D.C. Summer Youth Employment Program celebrates 35 years

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – The District’s Summer Youth Employment Program is wrapping up its 35th year of providing jobs for teenagers tomorrow. The program has become a rite of passage for many local teens.

The Summer Youth Employment Program placed Angelica Cooper, a recent H.D. Woodson High School graduate in a Northeast D.C. deli. Now that the program is ending, Cooper says she has been offered and accepted a permanent position there.

This year, D.C. had 12,500 youths in summer jobs, costing the city $11.2 million. As for what that bought, young people took on many tasks. A group in Southeast recorded oral histories of D.C. neighborhoods.

ABC 7 News found other youths preparing for a big show this weekend; some learned to dance, while others built and painted sets, and learned fashion design by making the costumes.

At St. Elizabeths, ABC 7 News ran into Microsoft interns—youths from D.C. high schools who created their own apps for games.

“We’re very thankful for the opportunity and it was a lot of fun,” one of the interns said.

This year, the Summer Youth Employment Program turned 35 years old. Some 300,000 people have gone through it since Marion Barry first started it—all you have to do is ask somebody on the street where they got their first job.

“When I was 14, I got my first summer job,” one woman said. “Yup, underneath of Marion Barry.”

Tonya Sapp, 51, of the D.C. Employment Services General Counsel, says she got her first job through the program.

“Yes, it was my first job,” she said. “I worked there the summer I was 14 and the summer I was 15.”

For a lot of young people, the program has taught them what work means; with pay at $7.25 an hour, they’re given some money to go back to school with. Well, some of them.

“No, ‘cause, honestly, I’m a spender, and that money’s going to be gone in a quick second,” one participant said.