Westchester Community College, the largest of 20 higher-education institutions in the county, opened a $40.5 million, 70,000-square-foot Gateway Center in September 2010 on the college’s main campus in Valhalla. Westchester County contributed $14 million to the project, which took three years to complete.

The environmentally friendly, LEED-certified center houses business, language, volunteer and international student programs, as well as the college’s English Language Institute and a corporate-training-oriented Professional Development Center. “This is a place where students will be encouraged to set a goal higher than they would have thought possible and be able to find all the pieces they need to get there,” County Executive Robert P. Astorino said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Gateway concept resulted from a three-year study funded by a grant from the Hitachi Foundation and conducted in partnership with Westchester Community College and the Westchester business community.

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Each semester, more than 20,000 full-time, part-time and continuing education students attend the college, which has nine extension sites throughout the county.

In addition to providing wide access to several notable public colleges, Westchester County is well-versed in private post-secondary study. Sarah Lawrence College, located in Yonkers, offers a writing-intensive program; West Point United States Military Academy consistently turns out well-trained and academically proficient graduates; and Pace University has strong relationships with local business, civic and community organizations. The New York Medical School in Valhalla is the third-largest graduate health sciences university in the United States, and is one of the leading academic biomedical research institutions in the state of New York.

Divided into 48 school districts, Westchester County also has highly regarded primary, secondary and post-secondary schools. Of 44 high schools in the county, 28 show SAT scores that are above the national average. The county also boasts a low drop-out rate.

Besides the county’s strong focus on academics, extracurricular activities are given robust support from school staff and faculty. Ossining High School has an award-winning Science Scholars program, Lakeland High and Walter Panas High both have championship debate teams, and the Green School Coalition of Westchester encourages students at every school in the county to connect with their community. Implemented in 2009 by the Teatown Lake Reservation and CELF (Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation), the program has continued to grow.

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