NEW YORK, NY – exalt, a nonprofit serving court-involved young people ages 15-19, celebrated the opening of its expanded headquarters in Lower Manhattan yesterday evening with supporters, elected officials, civic leaders, educators, students and alumni. The new facility features state-of-the-art smart classrooms, a library, and a technology room to support the organization’s life-changing program that provides young New Yorkers access to academic opportunities and career development.
Photo Courtesy: Gisele Castro
Listen to an interview with exalt Executive Director Gisele Castro:
“We teach our young people that education is the practice of freedom and criminal justice avoidance starts here, a welcoming space that fosters a love for learning and personal growth that helps keep young people of color free,” said exalt Executive Director Gisele Castro. “We are beyond excited and honored to significantly expand our work with court-involved youth and now more than ever we must provide guidance and a true path to redemption through academic progression and career opportunities.”
Elected Officials including Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Assembly Member David Weprin, Council Member Christopher Marte, Council Member Amanda Farias attended the ceremony. They each praised the organization’s commitment to the success of young people of color and reforming the juvenile justice system.
During Brooklyn District Attorney Gonzalez’s remarks, he said: “Growing up in east New York, I saw a lot of criminally justice involved friends and family whose opportunities were extinguished way too early because people didn’t believe in them. “The fact that exalt continues to make sure that we never give up on our kids is one of the main reasons why I ran for District Attorney. I believe that our future is very favorable; I’m very optimistic and it’s because when I work with young people, I see their brilliance, I see their talent, I see their drive to do good things and they just need a shot.”
“Four years ago, I came to exalt and four years ago I was a completely different person from what you see now,” said exalt alumni Justin Mercado. “I was out doing everything negative in my power just so [that] I can get by, help my family and just be. Today, I work at the Children’s Fund of New York where I started as an intern thanks to exalt and I can always be grateful.”
The expansion was made possible by the support of philanthropic organizations like the Robin Hood Foundation, MacKenzie Scott, The Carson Family Trust and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.