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The Excel Program

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Growth and Development Services (GDS) is a nonprofit organization 501(c)(3) founded in 1996, that was created to provide essential services for individuals and families challenged by health, emotional, behavioral, educational and social issues. GDS programs equip clients with the tools they need to excel and the opportunity to reach their potential, individually, in the community, and in society. With over two decades of experience, GDS has witnessed the impact of peer leadership on empowering youth to achieve new heights.  GDS has two core programs, The Excel Program and the yearlong Excel Program, both in coordination with the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and the Work Learn and Grow Program (WLG).


The Excel Program


The Excel Program is a comprehensive, unique, collaborative effort, deriving from GDS’ twenty years of experience working with youth from marginalized communities, as well as from collaborations with other community based organizations.  For the third year running, GDS will partner with Inwood Community Services’ (ICS), Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).  SYEP is a New York City funded initiative responsible for providing youth with summer employment opportunities. GDS will select 10-12 participants from SYEP to participate in the Excel Program for 6 weeks during the summer. At the end of the 6 weeks, participants can continue in the Excel Work Learn and Grow program through the following school year as well as participate in a weekend leadership development retreat, Camp Excel.

Camp Excel

Group E on Hill

Camp excel is a 3 day peer leadership development retreat where participants bond, team build, and establish individual, group and community goals with the support of counselors and peer leaders. The rapport and trust established at Camp Excel is fundamental to each student’s ongoing success in the Excel Program. Participants of the Excel Program will have an opportunity to attend this event on a rolling admissions basis.  

History & Mission

Clinical psychologist Dr. Gary Altheim founded Growth and Development Services, Inc. on November 8, 1996 to serve youth who faced burdens regarding mental health, family instability, and violence in their communities.

From its original site in Westchester County, NY and later in the South Bronx, GDS youth participants received vital therapeutic and recreational services. The year-long program continued into the summertime with Camp Excel.  The annual camp was an opportunity for urban youth to experience the calm and fresh air of upstate New York.

Today GDS serves a cohort of youth and their families who benefit from its essential supportive services and resources. The year-long after-school program continues with a summer session that includes individual, recreation and family counseling.

Over the last 18 years, GDS has equipped youth and families with the tools they need to excel and the opportunity to Reach Their Potential.  From its early days of empowering communities in Westchester County and the South Bronx; since 2002, GDS has found a home in the historic NYC Fort Washington Armory.

GDS participants are equipped with the inspiration and means to discover and sustain purpose, pride, and hope in themselves, their families and in the community.

Our mission is to empower youth and young adults with the inspiration and the means to discover and sustain purpose, pride, and hope in themselves, their families and in the community.  

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