The First State Community Action Agency’s Summer Youth Employment Program, first started more than 15 years ago, has closed out another season, this year graduating 94 students.
Bernice Edwards, director of the Georgetown-based FSCAA, said the program provides summer employment, job training and developmental and educational opportunities to youth ages 14 to 20 who reside in Kent and Sussex counties.
“In addition to employment, the program trains youth on interview skills, resume writing, business etiquette and personal skills,” Edwards said.
Sandy Hagans, SYEP program coordinator, said FSCAA staff received more than 300 applications for this year’s program and a great deal of work went into narrowing those down to 94 students, 45 from Sussex County and 49 from Kent County.
“Many of our youth hires came from low income communities in Kent and Sussex counties,” Hagans said. “This experience provided many of them with the opportunity to gain meaningful income to help with personal and family expenses and necessities.”
Most students worked for 210 hours over the course of seven weeks, earning about $1,522.50. Some worked 250 hours, earning $1,812.50, according to Edwards.
Hagans said the students were not just put in positions where they would mostly do custodial work. The sites that hired SYEP students this summer include the Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware Technical & Community College and the Boys & Girls Club.
Rayzheen Waples, a 15-year-old sophomore at Sussex Technical High School, worked at the Milford Boys & Girls Club through SYEP.
“For most of my summer, I worked with preschool-aged kids and it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be,” Waples said. “But once I took the time to get to know them and where they came from, I was able to develop a very positive rapport with them and their parents.”
Jacques Bowe, coordinator for the Sussex County students, said the summer was a very positive experience for him. He said he enjoyed helping the students gain the training and experience necessary to do things like conduct a successful job interview and deal with issues they may have in the workplace.
“I developed relationships with my 45 kids and, [throughout the summer], they had questions and concerns and I was able to see them through,” Bowe said.
At an Aug. 21 luncheon and awards ceremony for the SYEP graduates, Delaware Secretary of Labor John McMahon said the summer work experiences he gained in his youth shaped who he is and what he’s done in his professional life.
“Many of you looked at this as an opportunity to have a job, [or] a way to make some extra spending money; but the program you’ve participated in has offered you much more than that,” he said. “It wasn’t just a job; you were learning. More importantly, the skills you acquired are going to be imperative if you’re going to be successful in life.”