Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer, summer, summertime…

... time to find work, rise and grind. 

That’s right, it’s that time of year again! While many of us will take advantage of the next six weeks to escape the sweltering DC heat for some R&R, about 15,000 District youth will be staying put to participate in the 2016 Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). With SYEP participants ranging in age from 14-24 reporting to their first day this week, we thought it was a great time to reflect back on the major changes made to the program last year and to highlight plans for program year 2016.

As the first year of SYEP to serve youth through age 24, 2015 marked big changes to the program. While we saw the size and budget of the program expand to provide work opportunities to the District’s unemployed youth, we were also encouraged to see new commitments made to the quality and accessibility of the program.  The participation of 25 youth with disabilities was supported by a partnership between DC’s Rehabilitative Services Administration (RSA), SchoolTalk, and District schools. This pilot program (now called SYEP JumpStart) provided the individualized supports and services needed to ensure that these youth could access meaningful work experience through SYEP. In addition, the Office of Youth Programs (OYP) expanded the availability of transportation supports to SYEP participants in 2015 so that they could budget $110 over six weeks to travel to and from their jobs. At Council’s urging, we also saw an increased emphasis on DOES’s ability to demonstrate the impact of the program, especially for those youth 22-24 who stand to gain the most from participation in the program. Understanding that summer work programs like SYEP can provide a critical entry point into a broader array of workforce development, education, or employment opportunities, it’s especially important to leverage SYEP for older District youth who struggle to gain a foothold in the labor market.

Full Report Available Here
In addition to a DOES-produced report on the 2015 SYEP, the DC Auditor also released their report on the operations and outcomes of SYEP in comparison to eight other cities. In tandem, these reports provided valuable insight into the improvements already underway within OYP to strengthen the program, and also highlighted areas of the program which stand to benefit from greater attention. The Auditor’s report suggested that the District could draw more on non-local sources, such as federal or private funding to decrease the $20 million annual price tag of SYEP paid by DC residents. The report also strongly recommends the development of more diversified program options to meet the varied needs of District youth who participate in the program. For example, those youth who indicate their disconnection from education, their housing instability, or their non-resident status could be flooded with supports and transitioned into longer-term programming from their participation in SYEP. The report also highlighted that under statutory requirements in place since 2010, SYEP must receive an annual, independent evaluation. We’re hopeful that OYP will continue to welcome the results of this annual report in their efforts to seek new, innovative, and data-driven improvements to SYEP.

Building off of these report recommendations, Deputy Mayor for Greater Opportunity, Courtney Snowden, recently shared some of the plans underway for this summer’s program on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. In addition to continuing SYEP’s commitment to serve as a bridge for 22-24 year olds into employment (or educational opportunities), the Deputy Mayor also highlighted the program’s partnerships with the White House as a Summer Impact Hub, with LinkedIn to create more corporate and private sector work placements, and with DCPS to connect the students of DC’s 9 Career Academies to summer work placements that align with their courses of study. These new or intensifying partnerships demonstrate significant progress for the program in addressing long-standing concerns and leveraging SYEP as conduit for youth to pursue substantive, long term supports and opportunities.

As we take these plans and improvements into consideration, it’s important to highlight the significant growth of this program within a few years. While the program enrollment fluctuates annually (between 13,000 and 15,000 youth), the program’s budget has nearly doubled over the last 5 years from $11.5 million in 2012 to $20.2 million in 2016. The incremental increases to the District’s investment in SYEP over time have certainly yielded impactful improvements in the accessibility, quality, and operation of the program. Yet taken in context with the full array of workforce development programming offered in the District, additional investments of local funding should be used to bolster year-round programming moving forward. It will be important to work within the current budget mark to maximize SYEP’s quality and impact, and to further leverage its popularity and size to direct youth to the longer-term supports and services they need. While SYEP quality is paramount, we fully recognize that a six-week program will not be able to directly facilitate workforce outcomes like full-time employment, certification or high-tech training that other programs of an extended duration strive to achieve. More than ever, SYEP stands to serve as the District’s jumping off point for more intensive youth workforce development. While the crown jewel of DC’s youth workforce development system, SYEP is ultimately one of many gems the city must value.

