These workers assisted in the Recreation Department's youth summer program, which caters to kids ages 5 to 14.
"We have had the youth summer program for as long as I can remember," said Vega, who also worked for program during his teens. "I started out as an assistant to the custodians and then I became a lifeguard at the pool."
The youth employees earn a minimum of $7.25 an hour, which is minimum wage. But some with prior experience with the program earned more per hour. Certified teachers for the program earn about $10 an hour.
"It's important [to provide] jobs for these kids," said Vega. "It gives them a sense of worth, a good work ethic, and they get paid."
This year the city was able to employ 150 kids throughout the township. The salaries were paid with help from two grants including a $42,000 grant from the state Department of Agriculture and another $42,000 grant from the Community Development Block Grant, which is a program that provides resources for community development needs.
There was also an additional $90,000 contributed from the town's municipal budget.
"Through [grants] and a little extra set aside in the budget, we were able to give jobs to over 100 of our young people," said Vega.
These funds were also used to pay the regular fulltime employees of the recreation department.
"We're very happy that we have had a very successful summer," said Vega.
Summer recreation program
Every summer, the department hosts their free youth summer programs for kids, which runs for eight weeks during the summer months.
This year, the program began on July 2 and ended on Aug 10. However, the youth employees kept working up until last Wednesday.
The program ran on Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The kids in the program are given lunch and a snack. There were hundreds of kids in the program this summer including 350 that attended activities at the middle school.
There were many sports programs including: baseball, recreational swimming or swim team, basketball, softball, cheerleading, football, soccer, volleyball, whiffleball and stickball.
There was also tutoring in remedial math and reading, arts and crafts, and board games.
During the program, the kids met at the West New York Middle School and School No. 1, and at Donnelly, Fillmore, Washington, St. Mary's and Monsignor Weigand parks.
As a culmination to the work program and to express gratitude for all their young employees' hard work, Vega personally thanked each individual last Wednesday, and presented them with their last paycheck.
"Any checks left over goes back into the budget," joked Vega.
"I was a supervisor at Donnelly Park on 60th Street and Boulevard East [this summer]," said Kris Cainas, 21, who has been participating in the employment program for the last seven years. Cainas also used to play various sports in the program when he was younger.
"I like my town and I do it for the kids," said Cainas. "The summer program keeps kids off the street and gives them something to do for summer instead of staying home. It brings the community together. [Working here] has been a good learning experience [for me]."
Jinely Abreu, 18, is also no stranger to the summer employment program, and just completed her third year with the recreational department.
"It keeps me busy and gives me something to do for the summer, plus it's good volunteer work for college," said Abreu, who spent the last eight weeks working with maintenance at the town pool on 60th Street off of Boulevard East.
"I will probably be here next year again, but I might go for [something else] in the recreation center," she said. Jessica Rosero can be reached at email@example.com