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NYC Mayor Eric Adams Delivers Remarks at SYEP Kick off Event – Video

The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is the nation’s largest youth employment program, connecting NYC youth between the ages of 14 and 24 with career exploration opportunities and paid work experience each summer.

Deputy Mayor Ana Almanzar, Strategic Initiatives: Mr. Mayor, good to see you. How are you? Good morning everyone. My name is Ana Almanzar. I am the deputy mayor for Strategic Initiatives. It is a pleasure to be here.

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One of the great joys of managing this portfolio is that I get to directly see our young people in action. Today’s press conference is a celebration of what our city is doing for our young people to provide job opportunities, exposure to careers as well, and its most important thing, putting money in their pockets. This is the 60th anniversary of the Summer Youth Employment Program and 60 years of delivering quality, meaningful experiences for our most precious resource, our youth.

I want to thank Reel Works for being a longtime supporter and host for the Summer Youth Employment Program, and for preparing our young people for the future in the world of TV and media. Because of the work of Reel Works, young people in our city are getting the tools that they need to work and become storytellers and to share their stories with everyone. As their logo says, “You change the storyteller, you change the world.”

Now, I would like to introduce a champion for our young people, our mayor, the mayor of this great city, Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you, deputy mayor, and really thank you, Reel Works. I tell the team all the time, keep a journal. This is an amazing experience and I think about Deputy Mayor Almanzar being the first Dominican to be a deputy mayor with her amazing story, her amazing journey with her family and Reel Works is doing something powerful where we’re never going to live these times again. And so, if we don’t document them, if we don’t tell our own narrative, our own story. My son is a filmmaker and just every night before going to bed, I just write in my journal of what I experienced so I could go back and reflect on it.

And that’s what SYEP is about. This is an amazing accomplishment. Previous to this administration, there was an attempt to go from 75,000 summer youth to 100,000. We were able to accomplish that. But it’s more than just walking into a building and sitting around and getting a paycheck at the end of the week. How do we use this experience to have, what I like to call, a Karate Kid moment? He thought he was washing the car just to learn that he was actually learning karate.

And so, you may think that, hey, we’re getting up in the morning. We’re going, learning the soft skills of going into an environment, those socialization skills, but you’re also going to learn financial literacy. Many of you young people, when you graduate from college, you are going to find yourself in just financial despair. You’re going to make some poor decisions that we all made. But what we are hoping that during the Summer Youth Employment moment, that the financial literacy that you learn, you’re going to know the power of not having a high interest rate credit card, how not to get in debt or how to shop around for loans, how to use your dollars wisely. But you’re also going to learn the skills of interacting with each other.

Nothing is a greater Shakespearean tragedy than knowing only those who look like you, walk like you, talk like you, eat the same food, doing the same things. We want you to reach out and leave this Summer Youth Employment experience knowing the diverse people who live in this city. Adults screwed up this city. Now young people have to fix it by really learning from each other and being comfortable around each other. And this is a total package for this administration.

We knew that if we wanted to make our city safe, it cannot be just with policing. It has to be being proactive and interactive. And some of the proactive things we are doing is around Saturday Night Lights. It’s around the Summer Rising program. Over a hundred thousand young people participating in our Summer Rising program. It is part of the SYEP. It is ensuring that we infuse financial literacy. It is ensuring that we go into those areas that historically have been ignored. Like our children who are living with disabilities, we were never focusing on this important body of people.

Because you have challenging aspects of walking does not mean you cannot think, you cannot interact, you cannot be involved. And we should be reaching out for each other, leaning into NYCHA. Many of our young people from NYCHA are now coming on board. Foster care, foster care children were aging out and not having any support. And we are now talking 35,000 of these slots are going into these various groups that we are saying everyone must be brought along.

And I’m really challenging those of you who are here, our young people who are here, who are living in stable environments, reach out to those who are coming from a foster care environment. Reach out to those who are dealing with disabilities. Reach out to those who don’t have someone at home to explain the finance. We got to move from the city of me-ism to we-ism. And I don’t want folks to continue to say, “What is the mayor doing?” I want you to moonwalk over to the mirror and look at it and say, “What am I doing?”

Michael Jackson said it, the man in the mirror. This is a man in the mirror moment. So we are empowering you to get these jobs because we want you to empower others to know how they can go on a pathway to get these jobs at the same time. Everything we do is with a real outlook towards the future.

We have an amazing commissioner of DYCD. This is a real team here, and the Summer Youth Employment is part of the pieces that we are putting together. And so I want to thank Reel Works for really opening your doors, giving this great opportunity to our young people. Some of them are the next Spike Lee. Some of them are the next Tyler Perry. Tyler Perry’s… Look, he’s building this big studio and he’s looking for folks to come in and be part of the new venture that he’s doing.

Some of you are just going to document what it is like to be a young person during this period of time, navigating through Covid, navigating through the years in government, navigating a city that’s building all around you. This is a great moment to be alive. Don’t be a detached spectator. Get on the field of life and play the game.

