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Queens Community House navigates through COVID-related hurdles for summer youth program

Queens Community House is facing obstacles while working toward the kickoff of the Summer Youth Employment Program. (Courtesy QCH)

Although COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted throughout the borough, continued concerns have presented obstacles for Queens Community House (QCH) as they work toward the kickoff of their Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

As one of the largest social service organizations in Queens, QCH provides youth between the ages of 14 and 24 with career opportunities and paid work experiences through SYEP. Participants explore their interests and career pathways, develop workplace skills and engage in learning experiences that help to develop their social, civic and leadership skills.

In the months leading up to each summer, QCH looks for businesses to partner with and recruit worksites for SYEP. One of the major hurdles this year has been the amount of participants businesses are willing to accept. Many are accepting only half the number of SYEP participants that they would normally welcome.

“Businesses are factoring in maintaining social distancing while accounting for their existing staff to avoid having too many people in person at one time,” QCH Workforce Program Manager Carlene Asphall said.

The reopening of the city has also resulted in a limited number of virtual worksites available for QCH’s SYEP, as businesses transition back to in-person operations.

“We have a lot of in-person worksites, but some parents and their children are hesitant to go back to in-person settings and would rather participate virtually,” Asphall said.

(Courtesy of QCH)

Alexandria Sumpter-Delves, division director of Youth Workforce at QCH, said that the initial struggle to confirm worksites for SYEP was due to COVID concerns and the uncertainty of the city reopening.

“When we were reaching out to businesses in February, many were hesitant to be a SYEP worksite because they were unsure about how they’d be operating during the summer, but now we’re hearing yeses from them as the city reopens,” Sumpter-Delves said.

Despite the obstacles that have come with this year’s SYEP launch, QCH looks forward to seeing young people engaged in a program that provides work experience and workforce readiness opportunities.

“This has been a challenging time for young people looking for opportunities to grow, so we need to reinforce the importance of helping the youth develop social, civic and leadership skills to prepare them for the future, and SYEP is a great way to do that, Sumpter-Delves said.

Participants will have the opportunity to work in a variety of jobs at government agencies, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, law firms, retail businesses and more. Some of the confirmed QCH SYEP worksites for this year include the Office of the Queens Borough President, New York Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, Fairview Nursing Care Center, Buffalo Wild Wings, the Office of Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, Astoria Film Festival and the city Department of Design and Construction.

Through a broad network of programs operating out of 32 sites in 14 neighborhoods, QCH serves more than 25,000 Queens residents of all ages with a needed support system at every stage of life, helping them to develop the knowledge, confidence and skills to change their lives for the better and become active participants in their larger community.

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