Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Starting Out Young

The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provides DC youth ages 14-21 with summer work experience in both private and government sectors across the District. The paid, short term employment introduces youth to various local job opportunities. To end our youth blogger series, 17 year old Jocelyn Funes talks about her experience working as the Communications and Development intern at the non-profit CentroNía.

At home, I'm the chef's assistant (my mother cooks a fresh meal almost everyday). I'm also the landscaper's helper (my dad's work in the yard never seems to end), and I'm even a nurse for my three siblings when they get sick. I would say that my duties at home extend to that of a janitor, teacher, translator and many other fields, but for the first time ever, my job title became Communications and Development Intern at CentroNía. Even more incredible: I got paid for it!

This summer while I was not at Capital City PublicCharter School, my days at CentroNía began at 10 a.m. every Monday through Thursday. I would walk through the tall and heavy glass door, where a staff member would always be there ready to welcome you to the building with a big smile. I later learned that I wasn't the only special person to be personally greeted; all staff members rotate at the door on a daily basis before and after school. Next, I would take 50 steps up the stairs until I reached the third floor. I was encouraged not to use the elevator and eat healthy for the sake of following CentroNía's wellness model, as they take pride in being a national example. I must admit though, it was tempting to eat chips or fries, but after time you simply don't do it because others around you don't.

Once in the Communications and Development office, I received projects from my bosses. At times I was asked to file, organize, translate from English to Spanish, input data in the computer, plan, write and many other things. I especially loved the moment I was asked to serve as photographer for an event where students were creating art projects with recycled materials. I was there to capture those special moments and we used the photos for bigger communication and development purposes. Another assignment I enjoyed was using social media to help communicate messages with the community. And on other occasions, I was asked to record audio messages for parent communication in English and Spanish. In many ways, I was a natural assistant since this had been in my DNA since I was a child at home, so now at 17 years-old and in a real job setting, it was no different for me.  I had responsibilities and I knew they just had to get done.

What I mostly got out of this paid internship was the feeling that I could be hired - one day.  I saw my possibilities as limitless.whether I want to be a teacher, nurse, principal, or anything else. I feel that I can work hard to have a good job and maybe even have enough money to travel or buy a home for my family. Who knows what the future holds for me, but for now, what I hear is that more Latinas are enrolling in college. And that Latinas are using both English and Spanish in their jobs. I guess mom was right when she told me that knowing Spanish would come in handy.

I feel so lucky that 54 other interns and I had the opportunity to hold our first job, cash our checks and more important, realize that this could be the beginning of a professional career for us. My next plan is to make my parents proud by graduating from high school, then graduate from college, and eventually become a professional in a field of work. I know that if I can wear many hats at home, I can do the same out there in the real world. CentroNía believed in me and my capabilities by allowing me to intern with them and I am hopeful someone else will, once again, in the near future.

This year, Jocelyn Funes is entering her last year of high school. DCAYA would like to thank Jocelyn for contributing to the youth blogger series. By lending her voice, community leaders and advocates may better understand what quality services youth need to grow into productive adults. 


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Monday, August 26, 2013

From Homeless to Helping the Homeless

This year as part of the One City Summer Initiative the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. (the Trust) employed over 20 Young Adult Coordinators (YACs) as part of its target area strategy. These YACs were deployed throughout communities across the District to work directly with residents old and young to better connect them to the resources being offered by various District agencies. DCAYA was fortunate enough to get two of the YACs to blog about their experience this summer. The following post is from Kadeem Swenson who worked as a YAC at the DC General Shelter. 

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to be a community leader with the Children Youth Investment Trust Corporation . My placement as a Young Adult Coordinator with the Trust was at DC General Shelter. My job there was to provide resources to the community and let them know that there are people out there who want to help them. A lot of people in DC don’t know this.

In my situation I was a homeless youth so helping them really meant something to me. I was the only YAC assigned to DC General so, an average day for me was a lot of running around. A lot of people at DC General had lost all hope and hit rock bottom. For some of them, success meant getting all you could from the government or making money doing something illegal. That’s why I worked really hard this summer to make sure the people at DC General had all the resources I could offer them.

While I was at the shelter, I talked to families (both parents and kids) about college and how they could prepare for it. A lot of families did not know much about this. I also worked with organizations such as UDC, DC Public Library, Georgetown Medical Bus and the Department of Homeland Security to come and do outreach and assist shelter residents with completing resumes and applications for jobs. I know the people at DC General needed all the help they could get, but I hope my work there really helped out. I really enjoyed my summer at DC General and am proud to be the first person in the position. Hopefully my work there made a pathway for the next person that tries to help out.

Kadeem is currently in New York at Brooklyn College studying International Business. He really enjoyed working with the Trust this past summer and will continue helping people and promoting positive change in his local communities. Click here to watch a video about Kadeem created by the non-profit College Bound. 

