Category Archives: Summer Youth Employment Program

Losing Ground in Sunset Park

Mahmoud Farraj (photo: Kristofer Ríos/The Brooklyn Ink)

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.

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Rally at City Hall Against Summer Youth Employment Program Cuts

Rep. Charles Rangel addressing the rally. In the background is 9th grader Abel Peralta, a participant in the Center's WAVE program. Photo: Daily News

Youth from all five boroughs gathered at City Hall last Thursday to express their opposition to the planned Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) funding cuts, including many of the Center’s participants and staff.

Planned changes in state and city funding would cut the number of jobs available for teens this summer would be reduced to 17,200 from a record 52,000 last year.

Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel was among the politicians who spoke at the rally, encouraging youth to continue their efforts to convince state and New York City lawmakers of the importance of the summer jobs program for youth, families and their communities. He promised teens that if they persist, their efforts can succeed: “Don’t give up, don’t give in, this is a fight we must win. We are going to win it for this summer.”

Read more about the rally in the Daily News:

For the past 40 years, the summer job program has given city youth employment and educational opportunities, working entry-level jobs in various fields, from hospitals to summer camps.

“In this climate of record-high youth unemployment, it is bad policy to slash this critical opportunity for young people,” said Anthony Ng, of United Neighborhood Houses.

Gigi Li, of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, noted that teens usually spend their paychecks locally, “helping our economy.”

Politicians who attended also echoed the students’ concern.

“The tough economy is a good reason to keep this program, not gut it,” said state Sen. Dan Squadron (D-Brooklyn). City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), who said he worked in the program as a kid, said he knew “firsthand what these jobs mean to our youth.”

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Filed under Education, Summer Youth Employment Program, Youth Development