on this phenomenon as a means of addressing the critical problems of our country and its future. The civic responsibility inherent in the freedoms we all enjoy demands a literacy rate far above our current standards.
For more on Constitution Day, please visit http://www.constitutionday.com. For more information about civic literacy, including access to national resources and research, please visit http://civicliteracy.iupui.edu.
|Jeremy Garriga, Scholarship Recipient|
The calendar tells me it’s “back to school” time, but I am still thinking about an experience I had during this past spring’s graduation season. I have the privilege to represent SYF at Simon Youth Academy graduations, and my very favorite part of this experience is standing in the receiving line of well-wishers and shaking the hands of graduates as they cross the stage to receive their diplomas.
|2014 Graduates from Simon Youth Academy at Northgate Mall|
Founders Celebration attendees also had an opportunity to experience the true impact of SYF on the life of an individual student when they met Brandon Pressley – a 2013 graduate of Simon Youth Academy at Opry Mills. Brandon’s story captivated Simon employees earlier in 2014, and his presence this summer was a pleasant surprise for SYF’s founders, founding board members and most steadfast supporters.
Dear SYF team,
Thank you for your generous contribution toward my higher education through the Simon Youth Scholarship program. One month ago, I became the first person in my family to graduate from high school, and in a few weeks, I’ll be the first to attend college.
My parents are from a small, rural pueblo in Mexico, where the violation of basic civil rights is part of everyday life. It’s no place to raise children. My parents sacrificed everything and moved away from family and friends to provide me an opportunity to pursue the American dream – to fulfill my potential – in this blessed nation.
Here, in our great country, I am free. I have a voice. I am independent. And I can be prosperous! The journey as a first-generation American has not been easy, but it has been entirely worth it. I am so blessed by wonderful people and organizations – like SYF – that support youth like me in realizing and pursuing our dreams.
When my father first came to the United States at the age of 16, his very first job was at the power plant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This fall, I will be able to return to UNC, not as a laborer, but as a college student. I am the eldest in my family and hope to set the example of hard work, resilience and discipline for my younger siblings.
As I enter my college career and professional life, my mission is to make the lives of others better and to serve selflessly. Professionally, I hope to contribute to closing the education gap for minorities, so that we diversify the leadership of our country, and hence, bring forth unique knowledge and experiences. I also hope to enter the realm of local politics and public affairs . . . perhaps on the school board, city council, Congress, and maybe even the Presidency one day. “Karla in 2040” has a nice ring to it!
Thank you for making this possible.
With the most sincere gratitude,
Karla G. Garcia
2014 Graduate and SYF Scholarship Recipient
Here’s one final math lesson to wrap up the 2013-14 school year: