News & Resources
News and Resources
A Spanish-language broadcast on Telemundo features Gregory Brender, Co-Chair of the Campaign for Summer Jobs, standing next to his Co-Chair, speaker Gigi Li, on the steps of City Hall during a rally to support the Summer Youth Employment Program on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
To watch the broadcast visit: http://tlmdo.co/1Ok5Kgi
A program designed to get city kids workforce experience in the summer months is hoping for some help from the private sector this year — and a boost in funding from lawmakers.
The Summer Youth Employment Program placed more than 47,000 young New Yorkers into jobs last year, a number officials hope to match or exceed.
And the need is there. The city received more than 170,000 applications from eager young people in 2014. The deadline for this year is April 10.“We were heartened to see the Council make it a key priority last year and we are hoping they will do it again this year,” said Gregory Brender of United Neighborhood Houses, who co-chairs the Campaign for Summer Jobs. “The demand has never really met the supply. And this gives kids somewhere positive to be.”
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Last week, the de Blasio administration announced a $210.5 million comprehensive, citywide plan to make the City’s neighborhoods safer and reduce violent crime in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. While the bulk of the overall investment consists of funding for repairs, maintenance and physical improvements to enhance security at NYCHA buildings – as well as redeployment of 200 Police Officers -- the new initiative also includes a $15.6 million allocation of new funding to expand community center activities and other key programs in NYCHA projects this summer.
“Mayor de Blasio’s plan to increase public safety in NYCHA developments presents a meaningful and progressive response to one of the City's most challenging problems,” said Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses (UNH). “This plan depends heavily on community-based organizations including the settlement houses who are members of United Neighborhood Houses. The Mayor’s plan to expand nighttime and weekend youth programs and Summer Youth Employment slots will make a difference for thousands of young people.”
“The Campaign for Summer Jobs applauds Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of 850 new SYEP slots this summer for young people in public housing,” said Gigi Li of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition and Gregory Brender of UNH, co-chairs of Campaign for Summer Jobs. “These jobs will give valuable work experience and a paycheck to young people throughout the City… We are thrilled that more young people will have this opportunity.”
Campaign Launches Effort to Create 100,000 Summer Youth Jobs
Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH) stated, “With 100,000 youth turned away every year from the Summer Youth Employment Program, the City must do more. We know well the benefits of helping young people to engage in a positive work experience over the summer months: it’s good for them, good for their families, good for their communities and good for the economy. As a leader of the Campaign for Summer Jobs for the past fifteen years, UNH looks forward to working with the new administration and City Council to expand SYEP to serve 100,000 youth by 2018.”
Gigi Li, Co-Chair of the Campaign, said her organization, the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition (NFSC), is fully behind the effort: “NFSC is proud to embark on a 5 year expansion plan to reach 100,000 SYEP slots in 5 years. Reaching this goal will be a win-win-win for youth, families, and CBOs throughout all of our neighborhoods. These additional jobs represent investment in young people and economic development for communities throughout New York City.”
The vision of the Campaign is for the program to be able to serve at least 100,000 youth each summer, within the next five years, and they are calling on the Mayor and City Council to invest an additional $14.2 million this year as a first step. Many members of the City Council seem to agree the time is now.
“The young people of our communities understand the benefits of staying on a positive path and, when given an opportunity, will choose to participate in constructive activities rather than fall subject to negative influences on our streets. Our children want to work to be independent, to save for college, and to support their families,” stated Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Chair of the City Council’s Youth Services Committee. “The Summer Youth Employment Program is often the first time that many young New Yorkers are able to create a real resume, to gain work experience in a desired career field, and to be exposed to the routine of being fully employed. Investing in the Summer Youth Employment Program is an investment in the futures of our young people. I applaud the efforts of the Campaign for Summer Jobs and will continue to support them in their efforts to expand this program to more of our youth.”
Jennifer March, Executive Director of the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York added “For the youth who are lucky enough to literally win the SYEP lottery, a summer job helps them gain critical work experience and learn about financial management, as well as provides them and their families with additional income that is then a boost to the local economy. A five year plan to reach 100,000 youth each summer is an immeasurable investment for today’s youth—who are tomorrow’s workforce.”
Recently the program faced the threat of fewer jobs as a result of declining federal and private support, as well as the recent hike in the state minimum wage. Although advocates say they supported the increase from $7.25/hr. to $8.00/hr., they say the increase also means more dollars are needed to maintain the jobs program.
Council Member Margaret Chin, a member of the Youth Services Committee, supports the effort to expand the program, and recalled her own days as a youth worker: “When I was seventeen, I participated in SYEP, so I know from personal experience the importance of having paid summer work experience. In today’s world, summer jobs have become a necessary experience for our young persons to learn important skills that will enable them to find employment after graduation. We are glad that the city and state have committed funds to continuing the Summer Youth Employment program this year, but it is important that the city, state, and private sector commit resources to begin expanding the program so that 100,000 youth can participate each year.”
Several youth leaders at the Campaign launch described the value of the program in their own words. Ricardo Luciano, a 17 year old senior at The Children's Aid Society's Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, added “As a young person myself, I understand the importance of having a good resume to present to future employers. Every day, I see my peers struggle to find jobs. I see them struggle to be taken seriously. As young proactive adults, we want to be able to provide for not only ourselves, but for those we care for.”
