Best Practices & Case Studies

Student Voice Drives Change Across Simon Youth Academies

Simon Youth Foundation
YouthTruth Student Survey

Simon Youth Foundation (SYF) is a national nonprofit committed to helping students who are on the verge of dropping out of high school to graduate and pursue post-secondary educational opportunities. SYF works toward this mission by partnering with public school districts to launch Simon Youth Academies primarily located in Simon Malls.

Student voice is a guiding pillar in day-to-day operations and long-term planning as SYF works alongside students who face challenging realities beyond the classroom. In the 2014-15 academic year, SYF launched its first comprehensive student listening effort through YouthTruth Student Survey. It now has a regular practice of gathering and acting on student feedback to inform strategy and programmatic changes at both the network and school level.

Elevating student voice has long been an integral part of SYF's mission and the YouthTruth survey meaningfully accelerates the foundation’s ability to hear from students directly to inform improvements.

“Through YouthTruth, students tell us what they need, what they’re missing, what they’re thinking,” says Dr. J. Michael Durnil, president and CEO. “With this student insight, we become equipped with an immediate strategy or agenda. With the student input, we can go out and find additional resources and bring them to bear to our academies, to our districts, to our communities. With this data, we’re able to better provide support to the most marginalized groups of students.

Curious about this innovative education foundation’s approach? Learn tips and protocols to take back to your school or district. Check out the full case study below to read more about how:
  • Simon Youth Foundation uses feedback to create common language to bolster collaborative improvement
  • Simon Youth Academy at Rose Tree Media uses feedback to gauge and strengthen academic rigor
  • Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre Mall uses feedback to strengthen relationships
“The student is the reason we exist and what our purpose defines us to. If we can’t hear their voice or know what they want, we become a bunch of well-meaning people who are trying to do something to students and not for students.”
— Dr. J. Michael Durnil, President and CEO