Friday Question of the Day – What’s Up With the DC Summer Jobs Program?

DSCN1849, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

It’s funny in a very sad way that this was always going to be the FQoTD this week. As we all know by now there was a terrible day time shooting outside Five Guys in Columbia Heights yesterday. Well it turns out it was “a fight among youths attending an orientation for the District’s summer jobs program” according to WJLA 7 News who reports:

“Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham says about 2,500 youths had gathered at the D.C. Convention center for an orientation Thursday. The meeting got out of hand, and police confiscated a revolver and brass knuckles from youths there, Graham said.”

Now even before yesterday’s shooting I was intrigued by some emails from the Petworth listserv by parents frustrated with their children’s registration process. One writes:

“As for this city and the mismanagement of funds and programs, I think it is absolutely reprehensible that this behavior is continually tolerated. When will enough people get angry and decide that enough is enough. Our public school system is terrible (with the exception of a select few schools), which has pushed parents to charter schools. The violence, though it is getting better, is still too much. A program which is supposed to help teach our kids the value of hard work is being turned into a three ring circus, where our kids are just stuck in a large room (whether it be a rec or classroom) all to say that we had a Summer Youth Employment Program. I am in my late 30’s and when I worked the Summer Youth Employment Program, I had an enriching experience each year that I worked. Have we not learned from last year’s farce where persons who were too old to even qualify for the program were being paid, some workers were overpaid, some were underpaid. When will it end?”

Another parent writes:

“This city is just so fundamentally and wholistically mismanaged. I mean at every single level it’s rife with mismanagement, absent management or no management. It’d be comical if it just wasn’t so damn maddening and sad at the same time. I mean it’s dangerous. Mismanagement at DYRS gets people killed, same thing at MPD and EMS. Mismanagement at the public schools helps ensure another generation will be consigned to poverty and all its trappings — drugs, violence, etc.”

Many of us remember last summer’s scandal. Now with yesterday’s violence coupled with the apparent dysfunction of the program from the remarks of the parents above – it begs the question – is this well intentioned program broken? If so is it broken beyond repair? Most would agree that employing DC’s youth is a valiant goal. So how can this program be fixed?

51 Comment

  • When I worked at a cultural non-profit, we tried to play ball and took some Summer Youth. The program’s a disaster, and I don’t mean in the “everything DC government touches is a a disaster” sense. I mean top to bottom this program is too unwieldy and cumbersome and poorly managed. I believe they take some of the best and brightest summer kids and have them partially manage the program. That’s an interesting approach, but these kids aren’t ready to manage anything and their supervision is more like homeroom than office.

    Really, they should at least set a minimum bar for the program. You need a B average or better. You need to have shown a marked improvement in your grades. You need to be in a GED program. Something. Any little thing to make the kids feel like you have to earn entry and it’s not some automatic privilege. Any little thing that filters out the punks.

    Most punks will be punks no matter what you do or where you warehouse them. The least DC could do is not pay them and keep them away from kids who actually could benefit from the program.

  • You can’t really do anything with kids who don’t want to work and have no respect for anything – not their elders, not their government, not property, not another person’s life, not even their lives. Bringing guns and brass knuckles to the orientation…really?

  • The laziness factor of DC youth is overrated. I know of plenty of DC youth working in laboratories working to separate alkaloid amine from the ammonium salt mixture of benzoylmethylecgonine by mixing it with sodium bicarbonate and using thermal energy to achieve phase transition of dihydrogen monoxide which facilitates the sedimentation of the desired precipitate. In some cases amonia can be used as instead of sodium bicarbonate but it is generally avoided due to its stronger odor and toxicity.


    Do you think it would still be cool if they knew they were just chemistry nerds?

  • PS. Wikipedia rules

  • It is broken beyond repair.

    And while I’m not usually one to champion the market as a great force in society, I do think that granting a huge swath of people jobs without regard to their skill level, commitment or performance is not helpful to either their development or the community as a whole. A job should be something you compete to acquire and work hard to maintain.