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook, SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at

Amy Dudas is the disconnected youth and workforce development policy analyst at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. She credits her first summer job as a server on the Jersey Shore for teaching her how to multitask and how to remove tomato sauce stains from white shirts. Please contact her at with any questions or feedback on your 2016 SYEP experience.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Together, We Changed DC - Now, Let's Do It Again!

The final vote by the DC Council on the FY 2017 budget marked the culmination of multiple campaigns, appeals, and partnerships focused on securing additional resources for the District’s children, youth, and families. Despite the impact of our collective advocacy, our work is far from done. In order to build on the successes we have achieved in the last year, and to ensure children and youth receive the services they need to thrive, we ask that you please consider renewing your organizational membership with DC Alliance of Youth Advocates.

Absent our collective efforts and quick responses during budget season, DC children, youth and families would have lost, or been unable to access millions of dollars in services and supports. While it may seem like the finish line is behind us, the work we do is more like a marathon than a sprint. To carry our collective work forward, we need your support in the year to come.

What your contribution supports:
Over the past few years, DCAYA solicited community input and feedback at over 60 different convenings. This feedback, combined with high quality research and analysis informed over 350 pieces of testimony delivered at 51 public hearings, facilitated over 9,000 advocacy letters and emails to DC Council and the Office of the Mayor and led over 400 hours of direct advocacy to key decision makers. Not to mention, numerous professional development and networking opportunities.

These efforts have resulted in a variety of significant outcomes for the year to come, including:

  • Preserving the District’s $4.9 million investment for community-based expanded learning programs over the next school year and summer. Absent our work, over 3,000 students would go without an afterschool or summer option.
  • Successfully advocating for $2.3 million in new investments for prevention, diversion and crisis intervention to end youth homelessness; work that will impact hundreds of incredibly vulnerable youth in the year to come.
  • Securing $800,000 in local funding to sustain critical, quality afterschool programming which would otherwise have been cut off for up to 1,000 low-income children and youth in the next school year.
  • Removing transportation barriers to the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) for financially insecure youth, and making huge progress in expanding transportation subsidies to nontraditional and adult learners.
  • Informing the final structure and public funding for the Youth Re-Engagement Center; which has exceeded expectations in its first two years of operations and is now serving hundreds of opportunity youth.
  • Strengthening the pathway to postsecondary success for nontraditional students with the creation of a State Diploma for students who demonstrate high school mastery through the GED or NEDP.

But that’s not all.

  • In the last 5 years, our collective work has helped protect or secure just under $700,000,000 in key services and supports to our children, youth and families.

Each of these efforts requires months and sometimes years of work with continuous outreach, convenings, and research. Your membership is one of the critical pillars that sustains our efforts year round. Together, we provide resources and supports to enable young people to reach their fullest potential.

Thank you for your membership with DCAYA.  We believe it is an investment in the strength of your organization, in the future of our city, and, most importantly, in the lives of our youth.
We look forward to another successful year and thank you again for your commitment.

Maggie Riden
Executive Director of DC Alliance of Youth Advocates

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Holding Orlando in our hearts

This week, our hearts have been heavy as news continues to break with details about the tragedy that happened in Orlando over the weekend.

12 of the lives taken were 24 years old and younger, the age of many youth our member organizations work with:

  • Stanley Almodovar III, 23
  • Jonathan Camuy, 24
  • Omar Capo, 20
  • Cory James Connell, 21
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
  • Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Akyra Murray, 18
  • Christopher Sanfeliz, 24
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Luis Vielma, 22

As we learn and remember their names and stories, along with all of the individuals who were lost that night, the entire DCAYA community is sending our thoughts and our prayers, for all of those who died, to those who were injured, and to their families and friends.

We are allies as well as LGBT individuals. And as a community, as we hold Orlando in our hearts, now more than ever we will continue working toward a city where every youth, regardless of economic opportunity, nationality, disability, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, has access to and can receive the supports and services they need not just to survive, but to thrive.

