Summer program taught life lessons
The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which is designed for families with low incomes, has existed for 40-plus years. It is funded by the State of CT and distributed to the towns and cities in New Haven County through the Work Force Alliance Office in New Haven.
Young students from Bailey Middle School, West Haven High School, Notre Dame, Platt Tech and others who attend school outside of West Haven but reside in the city apply for these summer jobs. The SYEP hires these students to work four weeks of the summer — five days a week four hours a day at the minimum wage of $10.10 an hour.
They are placed by the SYEP staff at various jobs sites in different areas of West Haven, as close to where they live as possible. The beach crew cleans the city beach parking lots, Sandy Hook Playground, Bradley Point, Old Grove at Savin Rock, the area around the Conference Center and Savin Rock Museum, along with the many piers and the boardwalk.
On their first day this summer, they swept the piles of sand that had accumulated on the ramps going down to the piers. A resident from Surfside Senior Housing came down to the ramp and could not thank them enough for sweeping the sand away. He is now able to take his wheelchair and go out on the pier and enjoy the view. The students walked every day with a five-gallon pail to put their trash in on their way to the different sites that needed cleaning. These young people take great pride in the work that they do each day. They receive many compliments from the residents.
You can recognize them by the shirts they wear, which has the West Haven SYEP logo on them. Their supervisor started out in the program himself on the beach crew years ago and could not be happier to share his expertise and experiences with the students.
The SYEP has workers in the Allingtown and Johnson-Noble Senior Center. They work with young children and senior clients as aids. Some of their duties include serving lunch and doing maintenance work. One of the student workers assists the head maintenance person at the West Haven Community House.
Some students work out of the West Haven Housing Authority in the different Senior Housing buildings doing general maintenance. There are two girls who work in the main office of the Housing Authority and the Section 8 office on Glade Street. Others work as camp counselors
at the Glade Street park camp. The VA Hospital provides summer jobs to many students that complete various tasks, including volunteering in the service office, food service and the supply room. They are provided with their own t-shirts and 10 badges, so the clients know they are there to help in any way they can. There are two supervisors, who also were former SYEP workers, which work at the VA and the Noble Senior Center. There are workers in City Hall, whose responsibilities include filing and answering phones. The Center District Fire House on Elm Street has a student who does general maintenance.
There are also students that work in the school system, helping the custodians to get the schools ready for the new school year. Those that worked in the Food Service Department in the past years assisted in preparing meals for the Park-Rec camps and the various drop off sites, where young children can receive a lunch each day.
The SYEP also provides workers to some private sectors, such as Vio’s Sporting Goods. The student was able to assist with the printing of t-shirts and uniforms, as well as other jobs. He has excellent computer skills, which were used in helping to set up new programs for the store.
Another location, Aqua & Physical Therapy Sports Complex (Quest) on Campbell Avenue, had students whose duties included filing and cleaning and wiping down of the equipment after the clients were done using it. They also made phone calls to the clients to remind them of their appointments.
This past summer, there was no funding available for the Summer Youth Program, not only in West Haven, but throughout the State of Connecticut. We almost did not have a program because there wasn’t a budget in place by the State
Legislators. The Summer Youth office staff spoke with the mayor’s office and the Finance Department to see what they could done to help us have a program. The outcome was exciting.
July 13, the University of New Haven announced it will partner with the city to fund the city’s summer Youth Program. The university will contribute $ 25,000 and the contribution will be matched with city funds. The program is typically funded fully by the state. However, this year, because the state had not adopted a budget, no funding for the program was available. With the $50,000 we could hire 53 young people and we thank them for that. Last year, we had a budget of $104,000, which was provided fully by the state. This enabled us to hire 126 young workers. We could not rehire some of these workers due to the monetary constraints.
This program not only gives the students the opportunity to get a great learning experience in the workplace, and able to earn money for themselves. It gives them a chance to get involved in their community and meet new people. It’s a great
learning opportunity which provides a lifelong lesson that will be used in each one of their futures. The Summer Youth Programs works and need to continue for many years to come.
The Summer Youth Employment Staff