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Youth and Family Services

Youth Advocate thank you to Dr. Gary. Click here to see more testimonials from GDS Youth Advocates.

Youth Advocate thank you to Dr. Gary. Click here to see more testimonials from GDS Youth Advocates.

The Training Institute


Youth inspiring Youth thank you letter to Director of Programs Theonyl Cuevas. Click here to see more Youth inspiring Youth letters

Community Advocacy Program

Youth inspiring Youth thank you letter to their yoga and meditation teacher Janine White. Click here to see more Youth inspiring Youth letters

Youth inspiring Youth thank you letter to their yoga and meditation teacher Janine White. Click here to see more Youth inspiring Youth letters


The Washington Heights & Inwood Youth Service Providers’ Collective presented Growth and Development Services with a Counseling Services award

“In appreciation for your most needed Counseling Services Award for youth and families of our Community.”


“A quinceanera, summer camp, and college: GDS turns 15” by Sandra E. Garcia. Manhattan Times article written on March 28, 2012.


A letter from Davon Russell, Vice President for Programs and Operations of Women’s Housing & Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCo), to Markida Murrell, Contract Specialist of the Department of Youth and Community Development endorsing the work of GDS. (October 20, 2009)



“Camp Excel: helping teens reach their potential” by Donna LeSchander. Manhattan Times article on June 19, 2003 about the therapeutic/recreational work GDS does through Camp Excel, a week-long sleep-away program. Camp Excel provides an opportunity to Washington Heights teens to experience the outdoors while being mentored in conflict resolution, goal achievement, and coping skills.


“Life Savers” by Lois Sakany. An article from the Mann Report written in February 2002. “There’s nothing that compares to the bonds we’ve made with these teens and their families. What’s special about this program is that you can actually see a change in the teens and their families. There’s a high level of integrity and quality in this organization.”


Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health presents a Mental Health Award to Camp Excel & The Excel Program in recognition of a significant contribution to the development of sound mental health. (Awarded September 21, 2001)


Resources for children

2015 Testimonial Community Advocacy Program

March 24, 2012

To Whom It May Concern,

Since October 2011 I have been working closely with The Training Institute, a program of Growth and Development Services Inc. (GDS) , a community based organization in Washington Heights. Once I became aware and understood the purpose and mission of GDS, I knew that I needed them to start working with families at Inwood Academy for Leadership.

In this short time they have provided a total of 5 parent Reach Your Potential (RYP) Playshops (GDS’ word for fun workshops) during our Saturday school program. They have created a following because no one wants to miss their Playshops once they start attending. Our program started with 7 parents and has grown to as much as 20 at our last Playshop. The hope is that they will continue to come and grow as individuals so that they can truly Reach Their Potential – as individuals and as parents.

As Dr. Gary Altheim and Theonyl Cuevas (MSW) always mention, our parents first have put on their own “oxygen masks” before they can be good parents. And that is what GDS provides, a time for parents to release their anxieties and develop tools and strategies to help them overcome their stressors. That is why 100% of GDS participants are satisfied with the Playshop and invite their friends to come.

What I love about GDS is that they truly understand our population, their environment, the neighborhood, and the struggles. They help parents and staff understand the struggles and the plight of the families we serve. Their depth of knowledge, understanding, and ability to communicate such ideas make them a high quality organization. This is why I highly recommend GDS and The Training Institute to any school that is looking to engage and develop a stronger parent presence in their school.


Christian Guerrero

Director of School Culture

NEW YORK, NY 10040

May 10, 2016

Dear Sir or Madam:

My name is Yolise Fajardo, I currently serve as the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and the Work, Learn & Grow Employment Program (WL&GEP) Director at Inwood Community Services, Inc.. Inwood Community Services, Inc. (ICS) is a not-for-profit community-based organization established in 1979 to serve the residents of the Inwood-Washington Heights community to provide extensive programming for children, adolescents, adults and families in Counseling; Literacy, Youth Services; and Prevention.

It is my pleasure to write this letter on behalf of Dr. Gary Altheim to give recognition to his organization Growth and Development Services, Inc. (GDS) for all of the positive and productive work that they do in the Washington Heights and Inwood (WHaI) communities. I first met Dr. Gary at a community meeting regarding community resources served by different Community Based Organization in Northern Manhattan. After hearing what each of our organizations had to offer Dr. Gary and I decided that it would be beneficial to start a partnership.

Since that meeting in 2014 Dr. Gary has had an interest in our Summer Youth Employment Program, who serves more than 600 youth with summer employment each year. However, it wasn’t until last summer, summer 2015 that our partnership flourished and we were able to work together. Growth and Development Services, Inc. became a worksite for our SYEP program. They hosted about 10 Youth Advocates/Peer Leaders in their office at the Armory Foundation. There our youth took part in several projects overseen by Dr, Gary and Theonyl Cuevas his Director of Programs. Dr. Gary was excellent in sharing with us all of the events and projects that our youth hosted and attended.

The Youth Advocates began a movement for GDS, their peers and the community called The Youth Movement, led by ACE –Advocating for Community Empowerment, which started a supportive campaign for community programs. As part of the advocacy program the peer leaders were trained in self-advocacy and community activism. Some of our SYEP youth participants wrote testimonials for GDS such as  “This program enables youth like me to progress and continue through the difficult teenage years, and finds a way to motivate us. Growth and Development Services helps me be more outspoken, strong minded and diplomatic. I am extremely happy with the fact that this program makes me more ecstatic as an individual and gives me a mammoth amount of positivity with any downfalls I may have experienced” Jose M. Calixto. And “I gained more knowledge about nonprofit organizations, leadership, advocacy and activism” August 2015, GDS participant.

The youth also launched a Reach Your Potential (RYP) Program which incorporates counseling,  peer leadership training, arts, college/job readiness and community activism. The program empowers inner city youth by building on their strengths, promoting a strong sense of self, and by teaching them critical skills they need to advocate for themselves and others.

Because of the huge success that our participants had over the summer at GDS, Dr, Gary and I partnered again the fall of 2015 for our Work, Learn & Grow Employment Program. This time around Dr. Gary and Theonyl became a more integral part for our program by donating their time to help host some of our orientations. During a span of 2 weeks they visited our orientation to speak and educate  our youth about topics such as the impacts of Social Media & Cyber Bullying  as well as teach them and provide them with examples of how to properly write a resume and cover letter.

During the fall and the winter months they hosted a new group of Youth Advocates and Peer Leaders who continued with the Reach Your Potential project. The Participants, in their role as Youth Advocates, attended community board and Town Hall meetings, advocated for the continuation, utilization and creation of community programs, and planned Community Impact events at GDS. In their administrative roles, they assisted in revamping the agency’s office organization and filing systems.  At the culmination of the program, the participants reported feeling accomplished and with improved skills to continue with their career or professional endeavor.

Dr. Gary, Theonyl and GDS have become one of my favorite sites for our youth. I feel like at GDS they are learning a sense of responsibility for themselves and for the community they live in. Programs like GDS that teach youth about the importance of advocacy and motivate them to become better individuals in life are needed in our communities.

I look forward to continuing a partnership with Dr, Gary and GDS and to learn more of the project and ideas that they have for our youth and for the WHaI communities.



Yolise Fajardo

SYEP Program Director

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