With love and Pride,

Your DCAYA Family

Thursday, June 09, 2016

It's Time to #ExpandLearningDC! (version 2.0)

This week, DCAYA is pleased to re-release #ExpandLearningDCour policy and funding framework for afterschool and summer learning in DC, which we originally posted here in April. The report has since been updated following a vote that month by the DC Trust’s Board of Directors to dissolve the organization. This version also uses updated data to better reflect trends in out-of-school time access within DCPS.

Read the full report and our recommendations:
#ExpandLearningDC Framework

Don't have time for the full report? Check out our executive summary and quality checklist. We've developed the checklist tool to help education leaders, policy makers, funders and parents determine universal out-of-school time (OST) quality standards for provider programs and the District-wide system as a whole.

Report Appendices: We've also prepared resources on DCPS elementary and middle schools and expanded learning outcomes to reference in your advocacy, as well as fact sheets for afterschool enrollment in Title I elementary and middle schools in each Ward!*

                             Ward 1 Fact Sheet                     Ward 6 Fact Sheet
                             Ward 2 Fact Sheet                     Ward 7 Fact Sheet
                             Ward 4 Fact Sheet                     Ward 8 Fact Sheet
                             Ward 5 Fact Sheet

  • Local funding for community-based out-of-school time programs has declined by 60% since 2010. This has resulted in only a quarter of the locally-funded slots for community-based afterschool and summer learning that were there for kids just six years ago, from close to 10,000 in 2010 to under 2,500 in 2016.
  • DCPS schools with the highest “at-risk” student enrollment also tend to have the lowest share of available afterschool enrollment slots through OSTP. While all young people benefit from these opportunities, kids who are considered “at-risk” stand to gain the most from participating in afterschool. The present trend in funding to schools gives reason to be optimistic, but overall need in the District persists.


If we are serious about providing safe, youth-friendly opportunities focused on improving outcomes and quality of life for all our children now and in future, we must reverse these trends. To do so on the scale that is needed, policy makers, funders, intermediaries and educational leaders must embrace an approach that fully integrates expanded learning into our public education continuum.

Please read the report to find out more about these trends and DCAYA's 8 recommendations exploring what it will take for more expanded learning opportunities to reach the many thousands of children and youth in the District who stand to benefit from them!

(* Please note, we did not prepare a fact sheet for Ward 3 because there are no Title I DCPS schools in the Ward, however Ward 3 elementary and middle schools and their at-risk enrollment are included in our DCPS schools appendix.)

Joseph Gavrilovich is DCAYA's senior policy analyst for expanded learning. If you have any questions about today's blog, or would like more information on our afterschool and summer learning advocacy please contact him at

You can also reach out to him to obtain an archived copy of the earlier version of the #ExpandLearningDC report.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

DCAYA’s Budget Updates Part II: Expanded Learning & Youth Homelessness

The final vote by the Council occurred yesterday, and the District’s FY17 budget now goes to Mayor Bowser. Today we continue to reflect on the work of our members and partners throughout this year’s advocacy season, and provide an update on successes for youth, families and children within the FY17 budget. Last week’s blog focused on Youth Workforce Development and Disconnected Youth, and we continue this week with a look at Expanded Learning and Youth Homelessness.

Expanded Learning

A Path Forward for Funding Afterschool and Summer Learning

After the mayor proposed $4.9 million to the DC Trust for community-based afterschool and summer programming in FY17, our initial ask was to double that investment in order to serve up to four times as many children and youth in need of quality expanded learning opportunities. While we were optimistic about the strength of the proposed amount compared to recent years, it was not enough to reverse a downward trend for out-of-school time programming we have seen each year in the District since 2010.

While we will continue to advocate for scaled-up, multi-year funding beginning in FY18, the advocacy priority for FY17 quickly shifted with the announced dissolution of the DC Trust on April 26. Since then, DCAYA and our community-based partners have worked hard to preserve the $4.9 million intended for expanded learning programs. Our coalition has held more than a dozen meetings with members of DC Council and their staff, as well as the Deputy Mayors for Education and Health and Human Services, to build support among policy makers for an established, nonprofit intermediary with youth development expertise to administer out-of-school time (OST) funding in FY17. We continue to be an active partner in this effort, as Deputy Mayor Brenda Donald presents this recommendation to Mayor Bowser.

