While all days are pretty swell at The Guidance Center of Westchester (TGCW), recently I experienced a particularly wonderful one, and I wanted to share it with all of you.
8:30 AM – In 2006, TGCW was the first agency selected for Early Step Forward, a county program that places social workers in child care centers to help address behavioral issues with young children, provides training in how to provide social-emotional learning for staff, and supports parents. Early Step Forward was the first big grant TGCW received after I first came on board as the then executive director, and it was a major achievement for us to receive this funding. On June 21, Early Step Forward celebrated its 13th birthday with a presentation on its impact. Two parents who we helped at child care sites in Ossining spoke passionately and beautifully on how, because of us, they have been able to move forward in life and do a better job of raising their children despite dealing with the death of spouses, domestic violence, isolation, and poverty.
11:00 AM – The City of Mount Vernon awarded our Center for College & Careers (CCC) with up to $112,000, creating more opportunity for Mount Vernon residents to enroll in our FutureWorks construction training and certifications program. The Westchester Community Foundation funds FutureWorks for young people up to age 21 who are from New Rochelle or Mount Vernon. The additional funding from the City of Mount Vernon opens the program for any Mount Vernon resident who has at least a high school or equivalency diploma (and, hey, if someone doesn’t have their HSE, we can help them obtain that, too!). News12 was there for the press conference and “big check” presentation, and two young people who are participating in the program spoke from the podium. You can learn more about FutureWorks here.
6:00 PM – Final ceremony for our Center for College & Careers (CCC) students at Mount Vernon High School. This was in a small room with about 10 students, some parents, our CCC staff, myself, and the principal. This personal event was remarkable. Before the ceremony, the principal spoke to me saying that he has come to depend on our Center for College & Careers to help the students, and he gave a wonderful compliment to our new counselor there. Here are a few items of note:
- Each student read the "hook" from their college essay. This included stories from being on the streets during a gang fight with gun shots everywhere, to one of a young woman who carried water on her shoulder up the hills to a home in Jamaica while her brothers sat inside playing video games.
- Two young men played a song they wrote which will be used as a kick-off to an after-school program for song writing that they will start in the fall. You can watch one of the performances of the evening here.
- The most amazingly told tale of endurance was from a young man who is a graduating senior. Born in Jamaica and abandoned by his mom, his dad worked 18 hours a day and left him on his own. Because he has a major speech impediment, he had no friends and was teased endlessly. He tested in to a top high school, but his father had remarried and his step-mother made him sleep outside in the sewer with the rats and roaches. At the high school, attended by some of the richest kids in Jamaica, he was laughed at because he smelled and wore the same clothes every day. He rarely ate, had little energy to study and finally stopped going to school. He was starting to hang out with a local gang when his mother in NY sent for him. He started at Mount Vernon High School this year, and his first stop was our Center for College & Careers. We helped him navigate class schedules, understand culture, and took him on college tours. He is going to SUNY Oswego with a full scholarship! He told his story while stuttering but, with incredible patience and strength, he brought everyone into the horrors, struggles, and triumphs of his life. He ended by saying that you can never give up.
I hope that by my sharing details of my great day as CEO, you feel as proud to be a part of TGCW as I am.
Together, we thrive!