Dear Commissioner Steven Banks, Joslyn Carter, Aaron Goodman, Matt Borden, Leilani Irvin, and Lori Boozer,
Growth and Development Services (GDS) offers much needed programs to the youth of Washington Heights. By opening their arms to welcome those in need, by opening their mouths to speak words of comfort and of wisdom, and by opening the hearts of the youth, GDS has helped guide the youth to find their direction and reach their potential.
I believe Growth and Development Services helps the youth do exactly what the name implies, to grow as people, to develop their self-image and to go on to service their community. In 2018, when youth that were involved in The Excel Program, 86% of them left with increased awareness of community issues, 93% felt more empowered, 92% had raised self-awareness of their strengths and areas of opportunity, 93% of them felt more empowered and EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM left with stronger peer support, increased self-confidence, improved communication skills, a better understanding of what advocacy is and a better understanding of what self-advocacy is.
When our youth are empowered in their own selves, and empowered to go forth help improve the lives of those around them and their community at large, we are able to create a better foundation for our society. If there were more programs like GDS, there would be less crime, lowered drop-out rates, less drug use and we would see more of our youth striving to succeed in areas that are beneficial to their lives and to longevity and infrastructure of our community at large.
I am urging the Mayor’s Office, Remy Salas and all public official to request that Commissioner Steven Banks to support GDS Youth programs at the NYC Fort Washington Armory. Please help restore GDS’ license, assuring their most-needed after-school and summer programs remain at the Armory.
I believe the city and all public officials should be supporting these programs NOT dismantling them.
GDS mental health, leadership development, youth advocacy, education, job/college readiness and intergenerational programs empower both the young and old. As GDS’ attorney Seth Perlman Esq. said, “If you force GDS to leave its space in the Armory, you will deprive the community of a vital resource, one which has supported Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx since 1996”… we urge you to reconsider.
Thank you. Steve Fermin, GDS Youth Advocate