MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Westhab, a nonprofit, 501 (c) 3 organization, offers children and adults free services ranging from after-school academic and recreational activities to preparation for finding and maintaining jobs.
Through the Promoting Excellence and Achievement in Kids (PEAK) Center, located at 49 E. Third St., children are given a place to go after school. Program Developer John Parssinen said about 150 elementary through high school students in the Mount Vernon school district use the center on a regular basis.
“It’s been a very bustling, busy active youth center since it was opened in 2008,” Parssinen said. “It’s nice that we can offer services to the community free of charge. There aren’t a ton of youth programs for kids in Mount Vernon, so PEAK helps to fill that need. We rely on youth counselors, volunteers and interns from local colleges to provide mentoring and tutoring services.”
The PEAK Center also offers an academic and employment assistance program for Mount Vernon high school students. Known as the “Skills for Life” program, Westhab offers paid internships to students at the PEAK Center in areas such as administration, counseling and custodial jobs. Parssinen said that, during the 2011-12 school year, Westhab also was able to help 23 high school students matriculate into college.
“They’ll go to Manhattanville College to participate in various mentoring programs,” Parssinen said. “We want to show these young men and ladies what college feels like. The idea for college is so foreign to many of the kids. Oftentimes they are first-generation college-goers. We want them to get comfortable with the possibility that college could be for them.”
The PEAK Center also offers programs for adults, including preparation for the GED exam and job placement. Parsinen said that Westhab was able to place 380 people in “meaningful” employment last year.
“We work with over 1,600 adults and partner with over 100 area employers,” Parssinen said. “Employers trust Westhab and we support them throughout the employment process. We make sure to work with all parties to create successful job placements for our clients .”