Youth empowerment: employing opportunities.

Author:Fung, Polly Kam Yan
Position:2D Panel - Chinatown Youth Center's Mayor's Youth Employment and Education Program



CYC (formerly Chinatown Youth Center): MYEEP (Mayor's Youth Employment and Education Program) presented a panel of Youth Peer Leaders for "Branching Out the Banyan Tree," the 2005 Chinese American Studies Conference cohosted by the Chinese Historical Society of America and San Francisco State University's Asian American Studies Department. These youth discussed the history and impact of San Francisco's largest after-school employment program through the MYEEP Collaborative. CYC, serving the Chinese community since 1970, is one of twelve agencies in the collaborative. The youth reviewed the history of the program as well as the structure of positive youth development. While sharing the personal story of one of their own, the Peer Leaders examine growth and community building of youth in search of skills, and belonging in immigrant America. This paper will look at the impact and structure of MYEEP as well as reviewing one youth's journey through CYC's youth development practice.

CYC was incorporated in 1970 as a private, nonprofit agency. Its founders were concerned about the manner in which problems associated with Chinatown were affecting the area's Asian youth. Since its inception, the agency rapidly gained a reputation for working with Chinatown's at-risk youth and their families. CYC has expanded from its San Francisco Chinatown roots and has extended our services to include an employment office in the Richmond district and an outreach office in Visitacion Valley Our culturally appropriate programs target youth ages ten to twenty-five in areas of education, delinquency prevention and intervention, employment, and leadership development. Today, CYC continues to respond to the complex challenges faced by its clients on issues such as family conflict over acculturation, difficulties in school, economic hardships, and gang membership through its many programs. CYC envisions empowering youth to reach their highest potential as individuals and to develop a positive self/cultural identity Our mission is to strengthen and empower high-need Asian youth and their families by providing comprehensive youth development through education, employment training, advocacy, and other supportive services. Today, CYC serves over two thousand youth yearly; MYEEP is one of CYC's fifteen programs.


MYEEP provides job opportunities to high school youth. It envisions a society of confident, self-directed, responsible, and independent youth who engage in productive activities, play an important role, make positive contributions to the larger community, and achieve personal happiness. MYEEP has a long history of evolution since 1970. Before understanding the impact of the program, one must look at its humble and laborious journey to appreciate this program as it stands today.

In 1970, federal funding was available for youth employment services through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). Federal funding was originally provided for the after-school youth employment program and later extended to include a summer youth employment program. Community organizations that work with youth competed for this funding. The competition occurred twice a year; agencies could either work for the after-school employment or the summer employment program. Many agencies from MYEEP today were the ones that competed for and provided the youth employment services back then.

In 1983, federal funding was cut drastically; CETA was replaced by the Federal Job Training Partnership (JTPA). The after-school youth employment program was cut; funding was only available to cover the summer employment program. This led to the intense lobbying of the city by advocates who supported youth employment services. In response, Mayor Diane Feinstein funded the program temporarily with local revenues. As a result, the after-school employment program was back in gear. Unfortunately, in 1985, Proposition 13 (1) made it difficult for California to raise revenues. Once again, the after-school employment program was cut.

During his 1988 campaign, Mayor Art Agnos rallied for the support of youth employment services. With the help of youth services in the city, he fulfilled his promise by establishing the Mayor's Office of Children, Youth, and Families (MOCYF). In 1989, MOCYF established and managed the Mayor's In School Youth Program (MISYP) that reinstated school youth employment services. At this time, city commissioners and youth advocates agreed that two million dollars should be made available to MISYP programming to be used to fund the community organizations that had previously worked with the after-school youth employment. One of their ideas was to divide the money equally among various agencies, so that they could serve the same number of youth throughout the city There were eleven agencies that worked with the after-school youth employment program; one of the agencies worked with disabled youth.

The eleven agencies that provided for programming as part of MISYP included Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Community Educational Services, CYC, Horizons Unlimited, I.T. Bookman Community Center, Jewish Vocational Services, Morrisania-West Inc., Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, Vietnamese Youth Development Center, Visitacion Valley Community Center, and Young Community Developers. MOCYF decided that it was not their role to directly manage the service; therefore, they awarded the contract to be administered by Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC). Under JCYC, the program was renamed MYEEP. The MYEEP Collaborative was designed so that each area of the city had one agency that could work with the program. The collaborative expanded from eleven to twelve agencies.

In 1991, Proposition J became effective. (2) The Children's Fund was created, and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) was established. It increased funding to MYEEP, so each neighborhood agency also expanded employment slots.

MYEEP continued to grow over the years. Back then, MYEEP had no formal ties to youth education and/or development; it only focused on job training and providing income to youth. As the MYEEP Collaborative developed through the years, it included two main goals. The first one is to develop job skills, provide work experience, and increase career awareness and future employability. The second is to increase knowledge of educational opportunities and community issues.

MYEEP also received state funding to operate the School-to-Center Program that partnered with four public schools and added work-readiness components to the academic curriculum. College...

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