SWBOCES partnership yields opportunities for 11 adult learners

Partnership with Youth Shelter of Westchester, support of Westchester Community Foundation key to students’ success

With the support of the Westchester Community Foundation, 11 students who reside at the Youth Shelter of Westchester in Mount Vernon recently completed Southern Westchester BOCES' Auto Body/Collision Repair Program together.

The students gathered in their classroom, a working auto body shop equipped with state of the art tools, and received their completion certificates as well-wishers from all three organizations looked on. The twice weekly course at the SWBOCES Career Services campus in Valhalla, was funded through the generous support from the Westchester Community Foundation following collaborative planning efforts between shelter leadership and SWBOCES.

"I'm glad we had the opportunity to be able to partner with these groups to do this. I think this is well needed," said Southern Westchester BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Harold Coles. "This is what we're here for. BOCES is not just here for early childhood and secondary programs, but it's also for students in their young adulthood, to help them work on developing career pathways."

Joanne Dunn,  Executive Director of the Youth Shelter of Westchester, said she and Tracy Racicot, Director of Adult & Community Services at SWBOCES, have worked together to devise ways to pair high school equivalency instruction and vocational training for a student population that is often misunderstood. The Youth Shelter of Westchester is a residential alternative for young offenders.  

"We've really been talking about how we change the narrative. How do we on-ramp them to a real career?" Ms. Dunn said. 

Additional training opportunities lie ahead for this cohort of students. Internships began immediately at a local service shop. Eventually they'll receive training in welding and intermediate auto body repair. 

Ms. Dunn thanked the Westchester Community Foundation and its executive director, Laura Rossi, for their partnership in bringing this dream to reality. Ms. Rossi was on hand for the presentation of students’ certificates.

The Westchester Community Foundation supports the Youth Shelter of Westchester because we believe that all young people deserve access to opportunity, and an encounter with the law should not be the end of the line. The accomplishments of this class of graduates from the Auto Body & Collision Repair class demonstrate how important a second chance is. With comprehensive support from the YSOW and SWBOCES’ partnership, these graduates have worked hard, learned new skills, and earned a credential that puts them on the path to good career and solid employment. We are very proud to have been able to support them and wish them all continued success."

The Center for Adult & Community Services also provides high school equivalency exam preparation at the Youth Shelter of Westchester through adult literacy programs that are funded under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act.

Ms. Racicot congratulated the students, 10 men and one woman, for completing the program and encouraged them to continue their pursuit of the career opportunities that follow.

"You're all way too important for us not to do this work," said Ms. Racicot. "So thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you, because you are worth it."  

James Gratto, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, recalled an exchange he once had at a local automotive dealership that illustrated the value of BOCES training. The manager told Mr. Gratto his shop often hires SWBOCES graduates, but they quickly move on to better paying, higher level jobs.

"He said, you need to keep sending us the entry level people," Mr. Gratto recalled, "because with training in the automotive industry, there's so many opportunities that people just don't know about."