January 17, 2014

Power of Orange

Orange is a bold, vibrant color.  It wakes up our senses and makes us feel more alive and engaged – much like education.  At Simon Youth Foundation, orange is intentionally part of who we are. Just as the color blue is associated with water or green with environmental causes, we associate orange with igniting hope in our nation’s at-risk students.  

The SYF team describes the Power of Orange as the kind of success that is only attainable through collaboration and shared commitment to creating educational opportunities.  It’s a force that has helped more than 10,000 at-risk students graduate from high school and provided more than $10 million in scholarships to college-bound students.

I am extremely proud of these accomplishments, and I am inspired daily by the teachers, students, school administrators, donors, corporate partners and thousands of Simon Property Group employees who are behind those transformational numbers.  From Seattle, WA to Miami, FL, and from Bangor, ME, to Mission Viejo, CA, our network comprises passionate people who never lose focus on our mission to keep kids in high school and working toward that all-important diploma. We don’t get bogged down in political or philosophical debates.  Those discussions are worthwhile, but the kids we work with need our help and can’t wait. 

Action must rule the day if we are to succeed in stemming the national dropout crisis. Every 29 seconds in this country, a student decides to drop out of school. At the moment students make that unfortunate decision, they become disqualified for 90% of available jobs in the national marketplace; their earning potential drops by at least $350,000 over the course of their lifetimes; and most importantly, they give up on their dreams. Homelessness, abuse, illness and other serious life circumstances can compromise a student’s ability to succeed in a traditional high school environment and are often culprits behind the decision to drop out. 

But hope certainly is not lost. We can reach these students, and through the Power of Orange, we can transform dropout statistics into graduation statistics that represent opportunities and bright futures.  The SYF team and I celebrate our milestones with passion and pride, but we also look to our accomplishments as motivation to press on, because we know the next 10,000 students are waiting and counting on us.

Throughout 2014, expect to hear more about the Power of Orange, and join in on this positive movement by liking us on Facebook; following us on Twitter; bookmarking syf.org; and helping share our story.

About the Author:
J. Michael Durnil, Ph.D., is the Simon Youth Foundation President and CEO. Originally from Decatur, Illinois, Durnil took the helm at SYF in 2010. A longtime educator, his 30+ year professional career includes experience as a university executive, professor and administrator as well as executive positions at other national nonprofit organizations. He holds a post-doctoral certificate from the Graduate School of Education of Harvard University, a PhD in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University-Chicago and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Illinois State University.  Read his complete biography. Reach Michael at mdurnil@simon.com or 317-263-2361.

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