A coalition of students joined elected officials and advocacy groups on the steps of City Hall on Thursday to support the Summer Youth Employment Program and to call for increased investment to allow for the expansion of the program.
The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) currently provides six weeks of summer employment to 70,000 youth, aged 14-24 across the five boroughs, according to Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, who was among elected officials rallying with the students.
Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said SYEP also provides workshops on job readiness, career exploration, financial literacy, and opportunities to continue education and social growth.
But, he said, “the program does not currently have the levels of investment needed to provide universal placement for students badly in need of a summer job.”
The elected officials, advocates, and students, therefore, called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to expand funding for the program in the fiscal year 2019 budget currently being negotiated.
Besides Williams, City Council members who raised their voices at the rally in support of the program included Debi Rose, chair of the Youth Services Committee, and Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Education.
“For decades, the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program has connected young people with their communities, taught them financial literacy and prepared them for successful careers,” Rose said. “This is an investment in individuals and in the future well-being of our city, and our budget should reflect these values.
“It defies logic that tens of thousands of students who apply for this program are turned away, and I call on the mayor to continue to close this gap by increasing the number of positions available to our young people,” she added.
Treyger said the City needs to increase its investment in the Summer Youth Employment Program.
“All teenagers and young adults who want to work should have the right to work,” he said. “Employing our young people is one of the best ways we can help them succeed. Let’s listen to our teenagers and young adults, and keep investing in SYEP.”
Williams, a candidate for New York State Lt. Governor, said SYEP is “one of the most vital programs for young people in our city.
“A summer job is about more than a paycheck; it’s about learning vital skills and providing our youth with a positive path,” he said. “There are tens of thousands of students being turned away from the program because of shortfalls in the funding allocated.
“We can do better, and we must demand better on behalf of students across the five boroughs who can benefit immensely from a summer job,” he added.
With June recognized as Gun Violence Awareness Month, there was focus on the notion that the greatest preventative factor against youth encountering violence is a job.
Williams, as co-chair of the City Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, said that SYEP has been “extremely beneficial in keeping kids off the streets during the summer months, which, historically, see a spike in gun violence activity.”
The community benefits of SYEP were echoed by groups at the rally in support of the program.
They included: East Flatbush Village, Inc.; Elite Learners, Inc.; The Christopher Rose Community Empowerment Campaign; Teens Take Charge; Flatbush Development Corporation; and Sesame Flyers.
Also speaking at the rally were the Community Service Society of New York and the Campaign for Summer Jobs, both of which have spent years advocating for SYEP.
“Expanding the number of summer jobs for our youth are among the most important racial equity interventions we can make,” said David R. Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Community Service Society.
“We know that young people are more likely to succeed in college and the labor market when they’ve had workplace experience,” he said. “No student who wants a summer job should be without one.”