Our 12-bed residential facility is located in lower Westchester County and serves over 150 young men from all over the county every year. The length of stay depends upon the individual's charges and the individual's response to the program. During their stay, the residents participate in a structured routine that fosters discipline, self-respect and respect for others. Residents are expected to perform daily chores while engaging in exercises that encourage positive teamwork and develop leadership skills. Sports are also promoted as another way to accomplish these goals.
As a condition of acceptance to the Shelter, all residents are expected to participate fully in a series of clinical programs. Some of these are court-ordered services and include both mental health and substance abuse counseling. Additionally, our on-site clinician provides individual, group and family counseling. We also provide anger management training, Alternatives to Violence training and positive peer interaction workshops which role play challenging situations and practicing the best response. The family component of our clinical program has proven to be an invaluable resource in providing us with a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities confronting these boys during their stay in our program.
The Shelter operates an alternative educational site under the auspices of the Mount Vernon Board of Education. Upon admission to our program, residents are assessed to determine their educational needs and abilities, and a personalized education plan is developed based on their capabilities. Students are tutored in a small, structured setting. This construct has produced remarkable results, with GED pass rates consistently in the 90 percent range. Some of our residents who have failed in almost every attempt at school begin to thrive in our educational plan. In addition, if a resident has completed his high school education or it's GED equivalent, he has the option of attending college or trade school, with proper authorization.
As part of our approach to a well rounded education, the YSPW also offers a robust cultural enrichment program. Among other things, our residents have visited the Schomberg Center for African Culture, go regularly to the library and museums and have attended Shakespeare on the Hudson . Many residents report that these excursions are a first for them. Other activities, such as boat-building and summer art classes, help show them how positive experiences can be not only fulfilling but also life-changing.
The YSPW places a high value on having a plan for our residents after discharge. To this end, we operate a vocational training program that offers our young men the opportunity to learn valuable skills that they can utilize both during their program participation and upon discharge. An important component of the program involves resume writing and practicing job interviews. We are able to provide them with appropriate business attire with clothing donations we have received from local churches, community organizations and schools. Guidance and career counseling is also an integral part of the vocational program. Every effort is made to ensure that our young men are engaged in meaningful employment both while at the Shelter and upon discharge.
Our historical partner in this venture has been the City of Mount Vernon Youth Bureau , which employs a significant number of our residents through their Youth Empowerment Program and annual Summer Youth Employment Program.
Community Service and Volunteerism
The YSPW places a high value on community service. The inherent benefit derived from volunteering has a natural place within our overarching philosophy of restorative justice. The young men who are admitted to our program have been given a rare opportunity to modify the course of their lives by making adjustments to their behavior. In turn, we encourage them to give back to the community though service. For many years our residents have volunteered at a nearby elder-care facility and nursing home . They have also worked on various projects, such as helping to build a playground with community organizations such as the Family YMCA of Mount Vernon and the Mount Vernon Boys and Girls Club.
In addition, our residents are also encouraged to join the YSPW Speakers Bureau, a voluntary program that teaches them the art of public speaking and the value of sharing experiences. Participants in this program have been invited to speak at the various places throughout the state, including the New York Department of Probation and several New York City schools. Founded in 1996 by a long-time YSPW Board member Rudy Coombs, the purpose of the Speakers Bureau is to engage young people in a discourse about their experiences in order to enlighten their listeners about the realities of crime and criminal behavior and inevitable arrest and incarceration. The residents can share their experiences in their own troubled families, challenging situations in school, their own criminal behavior and the opportunities afforded to them at the Shelter. Audience responses range from incredulity to astonishment, but these events always engender honest and poignant dialogue about lessons learned at a young age.
The YSPW aftercare program provides intensive on-going support to former residents who have successfully completed our program and been discharged back into their communities.Utilizing a supportive environment and coaching/mentoring model, our aftercare coordinator assists the recently released program participants in assimilating back into their home environments with as much ease as possible.
Participants agree to work toward mutually agreed upon goals for re-entry, including job training and, if indicated, clinical support.
In the future, the Shelter hopes to develop a transitional living program that will further aid our residents. This residential program could serve as a temporary living situation for those residents who do not qualify for existing services.