Thursday, February 21, 2013

Youth-Led Talks Youth Employment

The below post is from Debohnei Reed, a participant in the Sasha Bruce YouthLed Program. Youth-Led has been working with DCAYA over the past few months to accomplish their goals around creating more opportunities for young people to gain work experience beyond the Summer Youth Employment Program which only serves young people for six-weeks out of the year.

On February 11, 2013 my colleagues and I attended a meeting with Ward 8 Council Member Marion Barry. Previously Council Member Barry was the Mayor of DC. One of his largest initiatives was the creation of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). For this reason we were hoping he would support us and our plan for creating youth jobs.

We prepared for our meeting by doing research on the costs of SYEP. We determined the difference in cost between serving one youth during the summer (at the SYEP wage for 16-21 year olds) and serving one youth year round. We then developed a proposal to support youth in high school and youth who are currently out of school with year round jobs. Our group decided to start with trying to add 50 year round jobs.

Members of Sasha Bruce Youth Led prepare for their
meeting with Council Member Marion Barry.
Because our meeting was on a Monday afternoon, our group went into work on a Sunday to make sure we were as ready as we needed to be to meet with Council Member Barry. Practice occurred throughout the day as we recited what we had to say and asked each other “did I sound good?” which served as a great help.The next day when we  arrived at the Wilson Building, we didn’t get seen as quickly as we thought but that also served as a help because we had more time to practice and even laugh a little. Finally we entered Council Member Barry’s office and introduced ourselves which was followed by a little story telling from the Council Member himself.

After introductions, we described our plan for year round jobs. We picked the issue of year round jobs because our group sees a lot of issues with youth unemployment in the city.We told Council Member Barry that while 14,000 youth in the summer youth employment program could be seen as a good thing,  the negative consequence of such a large number of youth is that some programs are overrun with young people and some are not providing authentic skills for youth. We also spoke on how we felt an evaluation of SYEP was needed because there is no way of knowing if job sites are providing youth workers with real job skills.  Our solution to this issue is to transition a portion of summer youth jobs into year round youth jobs. We told Council Member Barry how it would be beneficial to the community and youth because businesses would have more workers to help therefore making them run more efficiently. It would also save them money because they would not have to pay workers themselves.We also informed him on how we already had businesses that would take youth.

At the end of the meeting Council Member Barry told us that he was a big supporter of efforts to employ more young people and that he was supportive of our proposal.We were pleased with the Council Member’s comments on how he would like to see more money going into year around jobs. He also agreed with us on developing an outside evaluation system for the SYEP. In our eyes the meeting went well and our points were heard. END

Here at DCAYA, we deeply value programs like Youth Led that inspire and empower young people to make their voice heard in local government efforts to support them. Advocating not just for the community based organizations that serve youth but also for young people directly is an essential part of our mission and we welcome partnerships with our member organizations that directly infuse the youth voice into policy making. With performance oversight and the FY'14 budget process upon us this is an especially important time to support young people in this endeavor.

If you or your organization has youth who are interested in testifying before the City Council on an issue please contact our Policy Team ASAP and we are happy to help young people prepare testimony, go over the local oversight and budget process and set up meetings with Council Members.

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