DC Throwback Classic 8/26/16: The Legacy And Future of DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program



For 37 summers, Marion Barry’s Summer Youth Employment Program has empowered generations of mostly African-American youth in the Nation’s Capitol. The program was started in 1979 by then mayor Marion Barry as a way to accomplish job-wise for DC’s largely African-American teen population what he had done for middle class black adults in DC by giving them jobs directly related to the city government. In her book entitled The Last of the Black Emperors: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in a New Age of Black Leaders, District of Columbia political reporter Jonetta Rose Barras characterized concepts like the Summer Youth Employment program as representing “methodical, competent, and intellectually superior” governing.

Literally tens of thousands of African-American DC residents (this author included) can track the beginning of their employment histories to DC SYEP, which makes recent news regarding the iconic program quite intriguing.

In April 2016, the program was independently audited, and the auditor’s finding were reported by as noting that D.C.’s program employs more youth per capita than cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City, serving over 13,000 individuals, and costing the DC government a total of $19 million.

The auditor also noted that DC’s program gets virtually all of it’s funding from local taxpayers, and could actually be improved with more private-sector involvement. Such funding could diversify the program’s funding base as well as the job providers, too. Given #newDC’s vastly restructured economic base and plethora of new industries, it’s a worthwhile concept to consider.

About onelove

Recommended for you