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The Excel Program

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Founded in 1996, Growth and Development Services (GDS) created Camp Excel and The Excel Program to empower youth challenged by social, educational, emotional and behavioral issues to Reach their Potential. In 2002, GDS built out raw space in NYC’s Fort Washington Armory and developed a license agreement with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to help bring most needed counseling, mentoring, educational, arts, and advocacy programs to the Washington Heights/Inwood communities. Our program outcomes indicate that GDS’ multifaceted programs equip participants with the tools they need to thrive in school, college, and life.


The Excel Program


The Excel Program provides educational, recreational, and therapeutic services geared to give youth and young adults the tools they need to make healthier choices and transform their lives. Youth participate in community events, after-school groups, recreational and team building activities that help create bonds with peers and improve their self-esteem.

Program components are:

  • Counseling
  • Mentoring
  • Wellness
  • College Prep
  • Job Readiness
  • Youth Advocacy

Camp Excel

Group E on Hill

Camp Excel is a three-day retreat where Excel program participants bond, team-build, learn new skills and get a chance to be one with nature. Research shows that inner-city teens can make significant emotional and social progress in a relaxing supportive “camp” environment. Camp Excel’s outcomes indicate increases in self-esteem, behavior control, and social skills.

A majority of the teen participants that Excel works with live in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in NYC and have never had the opportunity to swim in a lake or experience the serenity of the mountains. This summer Camp Excel with takes 10-15 SYEP participants to a retreat that will help them learn about self-advocacy, advocacy, and peer leadership.

The tools that campers attain during this intense leadership retreat is often life-changing. The encampment will allow teens to return home; revived, with new tools for their mind, body, and soul. Camp Excel gives them a sense of belonging, and purpose as individuals, team, and community members.

History & Mission

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Gary Altheim, founded Growth and Development Services, Inc. on November 8, 1996, to serve youth who are challenged by social, emotional and behavioral issues.

Over the last 20 years, GDS has equipped youth and families with the tools they need to excel and the opportunity to Reach Their Potential.  In 2002, GDS has found a home in the historic NYC Fort Washington Armory.

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