News Articles

A New Shape and Size for the Summer Youth Employment Programs

  • Summer Youth Employment Rebranded As SYEP Summer Bridge 2020

  • 75,000 SYEP Positions Reduced To 35,000 Positions

By Jim Sliney Jr

Back in June, Catholic Charities Community Services had a townhall meeting about the fate of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). There is a lot to say about the value SYEP brings to over 75,000 young adults taking part in the program and to City as a whole. So much so that I encourage you to read the article about it:  https://catholiccharitiesny.org/news/overlooked-value-summer-youth-employment-program.

At the time of that townhall, the New York City budget was still not finalized. You may recall in much of June that there was a lot of talk about what Mayor Bill DeBlasio would do with the City budget. The Coronavirus had turned the economy upside down and acts of civil disobedience had called into question even the most untouchable parts of the City’s budget; police funding.

That was then. The budget is now behind us (and hopefully the darkest days of the Coronavirus and civil unrest) and funding for the SYEP was restored…in part.

In 2019, SYEP had 75,000 positions available for ambitious young people in New York City. More than 135,000 applied for those positions. This year, the program was renamed the SYEP Summer Bridge 2020, a reflection of just how different it will be this year compared to previous ones. This year there will not be 75,000 positions, there will be 35,000 – less than half. And this year, the positions will be virtual, not hands-on like they have usually been.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

This program is a lot more than just giving kids something to do over the Summer. Firstly, it doesn’t serve just “kids”; the age ranges that participate are 14-24. It is also the largest program of its kind in the nation. It teaches children from low-income families how to work in a professional environment. It gives them skills they need to thrive in the workforce. And it’s crucial not just to the youth who participate, but to the poorer families from which they come.

Eddie Silverio, the director of Alianza Youth Services division of the Catholic Charities Community Services of New York provided some perspective to the Manhattan Times News recently. “With many participants, the money they earn from SYEP goes to help their family pay bills. With so many parents out of work due to the pandemic, those are funds that are very much needed.”

Alianza Youth Services is only one of many Community programs that participate in SYEP. Alianza normally has 1,900 jobs they can give to their communities’ youth. This year, it will only be 900.

If SYEP sounds like a sophisticated handout, think again. Young people employed through the program will be performing Census outreach, and voter registration, as well as wellness calls to vulnerable seniors isolated in their homes, and more. All will be done remotely for safety.

Our city thrives when communities are thoughtfully engaged. The reduction to funding is an understandable disappointment, but if there is one thing you can be certain of, Eddie, the Alianza Division, and the young people who join Catholic Charities in programs like this, will come together during this ongoing crisis to make our City better for everyone.

Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

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