The Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP), which began in 2008, was created to give young people, ages 16 to 24, an opportunity to enter the workforce.
Serving approximately 100 youth annually, YAIP places participants in an 11-week internship at a paid work site, including nonprofits and for-profit companies. Placements are based on each participant’s interest.
The program then provides supporting services, such as workshops on financial literacy, healthy living and career planning. YAPI follows up with the youth for nine months to ensure they are in school, employed or in a training program.
Siveen El-Nashar, director of the Queens YAIP program, said it’s meant as an entry point for young people. Not only do they pick up work experience, but they gain references, knowledge and self-esteem.
“The need for such a program is important,” she said. “We’ve seen the unemployment rate go up in the city.”
Unlike the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), the Catholic Charities program is year-round with three cycles. It’s also more specific in who it serves: marginalized youth who are no longer in school or cannot find work.
Participants in the past have included immigrants who want to be more connected to the city, teenage parents who weren’t able to take care of themselves and their children, and even former gang members who have since found their way out.
Increasingly, El-Nashar has seen more young people with disabilities enroll in the program, as well as youth who are living in shelters.
“These are youth who are thinking, ‘I don’t have any other options,’” she said. “This program has been meaningful.”
Mary Hurson, vice president of family stabilization services with Catholic Charities, said they started the program because they wanted to help youth with obtaining real work experiences and get on a career path.
“In the communities we’re serving, we’ve noticed that there’s high need for youth to be gainfully employed,” she said, “and not just in hourly positions.”
This year, Catholic Charities is expanding the program to the Ocean Bay community. Hurson said they plan to build out the program as they expand relationships on the peninsula, including with local elected officials and organizations.
“The Rockaways are revitalizing at a good pace,” she said. “This is a good time to connect people to real opportunities.”
Not only will Catholic Charities provide work and internship opportunities, they will also offer behavioral health, early childhood and senior center programs for the community.
“We hope to expand this and really reach the youth who are disconnected,” Hurson said.