Whitman Houses resident Skye Carson, 14, wants to be a writer or a lawyer in the future, two careers requiring good communication skills. This summer, she greatly improved those skills while working at NYCHA through the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
SYEP provides New Yorkers 14 to 24 with paid summer employment and is operated by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development. The Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES) office managed NYCHA’s SYEP program, hiring 900 14- and 15-year-olds, including 601 NYCHA residents. Interns worked at 195 locations and performed a variety of tasks, including assisting seniors, clerical work, and grounds keeping.
Ms. Carson worked at the REES office in Brooklyn, where in addition to shredding and filing, she often interacted with residents – providing her with interpersonal relationship experience necessary for the world of work.
“I also learned how to write a professional email,” Ms. Carson said. “Compared with how I used to email before and now, it was so horrible. I get now why people didn’t understand my emails, they were basically texting.”
NYCHA’s SYEP interns gained a behind the scenes look into the Authority’s business, learning the function of departments including law, information technology, human resources, property management, and more.
SYEP intern Hui Jing Lei, 14, of Ingersoll Houses, says she was surprised to learn about the data NYCHA compiles: “I didn’t know they kept so much information, they did research, and then used that research to incorporate new policies to improve. It’s background work that not everyone knows about.”
Ms. Lei worked in NYCHA’s Performance Tracking and Analytics department, known as PTAD, which is the hub of information and research on NYCHA, tracking how the Authority performs, keeping records on demographics, crime, developments, and more. She scanned over 200 pages to help NYCHA digitize archival documents, including crime data and rent rolls dating back to the 1940s.
In addition to résumé-building work experience, the SYEP interns participated in weekly educational workshops coordinated by REES on topics including financial literacy, how to write a résumé, and mental health.
Like many of NYCHA’s SYEP interns, this was the first job for Ms. Lei and Ms. Carson, one that their supervisors agree is an invaluable opportunity for young residents.
“It’s absolutely important to offer young NYCHA residents internship opportunities,” Sybille Louis, Director of PTAD, said. “When you think about the size of NYCHA, we are a huge agency and we want to be impactful in the lives of our residents. These young interns are the future of NYCHA and we are investing in them, taking the time to really think about what is the best experience we can give them.”
Ms. Carson’s supervisor, Amanda Moore, REES Manager of Intake and Outreach, agrees: “I think it’s important for young adults to get a firsthand view of how it is to work day-to-day in a job, what it is to build a routine, to report to someone, to take ownership and responsibility for your work. Most of what NYCHA residents see is from a resident perspective, so as employees they can see what it takes for residents and employees to work together.”