Raymi De La CruzRaymi De La Cruz, the Program Director for Youth Workforce Programs at BronxWorks. (Aaron Cipollina/BronxWorks)

This summer, thousands of young New Yorkers will be eligible for paid jobs through the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program, and BronxWorks is one of many Bronx organizations encouraging young people between the ages of 14 and 24 to apply.

A nonprofit organization with multiple locations in the South Bronx, BronxWorks paired thousands of teens and young adults with paid employment at worksites throughout the city in previous summers. Following Mayor Eric Adams’s announcement that the program has been expanded this year to include 90,000 slots, a 15,000-slot increase over 2021, BronxWorks is already ramping up for this summer. Other Bronx-based nonprofit organizations that are providing jobs through the program include Simpson Street Development Association, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, and the Woodycrest Center for Human Development.

Raymi De La Cruz, a Bronx native, oversees the Summer Youth Employment Program at BronxWorks. He said that for many young people, the program is often a major steppingstone to a long-term career.

“We had a young person who was interning at one of our afterschool programs, and they were so great that they decided to keep them on. This is a young person that is now working for the agency,” said De La Cruz. “We have a bunch of these success stories where people enjoy the thing that they did for the summer, and then they go on to actually do it. And it’s the start of their career.”

De La Cruz also said that the program allows the opportunity for young people to support themselves and their families, especially those in the 16 to 24 age range that were unemployed during the pandemic. They said that it is one of the reasons why they are such a big fan of the program.

“It’s the only program that puts money in people’s pockets,” said De La Cruz. “They’re getting $15 an hour, but then they’re coming home at the end of the day and they’re giving their parents or whomever a portion of their check to buy groceries, pay for the phone bill, or pay for the cable. Which, you know, is a great support.”

Michael Ivory is the director of communications for the office of Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. Before he started overseeing the borough-based office, however; Ivory was an intern for Gibson through BronxWorks and the Summer Youth Employment Program in 2016. He initially sought out the program to support himself and his grandmother.

Michael Ivory, the Communications Director for Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and former intern through BronxWorks and SYEP. (Cristobal Vivar)

“I had a fabulous site manager, who gave us interview tips and prepared us for potentially working at a site,” said Ivory. “It was such an amazing experience, and she was so supportive. It was through that program that I was then connected to the borough president, who was at the time a council member representing the 16th district.”

Ivory said that his site manager personally called him at his house following a training session to let him know that there was the option for him to intern at the local councilwoman’s office. Ivory was especially excited because he was studying political science and was interested in learning more about government.

He said that some of his fondest memories during his internship were covering events for then-Councilmember Vanessa Gibson and watching her interact with Bronx community members.

“That to me was so inspiring: to see a powerful African American woman representing the borough that I called home and lived in for most of my life,” said Ivory.

The mayor specified that in addition to providing thousands of more job opportunities for young adults, the expansion of the Summer Youth Employment Program is part of his administration’s initiative to reduce gun violence in New York City Streets.

“We know that gun violence and gun crimes spike in the summer months,” he said in his blueprint to reduce gun violence. According to Adams, the goal of the summer program’s expansion is to prevent young people from turning to gun violence by providing them employment opportunities in advance.

De La Cruz is optimistic about the program’s expansion on reducing violence in general, given that it is another resource that Bronx residents can turn to.

“I think it’s always good to provide young people with opportunities and the ability to have money in their pocket,” said De La Cruz. “And knowing that if you provide people with money and opportunity, it decreases the likelihood that they’re going to end up being out in the street and engaging in that kind of thing.”

As a Mott Haven native, Ivory believes that the program is a valuable resource for young people, especially since it allows them to learn more about something that they are interested in or would like to begin a career in.

“I always say that the most important gifts you can give to our young people are jobs and opportunities,” said Ivory. “When you give a young person a job, you are giving them a pathway to hopefully a future career. And when you give them opportunities, you’re not just giving them an opportunity, but you’re also giving their family and community an opportunity.”

SYEP applications opened on March 1, and will close on April 22, 2022. Interested applicants can apply through the NYC SYEP website. Applicants must be within the specified age range, a resident in one of NYC’s five boroughs, and legally allowed to work in the U.S.

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