Leaders from the City’s non-profit sector say they came together because they see the difference the program makes is real, and long term. Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) said “FPWA is proud to support the Campaign for Summer Jobs’ proposal to expand SYEP for our City’s young people. Given that youth between 16 and 24 years of age have been disproportionately impacted by unemployment, increasing investments in the SYEP program will help to propel them towards economic mobility and security. We strongly urge the City to embrace the expansion plan so we may reach the goal of 100,000 SYEP jobs over the next five years.”
Her remarks were supported by the testimony of one youth who says her SYEP experience led directly to additional employment. Stephanie Ruiz, a senior at Fort Hamilton High School who participated in SYEP through Center for Family Life in Sunset Park in the summer of 2013, now works for the agency: “After the summer, I got hired for the school year after school program, working in the office. During the school year more doors opened for me and I started working as an Assistant Group Leader. It changed the person I was for better. I learned how to communicate, how to work with and help kids, and how to really challenge myself. One of the most important skills I learned was leadership. I never thought that I would be a leader to anyone, and now I believe I am—I learned that I was capable of speaking out and to using my voice.”
In the City Council’s response to Mayor de Blasio’s first Preliminary Budget released in February of this year, they called on his administration to invest an additional $14.2 million in SYEP in order to create 10,000 new Summer Jobs. Underscoring the need for these resources, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who sits on the Council’s Youth Services Committee, stated “The Summer Youth Employment Program empowers youth ages 14-24 to secure employment and obtain skills that they can utilize in their academic and professional careers. New York City youth and young adults rely on this program, which has undergone a steady decline of job opportunities. It is imperative that we preserve and expand the capacity of this program by increasing city, state, and federal funding to ensure that all of our youth can learn financial responsibility, contribute to the economic development of our city and state, while serving their communities.”
Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) also supports the expansion, stating that “Summer employment is a major opportunity for growth among our youth population. I join my colleagues and all of the advocates here today in calling for the City's budget include all the 46,000 Summer Youth Employment slots so that children have the chance to both earn money and learn about responsibility over the summer."
With the Council and Mayor now engaged in budget negotiations that must yield a final agreement by July 1, 2015, the message from 20 year old Christina Lantigua, a group leader with one of SCO Family of Services’ summer camps is short and sweet: “So I ask you Council Members, go back to the Mayor, look over the budget and find the money to increase jobs in the Summer Youth Employment Program.”
Although there remains tremendous unmet need in services for New York City’s children, youth, immigrants and older adults, United Neighborhood Houses is pleased that the NYS FY2015 budget includes several positive investments that will improve the lives of residents in vulnerable and low income communities. The investment of $300 million to make Universal Pre-K truly universal in New York City is a historic victory for New York City's children and families. In addition, the $34m expansion in the Child Care Block Grant (CCBG) will also help ensure that parents are able to go to work while their children are in safe settings. We are encouraged by the $5m increased investment in the Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) program which will allow greater numbers of older adults to age with dignity in their homes, and also applaud the $1m expansion to the Settlement House Initiative, which provides settlement houses with the flexibility to meet evolving community needs.
However, UNH is deeply disappointed in the failure of leadership that resulted in the DREAM Act not being included in the final budget. As a result, thousands of immigrant youth without documentation through no fault of their own will continue to face significant financial barriers to pursuing a higher education after succeeding in high school. This represents a missed opportunity for New York to capitalize on their talents and potential. In addition, by not investing greater resources in Adult Literacy Education (ALE) and the transition from the GED® to the Common Core-aligned TASC™ examination, immigrants seeking to improve their English skills, and other adult education students hoping to earn their high school equivalency diploma will continue to face class shortages.
Also of significant concern to UNH is the nominal increased investment in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). While the $2.5m increase will help retain some youth jobs, thousands more will be lost in NYC at a time when over 100,000 youth in the City are already turned from the program annually, as the State did not fully account for the impact of the increased minimum wage on the program.
"Even though an increase in the minimum wage is a good thing for hard working families, it also means now we need even more money to keep the same amount of jobs," says Kevin Douglas, a policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses and co-chair of the Campaign for Summer Jobs. "If we don’t get additional funding, there will be about 2,750 fewer jobs for teens."
On January 28, Douglas and other advocates went to Albany with 250 teens to try to convince state legislators to approve a $35 million budget for SYEP, which would enable the program to employ the same number of youth as it did last year. The teens told legislators how having SYEP jobs in years past had helped them earn money for things like college applications and got them the work experience they needed to be hired elsewhere.
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"While an increase in the state minimum wage represents welcome progress for the millions of low-wage workers across the state, we want to be certain that the value of the state's investment in [SYEP] is not diminished," said Kevin Douglas, a co-chair of the Campaign for Summer Jobs. "Since the vast majority of SYEP funding goes directly to participant wages, any increase in the minimum wage must be met with a commensurate increase in funding for the program, or ultimately we will be able to serve fewer youth."
Over 300 young people from across New York City traveled to Albany yesterday for the Campaign for Summer Jobs’ 14th Annual Youth Action Day. Their message to top state lawmakers was straight forward. The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) has tremendous positive impact the program has on the lives of young people. However, every year huge numbers of youth are denied access to the program due to inadequate funding. And, this year, even fewer youth will be able to participate unless new funds are added to Governor Cuomo's budget proposals.