The Next Generation of Activists: Youth summer jobs and activism go virtual

The Chelsea Collaborative’s Summer Youth Employment Initiative (SYEI) looks a little different this year, with job readiness training, career exploration, and internships happening exclusively in virtual spaces. During the height of the pandemic in Chelsea, we weren’t sure what the summer would hold, but we knew that one way or another we had to offer Chelsea youth the summer jobs that keep them connected, learning, and building community. Since early July, 170 youth have been working to build hard and soft skills, connecting daily in virtual classrooms, and implementing social justice projects in small groups. Youth are divided into cohorts based on their interests and new skills being developed. Cohorts are focused on Arts, Public Service, Creative Media, and STEM, and all integrate a focus on current events, civic engagement, and social justice.

Within the Public Service cohort, youth are working in small groups to develop their own social justice organizations. After each youth pitched their ideas, the larger group selected two to develop further in teams. Those organizations reflect issues that are close to the hearts and minds of our youth: Chelsea Trans Community Support serving Chelsea’s transgender community, and Worldwide Opportunities Foundation providing services to immigrants and refugees.

So far, youth have researched other social justice organizations, developed mission statements and brands, launched social media pages, designed flyers and infographics, and planned virtual events to raise awareness.

SYEI runs for six weeks every summer and for many of the youth interns this is their first work experience. Youth receive a stipend for their work and build skills and relationships that support long-term success in school, jobs, and their communities. We partner closely with the City of Chelsea, MassHire Metro North, and Commonwealth Corporation’s YouthWorksStrong program to make the program a success.

“The reason I’m personally so passionate about Social Justice is because growing up, you begin to realize that the society you’ve grown up in is flawed in many ways, especially when it’s targeted toward you. I want to be able to assist in creating something good so other kids like me don’t have to deal with some of the hardships I dealt with growing up being both transgender and Latino. I also want to make life a better experience for those who aren’t like me. We all deserve to feel like we belong in a world as large as ours.”

– ADRIEN, 17, Public Service Intern

Group Leader, Chelsea Trans Community Support

” With so much going on this year, I believe that as a community (big or small) we can share our experience and ideas to speak our minds and make a change in this community! We need more young adults to speak up and fight for change. People who have been affected by these conflicts are vulnerable because they can’t speak their minds. Which is why this generation of young adults should advocate and fight for them so they could be heard. Despite the circumstances we are in, I believe that a small difference can create a huge impact into our community and our people!”

– LOURDEN, 17, Public Service Intern

Group Leader, Worldwide Opportunities Foundation

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