August 24, 2018
ONE-ON-ONE WITH ANDRE CARSON — Students from Simon Youth Academy at Circle Centre Mall pose for a picture with U.S. Congressman Andre Carson, when the Indianapolis native, IPS graduate and representative of Indiana’s 7th District made a vist to the alternative IPS school.
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson didn’t just talk politics during a recent visit to Simon Youth Academy (SYA), an alternative IPS high school located in Circle Centre Mall.
The Indianapolis native and IPS alumnus, who represents Indiana’s 7th district, also discussed rap music, the environment, technology, social media, the importance of networking, and how students should never give up on their goals and dreams.
On Thursday, August 16, Carson learned the history and mission of SYA from Principal Robert Moses and Lauren B. Rapp, communications director of Simon Youth Foundation. The rest of his roughly two-hour visit consisted of one-on-one time with students and staff in a roundtable discussion.
SYA students, who are balancing a variety of life scenarios while working toward their high school diploma, were candid in their questions and answers — even during some of the heaviest topics.
Their forthrightness wasn’t a surprise to Carson.
“Whenever I go places and speak, I find that young people ask the toughest questions and they’re the most honest. It’s not until we get out in the world that we become more guarded and put more barriers up that we tend to second-guess what we’re going to say,” said Carson, a graduate of Arsenal Technical High School. “This (visit) just reaffirmed my belief that this generation is not only our future leaders, but their ideas, the way they view the world, I think it’s something for older adults to listen to and take notice.”
Carson also made an immediate impression on SYA students.
“It was a great experience because we don’t have people like that come here every day, especially in IPS. It’s really rare. But it’s a great opportunity to talk to somebody that can make a difference,” said 18-year-old senior Christian G., who answered Carson’s questions about the presence of gangs in the city, whether marijuana should be legalized, and the effects of drugs.
“The conversation was great. I feel like he answered everybody’s questions fairly and he got straight to the point,” Christian added. “He just has different viewpoints that everyone sort of understands, and I love that.”
Giana T., a 17-year-old senior who questioned Carson about the city’s plans for balancing pH levels in the water system, said she appreciated his willingness to address a lot of issues.
His visit encouraged Giana to never be “afraid to voice your opinion, because there’s always somebody out there that can help you. And maybe they can get your question out to a higher level of authority, even to the president. You never know.”
SYA’s principal is pleased with the visit’s outcome.
“The students found realism in Congressman Carson and in his words,” said Moses, who is in his first year as the head of SYA’s Indianapolis location. “Many times, you have people in the public eye and people wonder is the person real. Or we’ll have visitors and we say they are important people, but the students wonder ‘What do they know about what I go through?’”
According to Moses, students were able to relate to the congressman because he attended IPS schools, connected with them on multiple levels, and allowed them to share their opinions on serious issues.
“These are the types of things that bring students out,” said Moses.
Simon Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has 30 Simon Youth Academies in 12 states. The academies were started to help students on the verge of dropping out of high school stay in school and earn their high school diplomas. There are 60 students enrolled in SYA at Circle Centre Mall, which has a graduation rate of 90 percent according to the Simon Youth Foundation website.