Category Archives: Youth Development

Sunset Park Alliance Celebrates Adult Literacy Week

Last week was National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, an initiative that seeks to raise awareness and foster discussion about issues related to reading, numeracy, and English language learning. To celebrate the event, the Sunset Park Alliance, a coalition of community agencies, held an event to showcase the work of its members in providing innovative ESL and adult education services. As part of the event, participants from Alliance programs shared the impact these services had on their lives. Among those who spoke were members of the Center-supported cooperatives who are currently participating in ESL courses to improve their work-related language skills and earning potential.

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott presents the mayor's proclamation to Alliance Director Stacie Sanchez. Photo: Laina Yoswein, SPA

Attendees at the event included Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Fatima Shama, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs, along with other city officials from the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education, the Office of Adult and Continuing Education of the NYC Department of Education and the New York City Workforce Investment Board.

The Sunset Park Alliance is a collaboration of six agencies, including Fifth Avenue Committee, Center for Family Life, Lutheran Family Health Center, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, Turning Point and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp. The Alliance provides comprehensive case management services, engaging youth in training programs and social services to help them achieve their educational and career goals.

Below is a slide show of pictures from the event. For more photos, check out the Alliance’s Facebook page.

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Filed under Center for Family Life, Community Development, Education, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project, Youth Development

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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Filed under Center for Family Life, Summer Youth Employment Program, Youth Development

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

Sunset Park Youth Speak Out Against Funding Cuts

Photo: UNH Campaign for Summer Jobs

The threat of severe cuts in city and state funding for youth programs, particularly the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), inspired young people in our community to let lawmakers know how important these programs are for Sunset Park families.

On Youth Action Day in February, teens and staff representing all of the Center’s youth programs took a trip to Albany, where they met with over 30 Assembly members and state legislators. While there, they also attended a rally organized by the Campaign for Summer Jobs, a coalition of New York City community agencies led by United Neighborhood Houses (UNH).

Participants, parents, staff and worksites employing youth in the summer also sent over 1,500 letters to state and city lawmakers and officials, including Governor Patterson, Assembly Member Felix Ortiz and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. Young advocates, parents and staff testified at City Council hearings on the planned budget cuts.

“I felt that I played an essential role for all of New York youth because not many young people get the opportunity to fight for summer jobs and voice their opinion,” a youth participant said. “It was a powerful experience.”

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Filed under Education, School-Based Youth Development Programs, Youth Development

Using Social Group Work to Promote Leadership and Build Community

In February, staff and youth participants from the Center ‘s Community School Project at  PS 1 took part in the NYC 2010 “Beacon of Lights” conference sponsored by the Youth Development Institute. At the conference, they led a workshop on the use of social group work to foster youth leadership development and community building. The workshop featured presentations by our PS 1 youth participants who talked about their leadership role. In April, they will lead a similar workshop at the Coalition for Community Schools 2010 National Forum in Philadelphia.

Our staff at the PS 1 afterschool program

Group work is a core methodology of the social work profession that aims to promote individual growth and social change in the context of a group experience. Social group work provides a framework for anticipating predictable stages of group development and for selecting activities purposefully to meet the changing needs of the group and its participants at each stage in the life of the group. Group work is at the heart of the Center’s youth development programs, which are offered through partnerships with six Sunset Park public schools, including PS 1, PS 503/506, MS 136/MS 821 and the new Sunset Park High School. The use of social group work is a common thread across these programs, which provide a range of activities that help young people acquire skills through the arts, sports, educational support and community service projects. Continue reading

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Filed under Beacon Programs at PS 1 & PS 503/506, Community Development, Education, School-Based Youth Development Programs, Youth Development

Funding Cuts for Youth Programs to Have Severe Impact in Sunset Park

The Governor’s proposed state budget for the 2011 fiscal year includes an $11 million funding cut for the Advantage After School Program and the elimination of  NY State funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

These cuts would have a huge impact in Sunset Park: the Advantage After School Program provides funding for three of the Center’s school-based youth programs, including PS 1, PS 503/PS 506 and MS 136/MS 821. The Summer Youth Employment Program supports over 1,300 summer jobs for teens each year, including hundreds of counselor positions that are essential to the neighborhood’s free summer day camp programs. Continue reading


Filed under Community Collaborations, Education, School-Based Youth Development Programs, Youth Development

More Ways to Help Students Explore Careers: Job Shadowing

The Center’s Youth Employment Program, now located at the new Sunset Park High School, helps teenage youth explore career options and prepare for higher education and the workforce. During the school break from February 16th to 19th, the program offers high school juniors the opportunity to spend two hours with adults at their workplace.

This gives students a chance to gain first-hand experience in a field of their interest, witnessing the work environment and the skills the occupation requires in practice. Students are interested in a wide variety of careers, but especially in engineering, technology and medical fields.

If you are interested in hosting a student at your workplace, please email Liz Stevenson at or call the Youth Employment Program at (718) 840 1640.

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Filed under Education, Youth Development, Youth Employment Program