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Connecting Communities to Opportunities

This year as part of the One City Summer Initiative the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. (the Trust) employed over 20 Young Adult Coordinators (YACs) as part of its target area strategy. These YACs were deployed throughout communities across the District to work directly with residents old and young to better connect them to the resources being offered by various District agencies. DCAYA was fortunate enough to get two of the YACs to blog about their experience this summer. The following post is from Yorman Amador.

Working as a Young Adult Coordinator for the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corps led me to view DC in a different light. For a long time, I was under the impression there were extremely limited resources available to DC residents, which was why many people I know live in conditions that could be described as unproductive. After working for the Trust, I realized the DC government offers a wide range of resources, but there is a large disconnect between people in need and access to the resources they need. Luckily, my position with the Trust gave me the opportunity to bridge that gap in the Washington Highlands community.

As a Young Adult Coordinator, I built relationships with the candy lady, mothers, men, and more than anything, the kids in the area. The kids especially looked up to me because they never experienced a young person in their community providing positive guidance. I wanted to help people use all the resources at their disposal to meet community needs, whether it was information about jobs or programs at the local library. Most of the time, people asked about jobs and childcare services in order to pick up extra work hours. There was also a great demand for mental health services. It was a summer of great memories and I was blessed to work with many young boys, who referred to me as their "father." Initially, this was awkward but I came to appreciate their form of flattery, as it was a sign that I accomplished my goal for the summer by making a difference in these boys’ lives.

I know that my job as a Young Adult Coordinator was important because there was not a day that went by when members of that community did not remind me that my last day was coming up. People loved having us in the community but they wanted the program to be extended to provide stability to the services and programs we introduced. I hope that in the near future, community based organizations and larger non-profits incorporate youth in reaching out to communities about their services year round. From my experience, this is the best way to reach people who could benefit from the services that the DC government offers.

Yorman Amador worked for the Child in Youth Investment Trust Corp as a Young Adult Coordinator during the summer of 2013. DCAYA would like to thank Yorman for sharing his experience and insights with the DCAYA membership as we work together to build a Youth-Friendly City. 

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Feeding Our Capital's Youth One Summer Meal at a Time

Every year during these last few weeks of the summer break, DCAYA likes to take a look back on the summer and how well our government agency partners executed their summer programming. Today we’ll be focusing on the Office of the State Superintendent for Education’s (OSSE) summer meals program which historically has the top summer meals utilization rates in the nation.

If you’ve been paying any attention this summer, you have heard at least something about the Free Summer Meals Program. OSSE’s Department of Wellness and Nutrition Services administers the program's federal extension of the free and reduced price school lunch program and reimburses organizations that provide meals during the summer to children from low-income areas or to individuals with disabilities.
According to OSSE 
the DC Free Summer Meals Program was created as a safeguard for children in under-served low-income areas to ensure continued access to good nutrition during long school vacations when access to school provided breakfast and lunch meals are unavailable. The health and wellbeing of children in the District is important, therefore access to nutritious meals should not end when school is out.” 
We couldn’t agree more with this statement especially given that nationwide low-income families say they spend an average of $300 more per month on food when kids are out of school.

Summer meals are an open access service in the District which means any young person under 18 can drop-in and get the nutrition they need at a number of sites across the city. There is no proof of income eligibility required, which makes this an especially youth-friendly resource for our city’s young people. As a result many children and youth who take part in summer school, parks and recreation activities and camps and even the Summer Youth Employment Program utilize this service and the District is better for it.

Last year the summer meals program served 26,000 daily meals to children and youth. While this number is impressive, what our friends at DC Hunger Solutions found in their analysis this Spring, was that we’ve actually been experiencing a decline in use from previous years. It was this finding that led to the decision by OSSE to extend the free summer meal program to Saturdays for the remainder of the summer in an effort to expand the reach of the program and ensure that DC’s children and youth have consistent access to nutritious meals.  This shift, combined with the diligent work of the One City Summer Initiative and the outreach that organizations, agencies and concerned community members undertook to get the word out about free summer meals this year, will (we are hopeful) have a measurable impact on youth access to this program for this year and be the first step toward fixing the decline we experienced last year.

At the same time, all stakeholders acknowledge that there is more to be done to maintain high use of this program. Yet, to get there, we need better information on what led to the decline in use of the summer meals program, and some tangible interventions that can be fully implemented for next year. To that end, DCAYA and DC Hunger Solutions are collaborating on a short issue brief (to be released late Summer or early Fall) that explores the causes for this decline, examines the impact of this decline on youth development and presents some solutions to ensure DC remains a leader in ensuring children and youth have access to healthy and nutritious meals.  With that in mind, as you wrap up your summer program and before the crush of fall hits, if you have any suggestions, feedback or thoughts on how we can continue to spread the word about summer meals, remove barriers to access or support expansions of this program please don’t hesitate to share them.  

