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Reflections on SYEP Advocacy Day

Reflections on SYEP Advocacy Day

Jennifer is a junior at the Baccalaureate School for Global Education. She graduated from the YCLC in the spring of 2017, and has been an active YouthAction Member ever since.

I was honored to be given the opportunity to emcee the rally for the 18th annual Campaign for Summer Jobs (CSJ) Youth Action Day on January 30th, 2018, organized by United Neighborhood Houses. CSJ’s mission is to ensure summer jobs for all New York youth who wish to have one through the Summer Youth Employment program (SYEP). Every summer, SYEP allows thousands of youth aged 14-24 to have summer jobs that will benefit them both economically and educationally. Under this program, young people are given the opportunity to gain vocational experience and develop skills necessary to succeed in future jobs.

Each year, as part of the Campaign for Summer jobs, hundreds of young advocates and their adult allies travel to the state capitol in Albany to participate in a rally and hold meetings with legislators. This year, advocates were campaigning for an additional 4 million dollars for SYEP to be added to the 40 million dollars proposed in the Governor’s executive budget. This would allow for an additional 3,000 positions to be available to youth, whereas without this increase in funding, the proposed budget would only cover the same amount of jobs as last year (though it does add funding to account for a small increase in minimum wage). Furthermore, to support economically vulnerable families, advocates requested that the income earned by any youth through SYEP not be counted in the family’s income when applying for public assistance.

The day of the event, over 300 young faces were looking toward me as I took to the podium with my fellow emcees. Their faces were hopeful and determined, ready to face any challenge and achieve their goals. This admirable first impression of the large crowd motivated me to lead the rally for the annual Campaign for Summer Jobs Youth Action Day with energy and passion. Our jitters disappeared, replaced by our desire to make a change and influence others to do the same. Speaking into the microphone, chanting along with others with the same goal, listening to the legislators give their speeches—this was all empowering. That day, despite most of us being strangers, our shared motivation and purpose united us.

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