News Articles

The Overlooked Value of the Summer Youth Employment Program

By Jim Sliney Jr

The Youth Division of Catholic Charities Community Services is dedicated to engaging young people during their formative education years. Among programs that support New York City’s youth, is the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).


I can remember when I applied for my first proper job. It was at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Maybe I never really had a good shot at the job I tried out for, but what I was told was the reason I didn’t get the job was that I had no applicable work experience. Then I thought that thing that most of us have thought at least once in our lives, ‘how am I supposed to get experience if I need experience to get experience’. SYEP is a great answer to that question.

Giving young people jobs over the summer is very little about giving kids spending money, and a lot about giving them experience in the job market. Once a young person has worked with children in the after-school programs of NYC (for instance) they then have a viable experience that can launch them into a respectable work life.



The SYEP does more than just act as a springboard into the broader workplace. By working in social services, young people are learning the values that drive altruism, compassion, and vocation. Their vision expands beyond the home, the block, their circle of friends, and they begin to see what it means to contribute to a community.

In cities especially, engaging youth to help support their own communities and help them thrive is a sound investment. Right now, as cities are thinking twice about the social role that policing plays (which arguably could afford to be reduced), they must also think about how to invest in the stability and health of neighborhoods. Summer Youth Employment Programs train young people to identify and address needs in their community.


The New York City budget needs to be resolved by the end of June. That’s not a lot of time for reform. Because of that, there is also little time to make your voice heard. You can contact the Office of the Mayor by visiting and either calling or sending an online message.

Community development programs like SYEP make neighborhoods better. They go beyond simply “giving kids something to do”, they teach community spirit and nurture good citizens. In a vision of a better New York City, isn’t that a vital part?