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Seattle Youth Employment Program’s Impact on the Community and Young Dreams

2021 has been unlike any other. As we are over a year into a worldwide pandemic, the Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) had to adapt to a hybrid environment as Seattle began to open back up again. Interns, ranging from 16 to 24 years old, gained experience through a variety of different organizations throughout the City for the summer.

From environmental work to media production, I sat down and talked to some interns about their experiences with a couple of this year’s employers.

Multimedia Resources and Training Institute

For Ilham and Ikram, their experience was unlike any other. They both worked closely with their supervisor, Assaye, at the Multimedia Resources and Training Institute (MMRTI) in the Central District. MMRTI is a “non-profit and non-political institute founded by a group of professionals, technologists, educators, parents, and youth in the Greater Seattle Area to prepare the underserved immigrant youth in the community for success in multimedia technology locally, regionally, and globally.” It was conceived in 2004 from a multimedia project sponsored by the Ethiopian Community Mutual Association. Then by combining with Ethio Youth Media (EYM) TV program in 2006, it expanded its service to the larger immigrant youth community reflecting activities and issues that affect young people most. EYM is now continuing its programming and values by teaching young people how to broadcast on TV and become future community leaders. The Ethio Youth Media TV is aired every week on Sunday from 7:00PM- 8:00PM, Wednesday from 5:00PM-6:00PM, and Tuesday 4:00AM-5:00AM on SCAN Cable 77/21.

With the pandemic, the interns have been working in a hybrid state. Along their internship journey, Ilham believes that she gained lots of knowledge, as she primarily focused on filming, editing, and taking photographs.

Screenshot of YouTube video showing title card for documentary on Digital Access at Yesler Terrace and picturing an entrance to the community
Title card for documentary on Digital Access at Yesler Terrace

Ikram was glad to be able to work on creating two documentaries. One is “about the effects of COVID 19 at Yesler Terrace community,” she shared. “The other program I worked on was the digital navigators, a youth-led program that provides resources for digital access to the residence of Yesler Terrace.”

Their supervisor, Assaye Abunie, states that the program is a great opportunity for young adults to get involved. “We need more community engagement and young people are full of knowledge on things like media and technology. It’s good to have them and they’ve been very helpful.” MMRTI plans on continuing to host interns and have young adults have a voice and be representatives for their community.

You can check out the amazing work that these two young interns contributed to on MMRTI’s YouTube channel:

Duwamish Valley Youth Corps

Max, Liam, Sibakhan, Andrew, and An worked with the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, a program shepherded by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition. They all initially learned about SYEP through their family members or by a school counselor and didn’t have any prior experience with the program.

With each day varying in different tasks, it provides them a way to stay connected environmentally in their community. They work Monday through Thursday, with Mondays being a job lab day to learn about people who work at different jobs that promote environmentalism. Tuesdays are for restoration work, “like clearing out blackberry bushes and learning more about the site we’re at ,” shared Max. Wednesdays they hear from a guest speaker and complete more restoration work. “And Thursdays are for educational field trips to learn about our environment and what’s changing.”

Group of youth walking up stairs towards the Pacific Science Center with the Space Needle in the background

With a focus on environmentalism and restoration, these interns had a hands-on experience with physical labor in the outdoors. Andrew’s fondest memory was doing aquatic research. “We transferred kelp from one area to another. We did that, and learning to remove invasive species and replanting was cool.”

Sibakhan shared that this experience was an eye-opener and a chance to learn about things they didn’t really know about before. “We were in Georgetown where they got this whole area that’s about building local things and metal art, which I like.”

Because the internships were in a field of interest that the youth chose, they all gained awareness for a possible long-term career in the field. Liam admired the different possible careers that the internship could lead to in the future. “I don’t think this is exactly what I want to pursue,” he said, referring to the physical labor, but he wants to use what he learned from this experience to apply to other jobs. “A future job that we [heard] from people would be like bioengineering and landscape design, which I think fits me more.”

Reflecting back on all the incredible work that the interns contributed, An believes this internship is valuable. “It gave me a lot of information about the environment and how to restore Seattle,” he shared. He also recommends that other youth who are eligible should apply to SYEP because it’s a great opportunity to explore possible career paths and gain new friends.

Youth wearing COVID masks standing around in a circle outside listening to a supervisor speak

Tilth Alliance

Yasin, an intern with Tilth Alliance, joined SYEP to gain experience and make new connections. Working closely with Kerri, his supervisor, he handled multiple different projects ranging from working with the marketing programs at Tilth to the physical work of weighing produce and communicating with customers.

Initially, Yasin wasn’t interested in urban farming or environmentalism as he is majoring in physics, however, he grew an interest in it. Having learned transferable skills, such as communications, organization, and management, he came out of his shell and gained confidence with the assistance of Kerri, motivating him to try new things. “I really enjoy [Yasin’s] perspective,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to see everything through a different set of eyes, which is the best part.”

With Yasin’s skills growing, he accepted an offer to extend his stay as an intern at Tilth Alliance after SYEP ends, so he can continue to support the team with assisting in food management. Tilth Alliance highlights sustainable food produce and educating local communities about food equity all over the Greater Seattle area.

Group of adults and youth standing among trees and bushes
(left to right) Ren (hiding in the bushes), Kerri, Lexa, Coral and then Yasin and DJ. Yasin & DJ are both SYEP interns.

Next Steps for SYEP

The SYEP program is planning to pause during Fall 2021 as it learns from all the change of the last couple of years to refocus on supporting youth careers. Exciting updates are being planned! However, it will be reopening this November for applications for a program starting in Winter 2022. If you’d like to gain a lifetime of experience and explore possible careers, sign up for the notification mailing list now to get updates.

*Blog post author Jody Wong was also an intern with SYEP this summer! She spent six weeks with HSD’s Communications team learning about blogging, editing reports, and supporting Age Friendly Seattle virtual events.