Youth Advocate, Joanne Dunn, Named Executive Director of the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester
MOUNT VERNON, NY -- Joanne Dunn of Peekskill, was well aware that her new role as executive director of The Youth Shelter Program of Westchester, Inc. would require her to bring all of her experience as a youth advocate to bear. She was just settling in when COVID-19 hit and is now trying to navigate a world in which racial unrest born of the death of George Floyd, at the hands of the Minneapolis police department, has taken center stage. Located in Mt. Vernon, NY, Ms. Dunn is the first woman to lead this organization since its incorporation in 1975. Conceived by a Westchester judge and school teacher who recognized the need for early intervention in the lives of young offenders, Youth Shelter Program of Westchester has been providing a home-like alternative to jail for young men, for over 40 years, with great results. Prior to joining Youth Shelter, Ms. Dunn spent 12 years with Westhab Inc. where she eventually became Assistant Vice President of Youth and Employment Services. Highlights of her time at Westhab include placing over 1,927 individuals into employment and 550 placed in 2018 alone, while also serving over 2000 youth through Westhab’s comprehensive year round youth programs. She was instrumental in Westhab’s expansion of programming into 3 of the 5 boroughs of New York City and 5 counties (Ulster, Dutchess, Rockland, Sullivan and Orange) in the Hudson Valley. Prior to her work at Westhab, Joanne worked with the City of Peekskill Youth Bureau to provide overall leadership and direction to the Workforce Investment Act Out-of-School Youth program. Ms. Dunn’s commitment to youth is more of a calling than a job. She has served as a troop leader for the Westchester Putnam Girl Scouts, a member of the Peekskill City School Districts Parental/Community Involvement Committee, a Parent Coordinator for the Peekskill Pop Warner Football League and as an Executive Board Member for the Peekskill NAACP, which awarded her for her outstanding service to youth and families. She previously served on the Advisory Board for the SUNY Westchester Educational Opportunity Center, Westchester County’s Fatherhood Committee and the Arts10566 Advisory Board. She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and was awarded a Forty under Forty by The Business Council of Westchester. Joanne is a proud graduate of Leadership Westchester. In addition to her experience, it was the passion that Joanne exhibited during the selection process that made a huge impression on the search committee. Board Chair, Rev. Darren Morton said, “We knew almost immediately that Joanne was the best fit for this position. Her passion coupled with her knowledge and experience was unmatched. Currently, Dunn sits on the Educational Workforce Committee of the transition team for Shawyn Patterson-Howard, the mayor of Mt. Vernon. Patterson-Howard said of Dunn’s appointment, “Youth Shelter Program is a valued partner in Mt. Vernon. Joanne Dunn is a consummate professional with the right combination of determination, knowledge and compassion that is required to lead an organization that plays such a vital role in the lives of the young men who spend time there. She’s the right person at the right time.” On her new role, Joanne said, “The young men who come to the shelter are above all, young people in need of a second chance. All of my prior experiences have prepared me for this role and I relish the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of these and other young people who need a champion in their corner.” Joanne earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Development from Benedict College. She and her husband, Darryl Francis, live in Peekskill with their three children; two of the youngest were foster children. For more information about Youth Shelter Program visit www.ysow.org.