In the spring, the threat of drastic cuts to the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) mobilized New York City teens and community organizations concerned over the loss of opportunities for youth to gain work experience and earn money over the summer. Thanks to their enthusiasm, the loss of job opportunities turned out to be less than feared, but still significant. While initial plans to cut funding by $35 million would have resulted in just 17,200 SYEP jobs, down from 52,000 in 2009, the program eventually received funding for 35,000 positions city-wide. With job opportunities reduced by about a third, only one in four of the 143,000 students who applied for SYEP were selected in the lottery. In Sunset Park, Center for Family Life can provide only 800 SYEP jobs this summer, compared to 1,300 in 2009. A recent article in the Brooklyn Ink profiles a Sunset Part teenager whose dreams of working during the summer and easing the financial burden on his family were dashed. After spending last summer as an assistant engineer at Lutheran Medical Center through SYEP, Mahmoud Farraj was disappointed over missing out on the opportunity to build on his experience this summer. “I would make engineering my passion,” Mahmoud says, “but since I didn’t get the job I can’t figure that out. When I worked last year, I helped my Mom pay the bills and stuff, but I can’t really do that this year.” The article quotes Center for Family Life Co-Director, Julie Stein Brockway, about the impact of the SYEP funding cuts on our community:
“When students don’t get these life experiences, they are losing ground in terms of being marketable in the workforce,” said Stein-Brockway. “This is a stepping stone to college.” [...] Stein-Brockway understands that these are difficult times, but the cuts to the summer employment program are still frustrating. She remembers what the neighborhood was like before the youth employment program was available and knows how important the program is to low-income neighborhoods like Sunset Park. “It puts us back. We’ve been moving gradually to help increase the number of youth with a college trajectory,” said Stein-Brockway. “Cuts erode the connections [between youth and their communities at a time when these supports are most desperately needed].”
Read the entire article here.