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NYC's Summer Youth Employment Program expands to offer 100,000 opportunities

The city’s Summer Youth Employment Program will be expanding this year to include 100,000 young people, Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday, thanks to a 50% increase in funding.

The mayor had pledged to grow the program as part of the multi-pronged plan to address gun violence in the city he announced last month. 

“We’re doing it because of Jayquan,” Adams said of Jayquan McKenley, the 18-year-old from the South Bronx who was shot to death in early February.

Adams said the summer jobs program will help address public safety while introducing teens and young adults to new career opportunities. It will also draw them out of their communities at a time when many teens have been more isolated than ever, he said, calling it “one solution to a multitude of problems.” 

“There are young people in this city, they are born in one square mile, they go to school in one square mile, they eat in one square mile, they stay within one square mile,” Adams said at a press conference. “A job, internship … is more than just putting money in pockets … it’s a way to understand there’s a world out there that they deserve to be a part of.”

The city cited a 2021 study that showed involvement in the program lowers “participants’ chances of being arrested that summer by 17 percent and by 23 percent for felony arrests.”

According to Chalkbeat, 156,000 New Yorkers typically apply to the program, but only about half are matched with jobs. In the first pandemic summer of 2020, the city slashed the number of jobs to 35,000, and participants worked virtually. 

But Adams said the city council has pledged to increase funding for the program from $157 million to $236 million annually. The new mayor will outline his fiscal priorities as part of his first budget address Wednesday, 

The 100,000 opportunities, if realized, would be a new record in the SYEP’s 60-year history, but Adams said simply increasing the number of slots won’t be enough. Noting that when he participated in the program decades ago, “I sat around and did nothing.” He said the city would be doing outreach to small businesses, nonprofits, “technology, finance, advertising, consulting firms” to create positions for students.

“This is how we change the lives and the course of our young people,” he said. 

Applications for the Summer Youth Program’s CareerReady — open to 14- to 21-year-olds at certain NYC Department of Education schools — and Special Initiatives—open to 14- to 24-year-olds who meet the criteria — tracks are already open, while the community-based application period begins on March 1st. 

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