A number of Queens elected officials and nonprofit leaders drew on their own experience taking part in the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program while lauding Mayor Eric Adams for expanding the vital initiative.
On Wednesday, Feb. 16, the mayor announced the program’s budget will be increased to $236 million annually thanks to an agreement with the City Council.
“This historic investment in our city’s youth will make a tremendous difference for young people, their families and communities across New York City,” Speaker Adrienne Adams said. “The Summer Youth Employment Program provides participants with life-changing opportunities to gain valuable work experiences, develop new skills and receive stipends that are often a first paycheck. Expanding SYEP and other employment opportunities for young people will strengthen communities and advance public safety.”
SYEP is one of the nation’s largest programs of its kind, working to connect young people from ages 14 to 24 with career exploration opportunities and paid work experience giving participants the chance to explore interests in different career fields all while developing workplace skills, engaging in opportunities to develop civic, social and leadership skills and the opportunity to get paid for their work.
“The Summer Youth Employment Program is dear to my heart; my own summer internships from ages 17 to 23 exposed me to public service for the first time,” Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar said. “I worked at a nonprofit to help domestic violence survivors, for a U.S. Senate campaign and at a human rights organization. That is why as a state legislator, I participate in the SYEP program, offering places in my office for youth.”
Commonpoint Queens CEO Danielle Ellman was also influenced by participating in the program.
“Youth employment programs are immeasurably valuable because they not only support working families, but they allow our future leaders to get their feet in the door in professional settings they wouldn’t otherwise have available to them,” Ellman said. “I started my professional journey as a 14-year-old summer camp counselor thanks to the Summer Youth Employment Program, and this program helped me get to where I am today. I know firsthand how hard it is to find meaningful things to do in the summer, this will create countless opportunities for the youth of NYC.”
The Flushing-based Chinese-American Planning Council commended City Hall for expanding the program at a precarious time.
“We are particularly delighted that the mayor’s office will focus on young people from underserved communities,” Chinese-American Planning Council President and CEO Wayne Ho said. “Given the rise in anti-Asian hate and the economic struggles of Asian-American families due to the pandemic, we look forward to working with the Department of Youth and Community Development to ensure that diverse youth populations are meaningfully included in this expansion.”
Research shows summer jobs saves lives, cut crime and strengthen communities, according to City Hall. A study found that SYEP participation lowers participants’ chances of being arrested that summer by 17 percent and by 23 percent for felony arrests.
“In addition to providing jobs, the Summer Youth Employment Program is vital in keeping kids off the streets during the summer and can go a long way in helping to curb potential criminal behavior in the city,” State Senator Joseph Addabbo said. “I believe addressing the issue of crime starts with creating a foundation where people don’t feel the need to resort to a path of criminal activity to survive, which is why I wish this program continued success moving forward.”
Beyond the public safety implications, summer jobs can offer life-changing experiences for participants who discover a passion, connect with a mentor and gain the confidence that comes from successfully navigating the world of work.
“Creating opportunities for our youth to succeed is the best way to directly serve our communities and invest in our families. With this record amount of summer youth jobs available, we can start to make a real difference in our young neighbors’ lives and their families,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Our young people in Queens and across New York City need these life-changing resources now more than ever, and I encourage them to take full advantage of this great program once applications open.”