NEWARK, NJ - Before Mayor Ras Baraka was elected in 2014, less than 1,000 Newark youth were employed through the city’s youth summer employment program. 

Now, the number of youth employed through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is triple. 


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This summer, 3,100 youth between the ages of 14 to 24 years old will start part-time jobs as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program.

Students assembled at Essex County College gymnasium on Monday for job assignments to start their first day on July 9. 

About $3 million was raised through city funds, philanthropy, and corporate partners to make the program happen. 

“The opportunities and experiences we offer through the Summer Youth Employment Program not only strengthens our community today, but they create adults who give back and sustain them in the future,” said Marsha Armstong, who participated in SYEP when she was younger. She is now the Youth Program Director for the City of Newark and oversees the youth employment program. 

Various employers from the public, private, education, and non-profit sectors will host students for their summer employment placements. 

But beyond a summer job and check, participants will receive development for a solid foundation on how to be successful in the working world and personal financial education to put them on the path to sound economic decisions. 

Newark was one of the early adopters of Summer Jobs Connect, which supports additional job positions and integrating the knowledge of financial skills and products for low-income youth.

Summer Jobs Connect is a partnership between Citibank, one of the employment program’s national partners, and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. 

Citibank presented the Summer Youth Employment Program with a check for $265,000 to support the summer jobs and provide financial empowerment services for all participants. 

Students are paid minimum wage and will receive a financial coach for six weeks with personalized lessons to practice good money management. 

Last year, more than 500 Summer Youth Employment participants opened their first bank or credit union account.

There are about 40,000 students in the Newark school system. Of those students, about 10,000 to 15,000 are eligible for summer youth employment, Mayor Ras Baraka explained.

A lottery system is used to select participants for the program each year. 

“A lot of cities do not hire that many kids in proportion to the number of kids that they can hire throughout the summer,”  Baraka said during a press conference on Monday. “Based on the population that we have, 3,000 is a huge number in proportion to other cities.” 

Baraka came through the summer employment program as a teenager.

He recalled how useful having the extra funds in his pocket proved helpful when it was time to buy something he needed or for when he returned back to school in the fall. 

Summer jobs for youth could help relieve money restrained families. When young people are able to assist with buying their own things, that is money that parents can reallocate elsewhere, said Baraka. 

The city wants to reach at least 5,000 employed through the Summer Youth Employment Program within the next few years.