    I work for a small nonprofit and we refuse have anything to do with the summer jobs program. They say you can pick specific students but it is not true. Once you enroll, they send you who they like and your chosen student gets lost in the system.

    A student I know who graduated last week has been reassigned within the jobs program to summer school. Their records show she didn’t graduate. But she has her diploma. So now she has to go back to her high school and attend classes for nothing. She is bright and hardworking and can’t get to a decent job site because of impenetrable bureaucracy.

    Meanwhile, well-meaning organizations who sign up to host summer workers are sent students who don’t want to be there.

    It is a disservice to our youth and to our community. It is an expensive embarrassment. It needs to stop.

  • Is it fair for me to be concerned that this is the third time I’ve read that “police confiscated a revolver and brass knuckles” Confiscated? I mean, the first time I figured that there must have been an arrest, just that the details weren’t all available right away. Now I’m beginning to wonder. Did no one see which kid had the revolver and brass knuckles? Well then arrest everyone involved in the scuffle, take them all to the station and press them for the maximum holding time. Then charge them with simple assault, at least. If the police seriously confiscated a pistol at a youth jobs program and made no arrests, well, then we’re in worse shape than I ever imagined, and I’ve been here almost 10 years. So someone please tell us that there were arrests after the initial incident at the convention center. Please.

  • Oh, and keep the summer jobs program, extend it to all summer, and make it mandatory for every student with under a 3.0 GPA. Then acknowledge it for what it really is: a way to keep supervised a lot of kids who would otherwise be out causing trouble all day. We have plenty of need for cheap labor to do neighborhood clean-up, graffitti removal, etc.

  • I never understood the value of handing kids summer jobs. Part of the experience for me was hitting the pavement, presenting myself to prospective employers and doing what I had to do for a summer job. I don’t think the DC Summer Jobs program provides kids with any of that experience. My summer jobs included cleaning a movie theater, painting bleachers, steaming crabs and working as a mason’s laborer. All were motivation to make something more of my life and finish college.

  • I agree with Summertime Blues. DCSJP just adds to the sense of entitlement that kids everywhere already have – I don’t have to work for it, someone will give it to me. And, if I have a bad attitude or don’t feel like showing up, I don’t have to and you can’t do anything about it. It is the same thing you see in school and nothing is done about it.

    While it sounds like the DCSJP is a mess – I have no real experience with it – it is appalling to me that there is an implication that the brazen shooting at Columbia Heights yesterday afternoon has anything to do with it. Just because the fight started at the orientation? The fight could have started at a CVS, does that make it CVS’ fault? No.

    The fault lies with the shooter and the shooter needs to be found and prosecuted. Until people start being forced to take responsibility for their actions and not be allowed to blame programs, society, or whatever for the violence they are inflicting on the rest of us, this will just continue.

  • Just another entitlement program. My hometown had them. I never took part. But they had to do REAL work. In DC, it is just a way to provide babysitters and spending money to the poor. Plus, it allows the pols to buy guaranteed votes with taxpayer money. Notice how there is never any dissent from the council members on maintaining this costly program. There is no way that a job magically gets created for “any child that wants one” every summer?

    I just wonder how many affluent families allow their kids to take part in this? Does anyone know of affluent families having children in this program?

  • Maybe the criminals were here first, but we “the transplants” have an OBJECTIVELY better way of living. There is no question that a civil society in which people work for their paychecks and solve arguments through discussion and not guns is BETTER than being entitled to pay without any expectations or shooting out your differences. I’m sorry, but the people doing the shooting have to go. I have nothing against poor people, but you cannot deny that the crime keeps happening in or around the projects. It doesn’t matter who was here first. The shooters need to go and anyone who allows it to continue (cousins, mothers, etc. who refuse to “snitch”) needs to go.

  • The summer jobs program is a good idea on paper, but in reality it’s essentially a payoff to kids. The work requirements are sometimes ridiculous–I know some kids who got paid to take a class at UDC, as if that could be beneficial to anybody, and they just dropped the class after a couple of weeks and continued to get paid, anyway. Let’s switch to a year-round school calendar instead, and keep those kids working on what’s really important: graduating.

