Smith Speaks From Albany
When summer approaches, children everywhere can't hide their excitement about taking another vacation from the classroom.
Summertime should be filled with fun getaways, swimming at the local pool or just playing basketball in the neighborhood. Others attend summer camps to learn how to play tennis, build computers, or improve their math and writing skills. It's an exciting time of the year where new friendships are formed or new job skills developed.
But for some, it can also be a stressful time. Unfortunately, too many youths in the cities around the country find themselves with nothing to look forward to when the school year ends.
I have always believed that the summer is a time when kids have the chance to grow by gaining invaluable work skills and learning how to communicate with others in a professional environment.
One of my goals as a public official is to create and support opportunities to help our young people reach their full potential.
As the Democratic Leader in the New York State Senate, I have worked with my colleagues to level the playing field in relation to making summer opportunities available to all kids.
In my district office, we have hired summer interns and organized youth programs and activities, ranging from basketball to learning about economic development.
Three years ago, we started the Biz Kidz summer youth employment program, a seven-week employment program that allows kids from the district to work for guest companies throughout Queens as interns. Students receive a stipend paid for by the Long Island-based mortgage firm, Delta Funding Corporation, which also helps organize the summer program. The results of this program have been extraordinary, giving a unique opportunity to the enrollees to learn first-hand about working in a corporate environment.
This summer, 20 youngsters are enrolled in the program. We could have hired hundreds more, after receiving more than 200 applications. While I am happy with the success of the program, I know that hundreds of youths are out there unsuccessfully looking for opportunities during the months of June through August. More companies need to step forward and invest in the future and do what participating companies that include Delta Funding Corporation, Jet Blue, and the Southeast Queens-based law firm of Hopkins, Lawrence, & Bailey, P.C. are doing to help us hire, place, and expand the Biz Kidz program.
I also understand that summer should not be "all work and no play." For the past three years, we have been organizing the Jump and Ball tournament, a basketball and double-dutch tournament, which takes place during the entire month of August. The tournament ends with a championship game where the winning teams receive trophies and other special prizes.
Jump and Ball is co-sponsored by the award-winning hip hop artist and actor, LL Cool J. The targeted population is young boys and girls, ages 17 and under.
Both Biz Kidz and Jump and Ball show us that when children get involved in positive experiences during the summer, they are not only benefiting themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods, but our entire society.
When my office and I embarked on creating such programs as Biz Kidz and Jump and Ball, it was an attempt to model what I envision for the entire state.
In Albany, my colleagues and I have dedicated special attention to ensure that our children have the resources to be successful in life.
Besides our work to ensure fair and equal financial distribution in state school funding, we have also worked to lower property taxes, create economic development opportunities and jobs to ensure that our working
9-to-5 families can have the means to provide their children with the resources they need to succeed.
We should take programs like these to the next level, giving every child in New York State the opportunity to learn, work, and play during the summertime.
I will continue to work and ensure that our children have the opportunity to make the best out of their summertime.