Teens hope Albany lobbying pays off with summer jobs

February 6, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Teens rallied in the Legislative Office Building in the State Capitol for more funding for a program that helps young people get summer jobs. Photo courtesy of United Neighborhood Houses
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Brooklyn students who took part in a Youth Action Day in Albany to call for increased state funding the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) are hoping their pleas to lawmakers will not fall on deaf ears.

The Brooklyn teens were part of a crowd of approximately 300 young people from New York City who traveled up to the State Capitol on Jan. 30 with the organization United Neighborhood Houses to lobby for funding.

SYEP is a vital program, according to many of the lobby day participants, because it provides many teenagers with their first summer jobs. 

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The students held a rally in the well of the Legislative Office Building and listened as former SYEP participants talked about their positive experiences with the jobs program. 

Solangy Juarez, a 17-year-old Brooklyn resident, said the experience of having a summer job changed her outlook on life. With help from SYEP, she found a position at JP Morgan Chase last summer.

“Having a job allowed me to develop into a confident, driven, independent young lady. Having a job has given me a new perspective, a hunger to succeed, irreplaceable professional experience and, most importantly, the recognition that I can do anything I put my mind to,” Juarez said in a statement.

Following the rally, the teens divided up into smaller groups and held private meetings with dozens of state senators and assembly members. 

Another SYEP graduate, Temitope Johnson, 20, of Manhattan, said his summer job enabled him to buy a computer for college.

“SYEP is the first step to adulthood.  In those six weeks of your very first employment, your strengths and weakness are challenged, and you are placed in a new environment where your level of maturity is pushed. You start to become a part of the workforce, building professionalism while simultaneously building your resume. These are skills and opportunities that our youth are not given when they spend their summers in the streets,” he stated.

The teens asked lawmakers to approve a $4 million increase in SYEP’s funding above the $40 million proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his executive budget.

The Youth Action Day in Albany participants also demanded that elected officials keep in place a provision in the program that allows workers under the age of 18 to have their summer job income omitted from their family’s total income when they are applying for government assistance. 

Advocates said that the provision, which is set to expire, should be maintained because many students who would ordinarily seek jobs through SYEP do not apply out of fear that their salaries would jeopardize family’s chances of getting public assistance. 

United Neighborhood Housing (UNH), which was founded in 1919, is an umbrella organization made up of 38 settlement houses throughout New York City. UNH provides services to more than 750,000 New Yorkers each year, according to a press release issued by the organization. 

UNH is the lead organization of the Campaign for Summer Jobs and has been working to secure funding for SYEP for 18 years.


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