  • As bad as DC Public Schools are, should not most of these kids be getting some kind of remedial work so that when they graduate (if they graduate), they will be able to GET a job? No jobs are GIVEN to you in the real world just because you sign up for one. You have to compete.

    It is just another example of how a certain segment of the population just is not carrying their weight. They cost society more than they contribute. Sadly, DC Pols refuse to even approach this issue honestly. It is always throw more money or new laws at the problem instead of trying to solve it. Deep down, I am sure that Cheh, Mendelsohn, Evans, and Catania don’t truly believe in this Jobs Program. But they are hamstrung from speaking out truthfully due to race and class. This city will never move forward until it rids itself of the attitude. Either the people I speak of must change or leave for this to happen.

  • I have 2 sons participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program. I have alot of the same concerns as Ms. Appia. Let me tell you of my dilemma:

    Both of my sons (a 10th grader and a 1st year college student) applied when they first learned that they could register online. They picked the top 3 job choices, got confirmation that they had successfully registered and were told that there would come a time for them to go to a designated site to prove their identity. That was done last month at Bell Multicultural Center. So far so good. My oldest son never received any notice of where he would work until about a week ago via email and got confirmation of the exact same thing in the mail today. So all seems well with him.

    My concern is in regards to my youngest son. He has received via email at least two different work assignments (one at Howard University and one at Parkview Recreation Center). However, today in the mail he received a letter stating that his orientation was today between 9:00 am – 10:00 am. First problem, we did not receive this mail until about thirty minutes ago. The letter also stated that his work assignment was yet again changed to Joint School of Carpentry. The address for this work site is listed as 407 26th Street (no indication of NE,NW,SE,SW) and the phone number on the letter is a Maryland number. Furthermore, the company listed, Joint School of Carpentry seems to be in Upper Marlboro,MD. It also stated in the letter that he needed to report to his work site today at 8:30 am. My questions are as follows:

    1. How can he be expected to attend an orientation and the work site at the same time, though we don’t even know where this supposed work site is?

    Furthermore, my son is a student at a charter school. School is not officially over for him until tomorrow and even if we had gotten this letter sooner, he couldn’t attend because he is still taking final exams in school this week and I can’t allow him to miss a final exam because finals account for 40% of the grade. More consideration needs to be given to the fact that teens who are working in the city attend public and charter schools and everything should not be scheduled according to the DCPS calendar. The same thing happened last year with regard to the summer program starting after DCPS was finished for the year but some charter school were still operating. Also, my youngest son was one of those students who live in Ward 4 and was sent all the way to SE to sit in a class, watch movies and play games. After much complaining, he was eventually was moved to a rec center near where we live and he was actually working at the rec.

    2. My last question is that in the letter that was received today, it states that the orientation is mandatory and that he won’t receive pay on the first pay date of the summer if he doesn’t attend. Should he be penalized for something that is clearly not his fault?

  • DC has a terrible history of using City jobs as patronage. It is hour Barry got elected and stayed in office so many years. The summer jobs program intent is to give kids something to do rather than getting in trouble during the summer. The program has gone terribly wrong. These kids want to get paid for not working. Rather than a jobs program, DC neeeds to go to year round school. At least there is an iota of a chance that might actually learn something and the expense is not as great.

  • I think kids should be in school all year long, but that the summer session should be “different” in some way. I am not in education, so I don’t know the answer, but you would have to make the summer session very different so that it didn’t feel like school.

  • Felder: Have your kids done it in the past? Has it worked better in the past? Otherwise, why do it? Even though your older child seems to have had pretty smooth sailing, wouldn’t it have been easier or better to get something outside the jobs program? Are there some really prime placements in the jobs program that are really career builders and would be hard to get outside the program? I’m really curious, I mean, I worked construction in the first two summers of college because the pay was great, but if the jobs program has some more relevant placements, maybe there is an upside for some students? Thanks, I’m interested to hear your experience.

