LaGuardia Summer Youth Employment Program Gives High School Student Work When Barista Jobs Didn’t Hire

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (July 2, 2024) — Jahsani Peters had imagined spending his summer working as a barista, like many teenagers, but when that didn’t pan out, Jahsani found paid work through the NYC Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY.

LaGuardia Summer Youth Employment Program Gives High School Student Work When Barista Jobs Didn’t Hire“It’s hard to find a job, especially at age 16,” he said. “I was desperate to get a job. We’re not poor, but I wanted to find a way to stand on my own two feet and not burden my mom.”

One of Jahsani’s older brothers had previously participated in SYEP and enjoyed the experience, so he applied. SYEP, a program of the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD), is the nation’s largest youth employment program, with providers in all five boroughs—LaGuardia’s SYEP is the largest in Queens. Youth ages 16–24 are placed in jobs with local businesses and organizations, earning $16/hour for up to 25 hours each week for six weeks. Those ages 14 and 15 do project-based learning on entrepreneurship and other topics, earning a stipend of $700.

“SYEP gave me my first ever job,” said Jahsani. “I wanted to get work experience; I didn’t know about a resume or anything like that. School wasn’t teaching me about these things.”

“I’m enormously proud of the impact the Summer Youth Employment Program at LaGuardia has had on the lives and careers of the people we’ve served,” said Claudia Baldonedo, Ed.D., Executive Director of LaGuardia’s Youth Workforce Development Initiatives, under which SYEP is housed. “We have given many young people their first-ever job and boosted their self-confidence.”

Through SYEP, Jahsani was placed at Community Capacity Development (CCD) in Woodside. After working at CCD last summer, Jahsani continued working 12 hours a week at CCD throughout the 2023–2024 school year through SYEP’s Work, Learn and Grow program. He’ll work at CCD again this summer.

“At CCD, we support the community of Woodside Houses/NYCHA,” Jahsani said. “We host events to bring the community together and spread the word about how to deescalate conflict. Our goal is to stop violence before it starts. We’re peacemakers; trying to make the world a better place. We teach people their rights, such as what to do when you see a police officer.”

Jahsani, now 17 and a senior at Forest Hills High School, credits SYEP for teaching him how to make positive connections with people and preparing him for a future career.

“Before SYEP, I didn’t know where to start when it came to work. I’m an introvert; I’m shy. SYEP taught me that sometimes you have to put yourself out there to be successful,” said Jahsani.

He says CCD is where he found a community. “I found people I can relate to on a similar level. I work with a diverse group of people—I don’t have that at school. And it’s motivating to have people at SYEP and at CCD who want to see me win.”

Jahsani says his grades have improved since getting involved in SYEP and CCD. “My work ethic is strong; when I’m down, I’m down,” said Jahsani, who hopes to continue working with CCD through SYEP during his senior year.

After graduating from high school next year, Jahsani plans to pursue a college degree at LaGuardia Community College. He plans to major in either Animal Science, because he loves animals, or Music Recording Technology. Jahsani shares music he makes on TikTok.

SYEP Summer 2024

“SYEP is perfect for someone who wants to get started up,” said Jahsani. “It helps you build a foundation before you have to go into the real world and get an actual job. And the experience looks good on a resume and teaches you how to do well in interviews. I’m so grateful to SYEP. It makes me want to do everything in my abilities to do a good job. SYEP motivated me to want to work, so I can get good pay and be more satisfied with life. It’s also helped me realize I want to do philanthropy, because at the end of my life, I want to know I did something positive for my community.”

LaGuardia’s SYEP will serve 3,285 youth ages 14–24 during the 2024–2025 fiscal year.

  • Nearly 2,500 participants selected from 6,000 applicants through a DYCD lottery.
  • About 730 students (including undocumented) appointed through partnerships with Middle College High School and International High School at LaGuardia, and Chelsea Career and Technical High School in Manhattan.
  • More than 400 individuals who are or have been in foster care, homeless, involved through the NYC/NYS criminal justice system, ACS case management, are appointed to SYEP.

LaGuardia runs SYEP programs for specific populations, including, Emerging Leaders for youth who are homeless, living in shelters, in or have aged out of the foster care system, or were formerly incarcerated; CareerREADY Work, Learn & Grow for 16–19-year-olds interested in paid internships during the school year; and CareerREADY for high schoolers at partner schools.

Since becoming a SYEP site in 1988, LaGuardia’s SYEP has given more than 200,000 participants opportunities for career exploration and paid work experience.

Local business or organization that partner with LaGuardia’s SYEP include:

  • AIDS Center of Queens County
  • Best Buy Teen Tech Center
  • Doggy Be Good
  • Edible Arrangements/Elmhurst
  • Everyone Comics x Collectibles
  • Latin Women in Action
  • Maimonides Medical Center
  • Martin De Porres High School
  • MTA (all boroughs)
  • Museum of Natural History
  • Museum of the Moving Image
  • New York Life Insurance Company
  • NYC Department of Design and Construction
  • Sholom Day Care
  • The Office of City Council Member Nantasha Williams
  • Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens
  • Weill Cornell Medicine

• • • •

LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), a Hispanic-Serving Institution, located in Long Island City, Queens offers more than 50 associate degrees and academic certificates, and more than 65 continuing education programs to prepare New Yorkers for transfer to senior colleges and rewarding jobs and careers. An institution of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his advocacy of the underserved. Since 1971, LaGuardia’s academic programs and support services have advanced the socioeconomic mobility of students from Queens, NYC and beyond.


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