Anne Abbott is the policy analyst at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. Her favorite summer meal as a kid was the traditional PB&J, on special occasions she'd add in a banana. To contact her with suggestions for the summer meals program you can email her at 

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Path to Equity & Parity through Afterschool Access

If you are a parent of a young person who attends an after school program or the staff of an organization that partners with DCPS schools you may have already heard about the significant changes coming to out-of-school time at DCPS in 2013. While many of the changes are troubling and will negatively affect young people, today we’ll focus on the changes to the afterschool enrollment process and the unintended burdens the changes will place on low income families.

In years past, DCPS enrolled students in afterschool at each school site. Parents would identify which program they wanted their child to attend, and then worked with the DCPS afterschool site coordinator to provide all the necessary paperwork. This system was ideal for parents, albeit somewhat labor intensive for DCPS. At the time this system worked well because there were enough staff within DCPS OSTP to ensure all the paperwork was submitted correctly.

Ensuring the completion of proper documentation may not seem important, however due to recent funding cuts to local funding streams office, having proper documentation has become an absolute necessity. This is because federal reporting requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are strict and somewhat onerous. Further, failure to meet these requirements will result in a loss of funding in future years. When local dollars were being blended with these federal funds, it was feasible for DCPS OSTP to provide the necessary paperwork and reporting functions for TANF, while also focusing on quality programming and effective community partnerships.

In the last two years, however, local funding to DCPS afterschool has all but evaporated. With the loss of local funds, DCPS also lost a significant amount of staff and infrastructure necessary to maintain federal compliance. While DCPS was able to meet the compliance threshold to sustain TANF funds last year, this compliance cost DCPS-OSTP the ability to focus on quality and to cultivate community partnerships.

So, this year, DCPS OSTP was left between a rock and a hard place. To sustain the funding stream, something had to give. Rather than organizing enrollment for afterschool expanded learning programming at individual schools, DCPS will require all parents to enroll their students for afterschool between August 14th and August 30th at just one enrollment site housed in the Logan Annex at 215 G St. NE Washington, DC 20002 (at the corner of G St. and 2nd St. NE). If a parent fails to enroll their child during this window, the student cannot participate in any afterschool programming until the parent has completed the enrollment process at the DCPS Central Office.

This change is especially disturbing given the unequal burden it places on families with little to no economic security. Think about two families each headed by a single parent with two children. One resides east of the river and receives the maximum TANF benefit but also works part-time. The second lives in Ward 1 with an annual income of $45,000 a year. The difference in both actual and opportunity cost (time, lost wages, and transportation) just to sign their children up for programming is stark.

Low Income Single Parent with Two Children residing on Naylor Road with a weekly income of: $254 (receiving TANF)
Middle Income Single Parent with Two Children residing in Columbia Heights with a weekly income of: $700
3 hours
1 hour 20 minutes
Lost Wages
$25 (assuming they can go to and from work directly with no delay)
$0 (assuming a salaried employee able to take personal time)
Transportation Costs (non-rush hour)
$7.60 (for just the parent)
$22.80 (including children)
$3.40 (for just the parent)
$10.20 (including the children)
Total Cost:
13%-19% of their weekly income
.48%-1.45% of their weekly income

While the benefits of enrollment in afterschool programming do outweigh these immediate costs in the long term, establishing a process that is more costly for economically insecure families even from the start is patently wrong. Further, the signal this process sends to many parents and community members is hardly one of educational equity.

The negative impact on families doesn't end with the financial burden of signing a student up either. While DCPS has made efforts to spread the word to parents, changing this process six weeks before the start of the year will likely negatively impact access for those students who could benefit the most from this programming.

Parents who are the least connected to their child’s school, parents who are struggling to get by day to day working multiple jobs, parents living in a shelter or couch surfing with no consistent mailing address, parents who are non-English speakers or are functionally illiterate, these are the parents who will be the most negatively affected by the changes to the enrollment system.

The solution to this issue is surprisingly straight forward. Stop funding DCPS afterschool programming solely through Federal TANF dollars. Yes, it’s that simple. With a more robust local investment, DCPS could go back to serving thousands of children and youth, could continue to meet TANF requirements in a family friendly way, while also maintaining their focus on quality programming and meaningful partnerships. That is the path to equity and parity. 

Additional Materials:
Afterschool Enrollment Flier 

Questions or concerns related to these changes, or how the enrollment period will operate should be relayed to the DCPS Office of Out of School Time Programming 202-442-5002.

Maggie Riden is the Executive Director of DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. DCAYA is a citywide coalition that works to ensure policies, programs and practices within the District of Columbia that promote and propel youth into a productive and healthy adulthood.

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