  • The Summer Job Program has a lot of problems, but it also has done a lot of good for kids. It was the only good thing marrion barry did. I have met a lot of adults (including me)who got their first job through this program.

    The problem is management, you have to somebody holding this kids accountable. Check every job site, to make sure the kids are coming to work. Fire any who are absent without an excuse and or not working.

  • Instead of summer jobs program, they should take all that money and start a junior informers program. For every tip that leads to an arrest and prosecution, the kid gets a check. That’ll clean up the streets.

  • HAving worked with the summer intern kids in my office I can tell you its nothing more than babysitting. The ones we had were reading and writing on a 3rd grade level (and they were all 14 years old). We figured the best use of their time would be a lesson on birth control or maybe learn a trade. No chance of any college education unless its UDC and thats not college, its the 13th grade. Why doesn’t DC have year round schools? Absolutely no kid should be out of school when its hot in this town. Is this something else the Teachers Union is fighting against?

  • I am in total agreement with year-round school! Bring it on! Also, school should end at 5:00, not 3 – mandatory afterschool activities or sports could fill some of the time. DC is so far behind and it will keep kids busy.

  • I am so freaking tired of hearing the “they were here first” argument. If we leave taking our tax dollars with us, we’d be criticized for “white flight”. We improved their quality of life just by moving here. Sounds strange considering I am black. So in some sense it truly boils down to them or us. The highly mobile will leave before they continue to deal with this. Assuming that innocent bystander lives in the area, he is likely gone as soon as he can move. Can anyone blame him?

    As an aside, last weekend I had to pass by Barry Farms. I saw hundreds of WHITE people cleaning up and painting. The residents (100% black) were just standing around, hanging out. Maybe the whites were doing it out of guilt. But there is no way I could stand by and watch an outsider come and clean up my neighborhood without pitching in a helping hand. It is this attitude that makes it impossible to live around welfare people. The ‘I Don’t Give a F’, ‘someone else will pick it up’ attitude. I see the same thing at the school(s) on 13th St. NW.

    Maybe all of Columbia Rd Section 8 people are not criminals. That sure does set a low bar of being a good neighbor.

  • Anyone see the nice piece on NBC last night about the guy living out of his car in Compton who is making a difference by getting kids out on the baseball field. Why doesn’t DC have better world-class baseball fields. With so many nice looking, fast, strong young kids, we could get quite a set of talented athletes getting ready for baseball scholarships.

    Where is the shooting range? Why don’t we get these kids into some shooting competitions since they seem so so so interested in guns and bullets. Where are these kids getting all these guns and bullets anyway?

    What about a summer competion — who is the most bad ass young punk thug in the city?

    So happy to see the Council pass a gun offender registry. I wonder if it will extend to juveniles? What about a Violent Youth Offender Registry?

  • No more free rides for youth. If you’re old enough to do the crime, you’re old enough to do the time.

  • Anonymous Says:
    June 19th, 2009 at 10:18 am

    The Summer Job Program has a lot of problems, but it also has done a lot of good for kids. It was the only good thing marrion barry did. I have met a lot of adults (including me)who got their first job through this program.

    You speak as if it was the summer job or bust. Are you implying you never would have found a job otherwise? Why do people romanticize this summer job program as some life changing event? My first job was at a car wash. I have had dozens since. I just don’t get it.

  • I railed against DC governtment employees in a revious comment thread, and my opnion hasn’t changed. Woefully incompetent. 75 to 80 percent of them are there as a form of economic stimulus. The less they work, the more time they have to spend their paychecks. With the exception of police, FD, sanitation, and meter maids, most of them do nothing all day long. You are deluding yourself if you think differently.

    That said, regarding the summer jobs program, for those of you who weren’t around in the 80s, I would like to pepper with conversation with a reminder that were it not for this program, Minor Threat and Fugazi and a lot of that post punk stuff (and the whole Riot Grrrrl thing) would probably have never existed, as they used to pay you for starting a band. That’s how I got my duckets as a kid (bassist for The Rotten Tomatoes).

    That said, they really need to rethink this one.

