Ready, Set, Succeed: Skills for Life Program Preps Teens for College and Careers 

Adam, pictured above, is a 14-year-old who likes photography, enjoys the outdoors, and hopes to become an accountant. Recently, at the graduation ceremony of Westhab’s Skills for Life teen program, he stood tall as the proud recipient of the “Most Outstanding Worker” award. For this and many other teens, Skills for Life (or SFL as participants call it) has been a place to meet new friends while getting college-ready and gaining valuable, first-hand experience as a paid teen assistant intern for Westhab’s Coachman Family Center youth services program. “Having my first job has shown me a lot of responsibility. Since I’m good at math, I help the younger kids with homework. It feels good to earn my own money,” shared the proud teen.

The Skills for Life Program was created to address the needs emerging from families at Westhab’s Coachman Family Center in White Plains, NY. Homeless and at‐risk teens are at a distinct disadvantage from their peers and often lack the crucial life skills needed to find jobs and become self‐sufficient. By providing these youth with paid work experience, college readiness support, and financial literacy training, SFL allows students to apply the skills learned to help them succeed. The program’s success has helped it expand to serve teens from other under-resourced communities, including a cohort at Westhab’s Dayspring Community Center in Nodine Hill, Yonkers.

The program helps teens hone their soft skills while inspiring them to broaden their horizons and consider college an option. Programming focuses on academic support, college readiness, and a paid internship.

“Program staff report seeing significant growth in the teens over the course of their internships, with many improving their work ethic and expressing interest in college for the very first time,” said Assistant Vice President of Youth and Employment Services Tracy Rhett. “Academic support, coupled with exposure to a professional environment with guidance on workplace expectations prove invaluable for our teens in the long run.”

In addition to college prep, students can gain gateway credentials that may lead to extended training and certification, allowing them to enter the workforce with employable skills. SFL offers connections to job training like Certified Nursing Assistant, Security Guard Training, OSHA Training, and other in-demand career paths. 

As Adam wraps up his 9th-grade year, his time with Skills for Life has been more than just a program—it’s been a gateway to new connections, skills, and possibilities. While he has excelled in the workplace, the best part of the experience is the connections he’s made. “My favorite part has been socializing with people from the group and meeting people with similar interests. I have learned a lot from the employment and finance workshops. I should also thank Stephanie Williams, our Skills for Life Counselor, for convincing me to join the program and guiding me.”

Westhab President & CEO Rich Nightingale shared, “We are incredibly grateful for St. Faith’s House Foundation’s partnership. Skills for Life is helping teens gain confidence in their competence and giving them big ideas about their futures. Westhab staff do an incredible job mentoring students, and the transformation in these participants is amazing to witness.” 

Skills for Life is operated by Westhab’s youth services team, which in 2023 alone, served 1,762 elementary, middle, and high school students in after-school and summer programs across Westchester and NYC. Youth services staff operate in all Westhab family shelters,  after-school and summer programs. With the end of the school year approaching, Westhab Youth Services is busy gearing up for summer programming for teens to enjoy summer internships with SFL and Project RISE. Stay tuned for more updates from Westhab’s summer camps!

Here are a few pictures of the most recent graduates of Skills for Life!

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Posted in Westhab Stories.