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To see the article in the Urban Mayors Press, click here.
This past summer, the City of Asbury Park’s Recreation Department created the City’s first-ever Youth Ambassador Work Program. The concept of this program came from City of Asbury Park Recreation Director Leesha Floyd as a response to the need for recreational and educational opportunities for youth during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The program, which was made possible through CDBG funding, involved hiring 12 Asbury Park youth, ages 15-18, to serve as City Youth Ambassadors from July through October. In addition to providing seasonal employment, the program aimed to provide development opportunities as well as create a sense of community pride. The Ambassadors helped direct and provide information to visitors and promoted PPE requirements in the City, including handing out masks and hand sanitizer to residents at mask-giveaways. They also participated frequently in City-sponsored events such as the Back-to-School Supply drive-through event, where they handed out back packs and school supplies, and the City’s Halloween Trick or Treat event, where they prepared and gave out 400 bags of candy to trick-or-treaters and over 300 masks to adults and children. “Our summer recreation program is the backbone of the City’s annual recreation line-up,” says City of Asbury Park Recreation Director Leesha Floyd, “In addition to enrolling over 300 children each summer in the camp, we always employ older youth as counselors. With the cancelation of the program this year due to the pandemic, we had to find a dynamic alternative to keep our counselors employed this summer. The Youth Ambassador Work Program allows us an opportunity provide jobs while instilling a sense of ownership and community pride in our youth.”
“The Youth Ambassador Work Program is a unique opportunity for teens to be actively employed while learning about the community they live in and building relationships with their neighbors,” says Genise Hughes, Asbury Park Recreation Department Summer Coordinator, “The projects they participated in not only benefited the City, but also energized our Ambassadors –so much so that the teens started coming up with their own ideas of projects that would help the community during the pandemic. They even continue their volunteer efforts though the program is over for the year.”
“I am proud to be a City of Asbury Park Youth Ambassador and grateful the City provided us with jobs so we could help our families,” said City of Asbury Park Youth Ambassador Tatiana Laurore, 17, “The program showed us how important it is to help our neighbors. It feels great to volunteer and as City Youth Ambassadors, we continue to look for opportunities to help outside the program—like volunteering to distribute PPE at local churches on Thanksgiving Day.”
”We congratulate this year’s City Youth Ambassadors on making our first year a huge success and thank Recreation Director, Leesha Floyd, for coming up with a creative solution to keep our youth engaged in spite of the circumstances,” said Mayor John Moor, “As City Council, it’s our responsibility, and our honor, to support Asbury Park youth and provide them with opportunities to learn, grow and participate in their community – even during a pandemic.”