Schenectady creating youth employment program using ARPA funds


SCHENECTADY — The city will spend $300,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to create a summer youth job program in conjunction with the Schenectady City School District that will employ dozens of students and bolster career and learning opportunities for participants. 

The program will provide 75 students with part-time jobs throughout the summer, offering varying work experiences based on students’ interests throughout the city, including opportunities with the district, city and various nonprofits.

Carlos Cotto, the district’s assistant superintendent of innovation, equity and engagement, said students interested in participating in the program have already been identified, and the district is working with Schenectady County Connects to help place students and accelerate the hiring process. Schenectady County Connects is the county’s job training agency.

A working group earlier this year identified student interests, which range from beautifying the city, helping paint murals and providing services for children and the elderly.

The City Council approved the spending at its meeting Monday night, following a brief meeting of the Finance Committee, where Cotto provided an overview of the program.

Funding for the program is the latest the city will spend from its pool of ARPA funding. The city has received $53 million under the American Rescue Plan Act, and has spent more than half of its initial $26 million tranche recouping lost revenue, backfilling vacant positions and various other projects, including a new Central Park pool.

A citizen committee was created earlier this year to review dozens of projects seeking ARPA funding, but the City Council has yet to review the committee’s results. ARPA funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by 2026.

Cotto, meanwhile, said the program will help open doors for students and aligns with the district’s ongoing efforts to bolster learning by partnering with community organizations and extending learning beyond the traditional classroom.

He said there is no set path for students in the program, noting that each will be placed in opportunities based on their interest. An individual interested in science may end up working alongside a teacher during the district’s summer enrichment program, which could help spark interests in a future teaching career, Cotto said.

He added that employers throughout the city are seeking workers with prior experience, noting the program will help students create a resume.

“This is the opportunity for students to get that experience and get that job,” Cotto said.

Participants in the program will be paid $13.20 an hour and work 20 hours per week. The program is set to run six weeks. All students are expected to be placed in jobs by July 18, Cotto said.

A number of local organizations have already signed on to the program, including Girls Inc., Hamilton Hill Art Center, Mazonne Hospitality and Parsons Child & Family Center. The district is also working to place two 18-year-old students in a health-care or nursing setting to help meet their long-term career interests.

“We really want to look at how we can re-engage the community on strengthening the relationship around the resources that we have,” Cotto said. “I do think in Schenectady that we’re rich in resources and opportunity, and I think there are a lot of businesses that are in need of employees, so how do we start to work together to figure out and create a much stronger pathway that allows us to truly grow our own.”

Mayor Gary McCarthy, who has been working to develop the program since January, said the final result is different from what he had envisioned, which called for having students identify a problem in the city and develop a plan alongside teachers to address the issue.

Still, he said, the end result will benefit students and their families, which is the whole point of the ARPA money.

“This money is designed to help people who were adversely affected by COVID,” he said. “Putting this in somebody’s hands has a very high multiplier in the community, and it makes a big difference.”

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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