D.C.’s Youth Summer Program Has Set An Example For Decades

D.C.’s Youth Summer Program Has Set An Example For Decades

How a Locally Funded Initiative Strives to Empower District Youth

Zoe Kim
Zoe Kim

Research & reporting intern at the Des

The Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, or MBSYEP, offers enriching work experience in private and government sectors to District youth ages 14 to 24. For 44 years, the program has partnered with hundreds of employers in the capital to deliver training and counsel. Last year, MBSYEP worked with over 13,000 youth, 56% of whom were Ward 7 and 8 residents. City leaders in D.C. have encouraged youth to enroll in the programs in response to a rise in youth crime.

The program is sponsored by the Department of Employment Services, so while giving the youth hands-on work experience, the locally-funded program pays them up to $17/hour in line with the minimum wage. This year the department allocated 21 million dollars to raise participants’s hourly wages, serving the local economy as well.

For six weeks, participating D.C. youth are paired with employers based upon their interests, equipping them with the tools for leadership and professional development. MBSYEP partners with District high schools to further engage with the youth. In 2020, the program had over 19,000 applicants, yet only 9,000 were certified as eligible. Interest in MBSYEP is only rising as the program receives a greater number of applicants each year.

The program has been deemed an alternative to expanding the police force and local jails. Though it runs June through August, it introduces the youth to unique opportunities that keep them out of trouble. In a 2020 independent evaluation, 79.6% of participants reported that they were satisfied overall with their experience that summer. 

Today, MBSYEP is the country’s biggest summer youth employment program per capita. Many other cities have turned to MBSYEP as an example for tackling the rising number of youth who engage in gun violence. To learn more, please visit https://summerjobs.dc.gov/.


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