  • I think the summer youth program should be divided into levels like high school or vocational programs. In order to pass to the next level you need to have mastered/had exposure to the latter; with each level taking place an entire summer. For example, the first level should focus on basic jobs skills, educating the youth on the different careers (and their demands), searching for a job, resume writing and interviewing. The next level should focus on job etiquette, dress, budging, managing workplace conflict, site visits etc. And the final level the youth are placed at a designated site. I think the youth should be paid at all levels, because everyone needs money. But the folks at the higher levels get more money. I think this would cut down on some the of youth who don

  • If they would’ve had cops outside of the the orientation with sniffer dogs and metal detectors and running ID checks on everyone who tried to get in, I bet they would’ve caught a ton of guns, drugs, and folks with warrants. what a missed opportunity! I hope they try this next year.

  • This is what happens when you gut the country’s manufacturing base, leaving what would have been a mass of factory workers with nothing to do but deal drugs, kill each other, and abuse a large percentage of my tax dollars.

  • Yeah, right, because every post-industrial first-world country experiences this level of violence in its cities. Waitaminute…

  • Yeah, Kevinusma, I appreciate your total lack of basic (really basic) econ 101. BTW, who is “you” that has all this control and apparently gutted everything in the first place. was it Obama? I knew it!

    Seriously though, Econ 101. Have you ever been to Sweden? What about Canada?

    The problem, as I see it, is 1) the war on drugs, which has made dealing said drugs ridiculously profitable, but extremely dangerous; and 2) a relative dearth of nuclear households with two parents in the community this jobs program is most likely to serve. I can’t explain why that’s the case, but something tells me that if DC stopped throwing so much money at summer jobs for youth and used that ca$h to start giving out free condoms at metro stations on the green line every day, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  • Here’s an idea – why don’t we pay the youth to clean up their own neighborhoods? Rather than paying them to sit aaround rec centers and play games and watch movies they could do contruction on schools, clean parks, paint and repair houses for the elderly, etc. Perhaps this would have the added benefit of instilling a sense of pride in the community. Wouldn’t you be less likely to tag a school if you spent 3 weeks painting it?

  • I think the junior informant program is a hilarious idea, but I almost think it might work.

  • DC Mom, amen. Great idea. Agreed also re: the war on drugs (which drugs have already won). We have an enormous prison population thanks to the failed war on drugs, but we are no safer from violent crime. We should be devoting police and prosecutorial resources to stopping assaults and other victim crimes, try legalizing at least some forms of drugs, make them as safe as possible, tax the heck out of them, and use all the billions in proceeds / saved incarceration costs on education (so people won’t be as inclined to turn to drugs) and addiction treatment / prevention.

  • A good jobs program that matches kids who want to work with jobs where they will learn something useful is a very good idea in my opinion. I don’t know whether the DC program fits this description because I have not studied all of the information. I do think that this program does dispel the myth that kids get into trouble in DC during the summer because there is “nothing to do.” It’s my understanding that any kid who wants a summer job can get one. So the kids who are spending the summer on corners and in parks are not there because they have no other options, they are there because that’s the option they prefer.

  • EDIT to my post of 8:59: The police inspector has informed me that there were two arrests at the convention center stemming from the revolver/brass knuckles bit. Encouraging. Now, how do we track the case to be sure that the kid who brought a pistol to a youth jobs orientation isn’t released to his family within 24 hours?

  • The kids would have been remanded to DYRS and then sent home in most cases. Also, carrying a pistol without a license is almost misdemeanor and thus doesn’t usually result in incarceration, especially for juveniles. Brass knuckles are only contraband, so again the kids were probably out by dark. Read Colbert King in the Post for amusing stories on DYRS and the new juvenile detention facility, and the old Oak Hill hellhole.

  • It’s time to shut it down. It’s over.

  • Pennywise – unlicensed handguns are illegal in DC, carrying a loaded gun is illegal in DC, discharging a firearm is illegal, shooting someone w/ the intent to harm/kill them is certainly illegal. Do you know what a felony is? Yes, each of these are felonies. Brass knuckles used to assualt someone can be considered a deadly weapon. Now if you are suggesting that because they are juvenilles it will result in a misdemeanor, then I think we’ve identified the root cause of the problem.

