The Brooklyn-based owner of Westchester’s Ridge Hill, the 1.3 million-square-foot shopping, entertainment and health care complex in Yonkers, has partnered with Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE) to launch a two-year career exploration program for the city’s public high school students.
The program, Ridge Hill Academy, is funded by Forest City Ratner Cos. as part of a three-year, $100,000 grant to YPIE, a private nonprofit founded in 2007 that works in partnership with the Yonkers public schools to increase the number of students who complete a post-secondary program. The program will expose students to management careers in shopping center industries, including retail and restaurant management, operations, security and maintenance management, public relations and marketing. Westmed Medical Group will instruct students in medical center management at its Ridge Hill clinic.
Ridge Hill Academy launched Feb. 5 with 25 high school sophomores and juniors in the program’s first 10-week semester. Participants were chosen from Yonkers public schools through a competitive application process managed by YPIE staff. A new group of students will be selected for each semester.
Students will rotate weekly among vendors and retail establishments at Ridge Hill to learn about various careers and the educational paths needed to get there. They will also participate in a series of job readiness and skill-building workshops focused on resume writing, interviewing and workplace etiquette. Each academy graduate will be awarded a certificate of program completion and will have an opportunity to apply for summer internships and jobs.
Staff at Forest City Ratner and its operational partners at Ridge Hill, including Securitas USA, Collins Building Services and LAZ Parking, will teach students about marketing and retail center security, maintenance and parking and traffic. They also will learn about retail management from Lord & Taylor staff at Ridge Hill, supermarket operations at Whole Foods and restaurant management at The Cheesecake Factory.
Whole Foods will donate 5 percent of their sales on March 6 to YPIE.
“Forest City is giving these students a wonderful opportunity,” YPIE Executive Director Wendy Nadel said in a statement announcing the program launch. “Exposure to careers and the skills needed to be successful in the workplace should be part of every child’s education. Ridge Hill Academy will help these students understand what they need to do to build a successful future.”
Kathy Welch, senior vice president and director of retail development for Forest City Ratner Cos., said the workplace academy is “a great opportunity for participants to learn and work with Ridge Hill professionals who put good ideas and innovative solutions into practice every day. We are very excited to be participating in this worthwhile, hands-on program.”
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano in a statement said the collaboration between YPIE and Forest City Ratner “is critical to the future of our Yonkers Public School students. Programs like this are vital so we can expose our students to different careers and provide them the real-life experience needed to help them make educated decisions about college and beyond.”
Nadel said YPIE hopes to replicate the innovative Ridge Hill Academy model with other area corporations and businesses.