You’re going to get sacked sometimes. There are times that you’re going to wish it’s challenging to move the ball down the field. But nothing is more wonderful than when you cross that goal line battered, bruised, unsure, dazzled by your ability to move forward. That’s what Summer Youth Employment is about.

This is not just going through the motion of doing a job. This is about the development of your full personhood. Immerse yourself in this full experience of what it is to be in a place like Reel Works and all the folks who are welcoming you in. This is a great moment for you as we kick off our Summer Youth Employment. A hundred thousand of you are going to have a great experience in this summer here, in this program here, but in the other programs that we are putting in place.
Good job, Deputy Mayor, thank you so much.

Deputy Mayor Almanzar: Oh, thank you. Thank you, Mayor Adams for such inspiring words. And now I have the pleasure of introducing my colleague, Commissioner Keith Howard from DYCD.

Commissioner Keith Howard, Department of Youth and Community Development: Good morning. Good morning. One of the things that the mayor insisted is that we have real partners, and Reel Work is that. It’s a real partner for us at SYEP. To run the program, to run a program with fidelity, extremely important, but we also want to indicate and tell you that we have other programs as well.

We have SYEP with partners like Google and HarperCollins, museums, hospitals, and Louis Vuitton for the first year. So let’s clap it up with Louis Vuitton. The mayor also made sure that we created a safe space for our LGBTQ+ young kids and our young participants. So we have an SYEP Pride this year that a lot of the companies have enrolled in order to make sure that young people have a safe space. But he didn’t stop there. He required the city agencies to step up. So I would like to also announce that this year NYPD went from 813 young people last year to 1,000. Come on, clap it up for NYPD.

So the mayor understands the importance with young people talking to police officers, sitting next to detectives, understanding exactly community relations. We just had our sixth youth town hall in which the young people had a voice. And the mayor made sure he gave them a platform and there were three, three takeaways.  One is they talked to the mayor about their mental health. The second, they talked to the mayor about police relations and policing communities. The third was jobs. We’re checking off all of those boxes.
So I want to thank you today. This is a great event. We’re going to be back. This is not just a onetime thing. I want to thank my amazing DYCD team. Where are you here? Raise your hands. And for you, young people, most importantly, have fun this summer.

Deputy Mayor Almanzar: Thank you, Commissioner, and thanks everyone for being here. I had the great pleasure of meeting a very young student from the Bronx who travels here to our beautiful borough, Brooklyn, it’s my hometown, to participate in this program, to participate in the SYEP program.
And like me, she left her beautiful island in Jamaica, which she carries next to her heart every day, to come and join our beautiful city here in New York during the pandemic, during quarantine. And she decided to make New York her home. A beautiful, beautiful young woman who’s talented and who’s deciding whether she wants to go into the industry of filmmaking and media. With that, I’ll leave you with Shaneka Russell. Thank you, Shanika.

Shanika Russell: Good morning everyone. My name is Shanika Russell. I am 17 years old. I attend Bronx Lab High. I am a current SYEP Summer Youth Employment Program participant at Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, located in Gowanus, Brooklyn. This is my third year participating in SYEP. And for my first two years I did a theater program called Epic Next.

I chose Reel Works as my current SYEP worksite so that I can gain experience in the media industry. Becoming a director is a career goal that I had in mind, so I wanted to gain experience in film production to see if that was something I would like to pursue in college. Currently, at Reel Works, we are developing skills in camera operation, including framing and composition, lighting, sound, and working on set as a film crew. We will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience by working on film sets as production assistants and as part of a film crew for our own documentary film.

I like participating in SYEP because I am able to be independent. I also get the chance to gain work experience and improve upon skills such as communication skills. Along with that, I am also able to save money for things that I may need in the future, such as clothing or school supplies. I would encourage students, high school students to join SYEP because it would allow them to identify their career goals and interests, help them build their resume, gain money, and give them an opportunity to be independent just like me. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: All right. Let me get someone up from Reel Works. Who’s going to rep Reel Work? Talk about the programs.

John Williams, Co-Founder and CEO, Reel Works: It is overwhelming to be welcoming the mayor and the deputy mayor and the commissioner and all our distinguished guests this morning. I’m John Williams. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Reel Works with my co-founder.

Stephanie Walter, Co-Founder and Chief Program Officer, Reel Works: Hi, Stephanie Walter.

Williams: 22 years ago we began working with teen filmmakers at the YMCA up the street. They got into our heart and we got introduced to a generation, a generation, a generation of talent that… And an unknown caller is… And it’s been our joy to nurture these talented filmmakers. So, mayor, I’m going to be introducing you to Shanika and her colleagues and some filmmakers down the hall and some who are learning about careers in film and television through our career lab program and our amazing staff, including Ebony Hatchett, who leads our Summer Youth Employment Program, is the reason we’re all here. We got some amazing team here I want you to meet.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Williams: Welcome.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Williams: I’m so glad to have you here.

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