I would invite those who question the value of youth job initiatives (“New Report Shows How Job Programs Have Failed Youth,” June 18) to speak to any of the more than 35,000 young people who will work this summer at diverse worksites offering something for everyone as part of New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). In addition to day camps, more than two-thirds of employers represent other sectors, including government, community service, health care, retail, hospitality and financial services. Youth will gain not only valuable work and life skills, but confidence, self-esteem and that all-important reference—someone to vouch for them.
Surveys of SYEP participants underline its success: Three out of four young people indicated they would not be working if not for SYEP, and an overwhelming 98 percent rated their SYEP experience as “excellent” or “good.” You can also ask any successful adult and they’ll tell you that summer jobs represent real work experience and provide rewards long after the last paycheck is spent.
Funding worthy programs remains a challenge in today’s economic climate, but independent studies show that investing in a high-quality employment initiative such as SYEP pays huge dividends in the form of improved academic performance, high school graduation rates and higher lifetime earnings potential. Research recently conducted by New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy for the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development found positive indicia correlated to participation in SYEP. Participants showed increases in attendance the following school year, particularly students at high educational risk—those with less than 95 percent attendance before SYEP, and students ages 16 and older who have more autonomy in school attendance decisions. The study also found that SYEP increases the probability of attempting and passing math and English Regents exams for students ages 16 and over who have low prior school attendance.
Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City has become a national leader in youth employment, maintaining an investment of $20 million annually for SYEP and seeking potential employers and private funding to increase the number of available slots. While it’s true there are more applicants than jobs, and federal and state funding for SYEP has declined over the past decade, we can all agree that any program with a proven track record of providing meaningful employment opportunities is empowering our youth, not failing them.