Mount Vernon's Gun Violence Prevention Program connects the city's youth with future careers

The goal of the program, which is funded with a $300,000 state grant, is to provide career paths to young people who are either out of school, unemployed or under-employed.

News 12 Staff

Mar 23, 2023, 10:25 PM

Updated 432 days ago


A program in Mount Vernon helping the city's youth connect with potential career paths while also preventing gun violence.
Cutting hair was something Selwyn Paul kind fell into.
"I was cutting my hair at first," says the 20-year-old who is enrolled at the Westchester Barber Academy in Mount Vernon. His tuition is completely paid for, thanks to a new city program.
"I feel like I was navigating aimlessly. It gave me a chance to find some direction. I always had a vision but it was kind of blurry," he says.
Paul is one of 55 young people aged 18-24 who are enrolled in the city's Gun Violence Prevention Program. It's funded with a $300,000 state grant and launched back in 2021. The goal is to provide career paths to young people who are either out of school, unemployed or under-employed.
"It's not just about today, it's about their future. So when we have youth from Mount Vernon who actually want to not only live here but work here, it speaks volumes," says Mount Vernon Youth Bureau executive director Debbie Burrell-Butler.
The program aims to stop a spike in gun violence that has claimed young lives, like ninth grade STEAM Academy student Zyaire Fernandez, who was fatally gunned down earlier this month.
Officials say they are seeing positive results by connecting young people to workforce training. The Mount Vernon Youth Bureau has reached 255 young people over the last two years and now 180 of them have jobs.
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. But you can slap salt in their mouth and make them thirsty. And that's what we are doing," says Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard.
For Paul, the program is providing a clear path.
"I'm thankful. I'm appreciative," he says. "Now I see ways I can take care of myself and my family. I think that's what success is."
Paul will graduate in May and already has prospects for landing a job.
The Mount Vernon Youth Bureau is working with state officials to secure additional funding so they can help more young residents connect with life-changing workforce training.

More from News 12