Sharefest is pleased to announce a third site for the year-round Youth Development Academy program—Simon Rodia Continuation School in Watts. Beginning in January, Sharefest will offer after-school programming at Simon Rodia with a goal of increasing retention and graduation rates, as well as improving test scores.

Currently, students at Simon Rodia are heavily impacted by crime, violence, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity in Watts. This, combined with minimal supplemental program options and a lack of resources and support, not to mention the lowest attendance rate among all 54 Educational Option schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, creates a significant challenge for administrators and teachers as they try to break the cycle and make a difference in these students lives. Principal Gina Awtry is determined to change that, beginning with partnering with Sharefest to provide additional opportunities for students through the Youth Development Academy.

“[The YDA program] has blossomed into an exceptional model of proven success that has assisted hundred of at-risk teens in meeting requirements to earn a high school diploma,” said Awtry, referring to the existing year-round YDA programs at Avalon Continuation High School in Wilmington, and Patton High School in Harbor City. “But just as important, the Sharefest staff has provided mentoring through their volunteers to help students establish relationships, build trust and resiliency, and to persevere, all important life skills that will hopefully be payed forward as our students enter adulthood and become productive citizens.”

The expansion of the YDA program is possible thanks to our partners, who generously donate to help Sharefest provide this essential programming at continuation schools like Simon Rodia, which meet an important need in education by fostering a small-school learning environment for students who have fallen behind or don’t fit into a traditional learning environment. These schools typically run on fewer resources and program options, and seek creative ways—like the Youth Development Academy—to help students meet graduation requirements.

“These youth are our future, and we are thrilled to partner with Simon Rodia to assist in preparing their students to be successful in school and in life,” said Chad Mayer, Sharefest Executive Director. “This program joins our existing programs at Avalon Continuation and Patton high schools, where we have already seen tremendous results in improved attendance and test scores as a result of the YDA program.”

“I know Sharefest can and will make a significant impact in my students’ lives; attendance will improve, relationships will form, and academic success will be achieved,” said Awtry.