  • Triple Nickel, yes, guns are illegal, but the penalties are minimal, especially if the gun wasn’t being actively used when it was confiscated. See:

    for more on this. Note that part of the crime bill voted on Tuesday makes it harder for gun arrestees to be released prior to trial, but not impossible. Google Arthur Daniels and Ransom Perry for more on releasing people caught with guns for a sad story. Lastly, if the server is working and you have patience, search the DC Courts docket:

    and track cases of CPWL to see how many are released right away, and then cases get thrown out or pled down. Its hard to say, but more than 50% are released I’d guess, and most of those plead down.

    I don’t want to argue, but I think its pretty well established that penalties are fairly minimal. The max penalty for brass knuckles is a year in jail, if they were used in an assault. If found outside an assault, my guess is they count as jewelry. Please do prove me wrong, I could use the lift…

  • Anonymous Says: June 19th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    You are alwys starting some trouple, let the criminal justice system take it’s toll, don’t try to influence the process. You may get some Brass knucles accross your face by the kid’s parent if you are not careful. I am just looking out for you.
    Lets work to get Rid of Mrs. Bow Tie – JG, she has out lived her usefullness. She will not investigate Metro’s hiring process which discriminates against straight men and women in favor of Gs.

  • While it sounds like the DCSJP is a mess – I have no real experience with it – it is appalling to me that there is an implication that the brazen shooting at Columbia Heights yesterday afternoon has anything to do with it. Just because the fight started at the orientation? The fight could have started at a CVS, does that make it CVS

  • 10:45am, name one Dischord member who got paid to be in a band.

    That kind of thing was gone by the time Riot Grrrl started.

  • The program should be scrapped. Enough of the ghetto poor think that jobs are an entitlement as it is, to increase that number is just detrimental to society.

    What can be done to improve the employment prospects of DC Youth? How about lowering taxes on businesses so that they can afford to hire more part time help?

    School in DC needs to be full time, as well. As far as I know DC is not an agrarian society where children are working in the fields during the summer.

  • Many of you recommended designing programs for youth to clean-up neighborhoods. The Mayor’s Conservation Corps (part of the Summer Youth Employment Program) is doing just that. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

    For the parent who wrote in above about conflicting information on their child’s work site, please contact MCC as well and they can help sort out where your child is assigned.

  • Pennywise:

    “If found outside an assault, my guess is they count as jewelry. Please do prove me wrong, I could use the lift

  • Most punks will be punks no matter what you do or where you warehouse them. The least DC could do is not pay them and keep them away from kids who actually could benefit from the program.

    Yeah, sometimes the simplest explanations are the “right” ones. In a culture of complete and total clusterfuckery, often the institutions serving that culture will be complete clustfucks.

    This is the reason that it’s much easier to have a successful, say, public school in McLean than it is in Anacostia; why the DMV in Gaithersburg is often more pleasant than the one in Brentwood; and why ATM lines in Canada are more pleasant than ones in the US.

    I don’t care who’s running the “Summer Youth Jobs Orientation”, if there’s a non-trivial number of the attendees who are bringing brass knuckles and handguns, there’s a pretty good chance it will be a shit-show of epic proportions.

    When gentrification turns DC into an upper-middle-class enclave in the next decade or two, you’ll be surprised and delighted at how smoothly everything works!

  • Anyone else wanna restart this thread? I realized yesterday that my upper Georgia area was rather quiet of late, and the mini-thugs that are usually active in my block are nowhere to be seen. I suspect many of these kids / adult-boys who usually bug the hell out of me are causing trouble elsewhere with the DC summer jobs program. While I feel sorry for whoever has to deal with them, I am grateful for their absence. I also believe that though the jobs program is massively expensive and likely to go wayyyy over budget as always, its cheaper than police and DYRS chasing them around all summer. Any comments?

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