Peabody Learning Academy opens its doors, thanks carpenters
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The Northshore Mall, along with the Simon Youth Foundation, held a ribbon cutting ceremony today at the newly opened Peabody Learning Academy. City and school officials, students, along with representatives from Simon Malls, union leaders, and several of the Boston insurance firms supporting the project, gathered for the ceremony.

This Education Resource Center (ERC) is the first of its kind in New England. The project was organized by the Simon Youth Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Simon Property Group, which is part owner and manager of the mall.

The Simon Youth Foundation takes advantage of empty space in company-owned malls to house these satellite schools. The school districts provide the teachers, equipment, and pay the utilities. The Simon Youth Foundation covers the rent and more importantly facilities partnerships with other organizations ?C in this case, the Carpenters Union.

The Simon Youth Foundation currently serves more than 2,500 students through 25 ERCs located in 12 states, and last year gave $1.4 million in scholarships to graduates. The ERCs have served over 19,000 students since the inception of the program in 1998.

One supervisor and two teachers, all from the Peabody school district, staff the ERC to assist students who are on the verge of dropping out, or who have already left, to reverse course and earn their high school diploma. There are currently nineteen students enrolled at the Peabody Learning Academy.

The program provides a rigorous academic program, especially in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics, within a nontraditional learning environment. The program offers students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and also provides career counseling for school-to-college and school-to-work transitions.

Volunteers from the Carpenters Union did all of the metal stud/drywall work at the facility as well as the suspended ceilings, doors and hardware, and all of the case work including kitchen cabinets and wood trim.

Each of the speakers at the ribbon cutting ceremony took time to thank all of the trades unions for volunteering 100% of the labor for the project.

The Carpenters Union was especially recognized for the being the first trade to step on board with the project.

??Very early on I approached Ken Amero and Nick DiGiovanni from the Carpenters Union and asked if [the Carpenters] could make a contribution of labor to the project. They were the first from the labor side to embrace this project,?? said Mark Whiting, Area General Manager of the Northshore Mall.

??It was a collaborative effort to bring this job together and we really appreciate their level of dedication.??

Dr. Richard Markoff, the Executive Vice President of the Simon Youth Foundation, as he commended all those involved with spearheading the project. When asked specifically about the help the ERC received from the Carpenters Union he said, ??Those volunteers get our unceasing gratitude, I cannot say enough about their tremendous support, which helped make this dream a reality. Their time and effort is going to help so many kids turn their lives around.??

A plaque will hang at the Peabody Learning Academy to recognize and thank the New England Carpenters Union and the volunteers that made the project possible.