For many New York City teens, landing a job through a publicly funded employment program is an important part of summer. But with the coronavirus raging through New York this spring and a budget deficit looming, the city initially proposed eliminating the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which typically provides jobs to tens of thousands of young people seeking to build skills and earn much-needed income.
“Young people in Black and Brown communities are already in a precarious position,” said Roderick Jenkins, The Trust’s senior program officer for youth and workforce development. “The pandemic has only exacerbated their vulnerability.”
A cadre of student activists and organizations that recognized the need for summer youth work successfully lobbied the city to reinstate a modified SYEP program. SYEP Summer Bridge is funding 35,000 paid virtual internships this summer, down from 75,000 minimum-wage jobs last year. Thanks to the foresight of Trust grantee ExpandED Schools, a system of online internship implementation and technical support is ready to go.
“It was important that we understand the unique position young people are in this summer,” said Saskia Traill, president and CEO of ExpandED. “They have suffered so many forms of loss this spring, whether personal or educational, and it was important that our educational programs adapt to that.”
In March, when the stay-at-home order was just enacted, but before SYEP was cancelled, ExpandED initiated conversations with more than 100 community organizations to develop core elements of a program that would provide young people with online career-oriented employment.
With $400,000 in funding from The Trust, ExpandED designed the Youth Empowerment Summer program to move programming online, develop content and support for providers, engage corporate mentors, and provide young people in low-income communities with technology support so they could fully participate in their Summer Bridge internship.
This July, teens had the opportunity to do internships with a range of nonprofit organizations in fields that include social justice, youth advocacy, wildlife management, music, and the arts.
“There have been a lot of speed bumps along the way,” continued Traill, “but now we can look towards helping young people build their professional skills over the summer, while also preparing them for the school year.”