The UNH Blog

Summer Youth Employment Program in Action

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

This past week we said farewell to our amazing summer interns, Fahmida and Anita. 
Through our leadership in the Campaign for Summer Jobs, which advocates for the Summer Youth Employment Program (S
YEP), a six week paid work experience for 14-24 year olds, we were able to have two participants placed at UNH by our member organizations St. Nicks Alliance and Chinese-American Planning Council.  

Throughout the summer Fahmida and Anita worked in the Policy and Advocacy department learning about the UNH portfolio.  Additionally, they joined UNH staff in meetings, helped crunch numbers on some of our data projects, and supported our Civic Engagement Forum.   

Below are their takes on their time at UNH: 

One of my first memories as a child was playing with my toy stethoscope and otoscope from the dollar store. It was all fun and games when I would press the stethoscope and otoscope against places where it did not belong. I was a wild creature, so it was my mom’s last resort to restrain my hyperactivity. Fortunately for my mom, it worked. Now that I am a second-year pre-med student at Barnard College, my mom likes to take credit for fueling my desire in healthcare, and rightly so.

Perhaps, my passion for medicine came out of mundane experiences like role playing, or my inherent desire to make my mom better as she was ill so often. However, I do believe that desire was mainly cemented by the invaluable experiences I gained from my jobs and internships throughout the years.

When I was fifteen, I landed my first job at a local pediatric clinic, where I worked alongside my favorite pediatrician, Dr. Krauss. I had known him for eleven years, so the opportunity had presented itself during one of my routine checkups. I did not hesitate and immediately took him up for the offer. I shadowed him and did a lot of translating as the clinic was located in a predominantly Bengali community.  I worked at the clinic for a little over a year, but in that time I had acquired a life-long mentor, problem-solving skills and patience, all of which I would continue to utilize in all my future job experiences. Although it had cemented my desire in healthcare, specifically pediatrics, it had fueled new interests: my love for kids and giving back to the community. I quickly learned the importance of having a job and about financial responsibility. Had it not been for my first job, I would not have my newfound interest in childcare.

I had worked as a teaching assistant in a few education non-profits before I landed my official job at Educational Alliance through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity, but I won’t say it was an easy feat. Each day was an obstacle course and I quickly learned that kids are predictably unpredictable. Despite this, I loved sharing my knowledge and my experience with fifteen other small humans, who were just as excited about learning as I was. The job had pushed me out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot about being an educator through the wonderful conversations I had with my supervisor during the students’ nap time. It was during those conversations that I had come to learn more about Educational Alliance and early childhood programs throughout the city. My own experiences in under-funded schools coupled with conversations I had engaged in about schooling in the city made me realize that I wanted to do more. I continued to work with kids each summer for the next four years until 2018.

When I got another chance to work through the Summer Youth Employment Program, I knew I wanted to switch things up. United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) was exactly what I was looking for. A non-profit, UNH’s mission to expand the availability of good, affordable child care, after-school and summer enrichment programs like SYEP aligned with my interests. Advocating for issues that were personal to me was important and I was able to do just that as a policy and advocacy intern for UNH. As an intern, I had the privilege to work alongside Gregory Brender as well as sit in various meetings with the staff and youth services providers. As a STEM major, issues surrounding policy and advocacy were very foreign to me. However, I am thankful for the exposure as it taught me a lot about professionalism and gave me insight into how different organizations work together to produce results. In the office, I worked on numerous research projects, a lot of which included compiling data on SYEP in different counties throughout New York State, crunching numbers for data analysis projects and reading up on studies about early education.

My experience at UNH has been very insightful and that is an understatement. What I realized through conversations and my time here at UNH is that it is okay to be unsure. I would not have imagined a few years ago that I would be working with kids and then at UNH. Having jobs throughout my high school career helped me discover those passions and as cliché as it sounds it has shaped me into the person that I have become today. It is for this very reason that I strongly believe in UNH’s efforts for advocating for the Summer Youth Employment Program, so that it can reach more of the city’s youth and young adults throughout NYS like it did with me. In January of 2019, during Youth Action Day, I hope lawmakers can also see the tremendous impact SYEP has on the city’s youth.

(pictured at our annual FUN DAY!) 


I’m Anita Kwok, an upcoming freshman at Fordham University at Lincoln Center. I am a Policy and Advocacy intern here at UNH. I came to UNH through the Summer Youth Employment Program/In School Youth Program at the Chinese-American Planning Council in Queens. I decided to be placed at United Neighborhood Houses because advocacy is what I love to do most. I plan to do this for my career and that is what UNH is all about.

In my six weeks here, I have worked on various campaigns and projects; contacted and scheduled meetings with various Council members, Senators, and Assembly members; collected and calculated various datum; designed certificates; and attended Advocacy Institute trainings, the Civic Engagement Forum, and various meetings. Those events have allowed me to gain insight on the world of policy and advocacy. Having my own UNH email was also very exciting.

I learned so much this summer, but the biggest thing I learned is that I still have a long way to go and so much more to learn on this advocacy path. Interning at UNH was a rewarding and gratifying experience and I am sad to have it end.

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