INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Sunday will be graduation day inside the mall for a group of seniors who didn't know if they'd see this milestone or not.
The first batch of seniors at the Simon Youth Academy in Circle Centre Mall is special, not only because they are part of a new school, but also because most of them were in danger of dropping out just months ago.
"I’m graduating. I didn’t think I would be able to but it happened," senior Nat'e Young said.
Young had a big smile on her face Friday, as did her classmates. The 18 students have grown close inside the specialized school that opened just this past winter.
"I’m going to be the second one in my family to graduate," Young said. She planned to start college at Ivy Tech in the fall.
Indianapolis Public Schools opened the school, in conjunction with Simon Youth Foundation, which operates schools in malls across the country. It is only for juniors and seniors, with a focus on those who are behind on credits or who need a smaller, more intimate program.
"It’s a great opportunity for anybody, whether you’re on track or not on track or you just want to get out of the big high school environment into something smaller. It’s a good environment to be in," senior Dejuan Robinson said.
Robinson managed to complete his credits early, allowing him to get ahead. He said he planned to join the workforce and then go to college next spring.
"It’ll be nice to see the people I was going to school with, see all of us graduate together," Robinson said.
For coordinator Teresa James-Robinson, seeing her first group of students make it to graduation day is its own milestone.
"They have worked extremely hard (and) put in enormous amounts of hours just doing what it takes to get done," James-Robinson said.
Friday wasn't the most glamorous day: students held their final meeting and did a run-through for graduation. Still, they all did it with smiles and with the pride that they are on their way.
"Everybody has been so supportive, our entire community has ... rallied behind these kids and we are so grateful," James-Robinson said.
Anyone is welcome to attend the ceremony and cheer the kids on. It takes place inside the Indianapolis Arts-Garden on Sunday at 1 p.m.
For more information about the school and how to apply, go to the link here.