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Teen Life Internship: Empowering At-risk Youth through Paid Jobs

Breaking the cycle of generational poverty through youth leadership development.

Photo of Gabriel Stiritz

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The Teen Life Internship is a program. Instead of viewing high school students as a troubled population with problems that we need to solve, we see them as the most underutilized talent pool in the country. Instead of trying to solve their problems and the problems in their communities, we ask them to come alongside us as change agents and leaders. They know better than we ever could the challenges that youth in inner city poverty face: they deal with it every day. Instead, we aim to equip them with the tools and skills they need in order to break free from the vicious cycles that threaten to trap them. Practically this means giving them real responsibility in paid jobs where they are able to be role models and mentors to younger (1st-8th grade) children who live in the same community. The time to do this is after school, when parents need childcare and are often desperate to find a suitable and affordable place for their children to go before the parents finish work for the day.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries are high school students (14-18 years old) who are in disadvantaged situations. They lack supports their home lives and at school, and often live lives of quiet desperation. Imagine a spectrum of need from 0 (very low need) to 100 (highest need youth). From 0 to 20 on the need spectrum are the youth who are dealing with the most serious issues: broken families, incarceration, delinquency, etc. There are many programs that work with these youth, and the ratio of effort input to long-term change is low. From 80-100 are the youth with the least need: they have strong families, school supports, and are going to do well. Our goal is to serve the 20-80: the youth who are almost invisible. They face large challenges, brokenness, but tragically, are most likely to be overlooked because they are not the most needy. The amazing thing we’ve found is that these are the young people most ready for change when they are given opportunity.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Youth programs are not unique. From Boys and Girls Clubs to little leagues to youth camps, there are thousands of programs that serve young people. What sets the Teen Life Internship apart is the long-term, daily, structured investment that is made in young people. It’s a data-driven approach to relationships over the course of 4-10 years that makes a deep impact in the lives of the youth that are in the program. Every hour of programming is aimed at instilling values and skills in the Teen Life Interns through paid jobs, mentoring sessions by professional staff, networking opportunities, life skills training, offsite retreats, and more. Each of these interactions is intentional is designed to develop youth and to set them on a trajectory of success for the rest of their lives.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

New City Kids is a youth leadership development organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of generational poverty. http://www.newcitykids.org

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Prosperity is affect by drastic inequities in the context of a single city. Within the bounds of Jersey City, for example, we have "Wall Street West," the back offices of the largest financial corporations. We also have the largest population of Egyptian coptic Christians outside of Cairo, who have immigrated to escape religious persecution. In the same neighborhoods there are families who are trapped in generational poverty and do not have the means to escape. Peace in our Jersey City, Paterson, and Grand Rapids neighborhoods is affected by those who have been so entangled in poverty that drug trafficking, drug abuse, and violence have become the norm and spill into the lives of those who are trying to escape.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

New City Kids works with families, individuals, and institutions in our communities to learn and develop programs. The after school program, launched in Jersey City in 2005, was a direct result of feedback we received while do house visits to families we were already serving. We have begun literacy classes and launched a literacy program for Egyptian immigrants when one of our after school center sites began to fill with families escaping persecution in Egypt but had no supports in America when they arrived.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The community has a large number of youth who are looking for part time jobs. They are in high school and are motivated to earn money and would like to be a social environment. They have a deep understanding of their community and can relate to younger and older people in their city. They are also keenly aware of the fact that they need support to grow, and want to be seen as leaders.

Geographic Focus

New Jersey and Michigan, USA

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

This award would allow New City Kids to roll out the program into a new neighborhood, which takes approximately 24 months from beginning stages to established program.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

22 comments

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Photo of Alexandra
Team

Hi Gabriel,
Would love to learn more about your challenges and solutions in recruiting teen and retaining their interest. We are looking to implement a similar project in NYC.
Best
Alexandra

Photo of Gabriel Stiritz
Team

Absolutely! This is one of the areas that is a core strength of New City Kids. Can you send a link to your idea page?

Photo of Alexandra
Team

NYCxSTEM
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder2/ideas/nycxstem

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