Once the school day is done, Norma Gottschalk clocks in at her after-school job at the Bronx River Community Center. It’s a position the 11th grader felt qualified for after building her work history in the city’s summer youth employment program and her confidence.
"Before this program, I was a really a shy person," Gottschalk said. "I really don’t like to speak in public, to be honest."
The 17-year-old is planning to be among the tens of thousands of young people that will take part in the summer youth program in a few months, relieved to get back to work after city officials took the program virtual last year because of the pandemic.
"The opportunity that this program gave me of learning things, improved my English and also being in the professional field, it’s going to help me a lot when I go to college," Gottschalk said.
The annual six-week program will provide paid work opportunities to young people in all five boroughs between the ages of 14 and 21 in a variety of areas, including day camps, retail, information technology, media, and food service.
This week, the mayor announced that it will be a return to normal after 2020’s online program was limited to just 35,000 participants.
"We’re going to serve 70,000 youth, and I think that’s an impressive feat, given the number of challenges that we’re having and we’re facing today," said Daniel Guillen, director of operations for youth workforce development at the Department of Youth and Community Development.
Officials say for the sake of safety, they’re keeping the online component as an option.
“To ensure the safety of our participants and our employers and the entire experience itself, youth have the opportunity to engage in the program via online or in person," Guillen said. "This will allow them to ensure that there is comfort."
Gottschalk said she’s proud of the skills she’s learned so far.
"Right now, I know how to perfectly balance school and work at the same time and be responsible for myself," she said.
She’s looking forward to the chance to grow even more.