We’d like to thank the Deputy Mayors and members of Council, as well as all of our expanded learning partners (simply too many to list here) who stepped up to provide resources and insight in the wake of the Trust’s collapse. Most especially, we’re grateful to those members who met with policy makers and offered public testimony to advocate for the preservation of out-of-school time funding. We'd like to give a special shout out of thanks to Fair Chance and Gretchen Van der Veer for helping coordinate our members and Fair Chance partners to do a final round of walk arounds with DC Council on the importance of out of school time programming.

Sustaining 21st Century Community Learning Centers

Earlier this year, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced that due to internal efforts to streamline grant making processes and decreased federal funds, there would be no new competition for the federal 21st Century Community Learning Center (CLC) grant program in the 2016-2017 school year. This action immediately affected three community-based OST providers who all stood to lose approximately $995,413 in the coming school year. The disruption of these services, which have all demonstrated quality programming and remarkable outcomes for students, would have caused significant ramifications next year for up to 1,000 at-risk students and undermined years of investments.

Recognizing that families, youth and children deserve more than a haphazard and inconsistent delivery of these key critical services, DCAYA and these three partners launched a targeted advocacy effort to find support and funding. These efforts paid off with Council identifying $800,000 to sustain 21st Century CLC’s in FY17. We’d like to thank these organizations and their families for rallying to support the students, as well as Superintendent Hanseul Kang and everyone at OSSE for their support in working toward a solution, and Councilmembers David Grosso, Brianne Nadeau and Charles Allen for their outspoken support for sustaining this important and life-changing funding stream.

Youth Homelessness

Building Capacity for a Youth-Friendly System

This year, DCAYA advocated to an additional investment of $800,000 to create more transitional housing and independent living options for youth experiencing homelessness. While the mayor’s proposed budget included significantly more funding for crisis support and prevention and diversion services, which we had advocated for and certainly applaud, more funding for meaningful housing interventions will be needed in future years if we are to meet the intent of the 2014 End Youth Homelessness Amendment Act and make homelessness among unaccompanied minors and transition-aged youth rare, brief and non-recurring by 2020.

DCAYA continues to work in a leadership role with the Interagency Council of Homelessness (ICH) and the ICH Youth Subcommittee, and we are optimistic that with the Fall release of the ICH’s Strategic Plan to End Youth Homelessness, we and our partners will be positioned to make an even stronger ask next budget season. We’d like to thank ICH Executive Director Kristy Greenwalt, DHS Director Laura Zeilinger, and DHS Deputy Administrator for Youth Services Hilary Cairns for their continued leadership and support for scaled-up funding, as well as Kimberly Henderson with Child and Family Services Agency, for her role co-chairing the Youth Subcommittee. We are grateful to our members and partners from Sasha Bruce, Casa Ruby, the Latin American Youth Center, Wanda Alston, Covenant House and the DC Center for the LGBT Community for their leadership, advocacy partnerships and public testimonies.

Dignified Housing for Homeless Children & Families

In February, the mayor made good on her promise to voters to deliver a plan to close D.C. General and move homeless families into safe and dignified housing throughout the District, and the plan was met both with intense support and praise, and resistance and criticism. The months that followed saw some of this teased out as policy makers, advocates, and members of the community worked toward a middle ground.  We are pleased that Council has since passed a revised plan that calls for the use of government-owned properties in Wards 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8, and the purchase (instead of leasing) of the sites in Wards 1 and 4. These revisions effectively respond to resident concerns about cost while maintaining the overall intent of the plan. We believe that the housing these families will receive, along with improved access to local amenities and on-site case management services, will have life-changing results for their children well worth this effort and its capital expenditures.

For more on youth issues in DC you can FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook, SUBSCRIBE to this blog and VISIT us at