Simon Youth Academy turns around would-be dropouts

INDIANAPOLIS - The hundreds of people participating in the inaugural Monumental Mile on Thursday are not only getting a good workout, but also helping change the lives of teens.

A student in the U.S. drops out of high school every 29 seconds. Amber Ditchley was nearly one of those students.

"I would have been a 17-year-old mother with no high school diploma, never graduating high school and going nowhere," she said.

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Ditchley got her diploma 10 years ago this week and has since gotten her associate's degree and is working to start her own business.

Ditchley credits the Indianapolis-based Simon Youth Foundation, one of several educational nonprofits that will be given a chunk of the money raised at the Monumental Mile.

"Each one of the teachers took the time to know who I was and actually try to teach me," Ditchley said.

Simon Youth Foundation has 23 academies across the U.S., two in central Indiana.

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The programs based out of public schools work to find a more effective way to teach struggling students.

"These students were no reprimanded to us because of drugs or alcohol, fighting, those kinds of things, but they're the ones who just haven't found their own niche, their own stride in high school," said Michael Durnil, president of Simon Youth Foundation.

In the last 16 years, 12,000 students who otherwise may have dropped out of high school earned their diploma through the academy.

The foundation estimates another 25 will go through the program, thanks to funding from the Monumental Mile.

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