Every February, the SSYP Teen Organizers are part of the annual Youth Jobs Rally to demand full state funding for youth jobs. This winter, we joined hundreds of youth and supporters from across the state in marching through the streets to bring attention to this critical issue and to ask our elected leaders to invest in young people by providing them economic opportunities. In Boston, these jobs are administered by the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment.
Following the animated Youth Jobs Rally and fired up by the dedication of other youth workers, we considered what to do next. Boston is about to be in the hiring season of summer jobs for teens. So, our organizing team of teens and adults decided to meet with DYEE to make sure things were on track for the 3,200 young people who would be in their employment this summer. We went in with high hopes.
We arrived at the Tobin Community Center for our appointed time. We found the Chief of Health and Human Resources Felix Arroyo, BCYF Commissoner William Morales and DYEE Executive Director Rashad Cope staff were in another meeting. As the clock hand ticked on, we considered leaving. After about thirty minutes, we were led to a larger conference room and began the conversation. Our team broached the disturbing fact that in Summer 2016 there was funding for 3,200 jobs but only 2,600 spots were filled. This was largely due to challenges with new technology for hiring and the infrastructure for communicating with teens. The good news is that DYEE has expanded the staffing for their office so that there are more people to support teens through the hiring process. The remaining challenge is that only half of these new positions are filled and DYEE may not be fully staffed until the end of May.
In addition, we asked where the funds for the unfilled 600 teen jobs in 2016 had gone as it was almost million dollars. We found that some of it had been invested in 140 school year jobs; but the math we did in advance showed that there might still be remaining funding available. If correct, this would mean even more teens could have jobs for summer 2017. DYEE and HHS pledged to investigate.
We also shared concerns about the timing of check processing and the accuracy of checks. Again, we received commitments from city officials to improve and correct these past problems.
Most importantly, we talked about how we could work together to have the most successful summer, one that would benefit all teens and community-based organizations. We left feeling an increased sense of partnership and better communication. We invited Chief Arroyo, Commissioner Morales, and Executive Director Cope to visit B-SAFE and join the Organizing Team for a day this summer. And, we took this nice photo. By establishing these direct relationships, we feel that teens can now hold our public officials accountable and be partners in the effort to make our city agencies more effective. And that is just what we plan to do. Stay tuned!
By Kesanet Tesfazion and Teen Organizing Team