Unlike the two previous years and despite a bumpy start this year, the D.C. Summer Youth Employment Program finished up the 1981 season this week with most of its 18,300 youths getting paid properly and many singing its praises.
"I think it's better now than all the other summers," said day care worker Veronica Young, 16, of 3018 Sherman Ave. NW. The Cardozo High School junior, who has worked three summers in the city's program, spent this summer as an aide to the director of the media center at the Kingman Girls' and Boys' Club at 1529-A Kingman Pl. NW. "The paychecks came late last summer," she said.
Program officials also voiced satisfaction. "We believe that it has been a very meaningful and fruitful program . . . ," said Matthew A. Shannon, director of operations for the Department of Employment Services. He said many employers have approached youths asking them to continue working part-time during the upcoming school year because of their summer experience.
Persistent paycheck delays and job assignment foulups in previous years brought angry youths and their parents to the Department of Employment Service offices in a series of protests.
One veteran worksite supervisor, David Simmons, recalled 40 paycheck hitches in just the first week of the program last year compared to 16 for the entire work season this year.
To avoid the same fate this year for the $13.6 million city and federally financed project, city officials began detailed planning months ago, focussing on smoothing the payroll system and providing better youth jobs.
As a result, the four pay days this summer generally went smoothly with only scattered reports of workers not getting their paychecks on time. To help streamline things, checks were processed in part by computer and sent to worksites by a private courier service for direct distribution.
In an effort to provide more meaningful work for the city's often bored and restless youths, planners designated several new worksites. One of those was Associates for Renewal in Education, a cooperative effort of the D.C. Board of Education and the Department of Employment Services, at Winston Elementary School at 31st and Erie Streets SE where 14- and 15-year-olds tutored repeating first-, second-, and third-graders. The program also made use of computers to assess the skill levels of the tutors and students before and after the program.
The program, involving about 7,000 youths, continues until Aug. 28. However, other programs ended Aug. 7 or Aug. 14, causing some confusion at job sites around the city.
The 150 youths working at the United Planning Organization, for example, got to work an extra week, said Simmons, after the city provided last minute funding to finance five more days of work.