This year, 925 Union City students are involved.
"I am pleased and proud that our summer program will provide career training and classroom education for more than 900 students," said Mayor Brian Stack. "This innovative program will allow us to offer real on-the-job training combined with classroom studies."
Earning your keep
The Summer Employment and Training program, which first began in the late 1980s, offers work-study programs that develop job and life skills for the kids of Union City. Initially, the program was state-funded, but it now receives funding from the school district budget.
"Back in 1987, we started out with about 150 students, and this year we know that we're over 900 students in the program from the different schools,' said Richard Quagliariello, program director.
Mostly made up kids from Emerson and Union Hill high schools, the program runs for about six weeks with the kids meeting Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Training takes place at the uptown and downtown Union City Career Academies.
In addition to in-class training, the program will offer students jobs at all of Union City's parks, schools, libraries, recreational facilities, public works facilities and City Hall, where they will earn about $5.15 an hour. Some students also work at the city's uptown and downtown Career Academies, where the training is conducted.
"They come to class for about an hour and a half and work for three and a half hours on the job sites, and they're earning some money," said Quagliariello.
The Downtown Career Center, located on 1901 West Ave., is the main facility for most of the job training programs. Students attend classes in childcare, where they learn about educational activities for pre-k to kindergarteners, as well as how to interact with them in a classroom setting and parenting skills.
"[During] instructional time they learn about child development, crafts, how to read a story, and create thematic projects," said Barbara Muti, child care instructor.
The students also learn about the how classrooms are set up at the day care centers, which helps them assist at the Early Childhood Centers on 35th Street.
"Working with children is interesting and different from any other job," said Vanessa Valcarcel, 16, who is thinking about studying child psychology. "You get to know these kids, and they are very affectionate towards you. It's a very good experience."
In class the students also discuss teen issues including pregnancy prevention and substance abuse. According to Muti, Union City has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates around the state.
Other students could choose to take courses in supermarket skills, where they learn how to run a store and get a chance to make lunches and snacks for the city.
The office and the maintenance programs offer basic life and household skills such as budgeting and expense. Computer and office skills are utilized at many of Union City's local schools such as Jose Marti Middle School and Sara Gilmore School.
"I learned a little bit more about myself through this program, and it pretty much set a standard for me," said Charlie Modesto, 17.
"We've been discussing life, salary, how to spend money, and survival," said Aysha Aguilu, 15. "It's fun, and I like how everyone interacts with each other. I want to try child care next."
Programming is not limited to high school students. Fifth through seventh graders participating in the language arts remediation classes at Robert Waters School are currently working in the Access Collaboration Equity (ACE) Plus Program at the Downtown Career Academy on 19th Street and West Avenue.
Through the ACE Plus, which is a state funded two-year grant program, students are learning a variety of different computer programs including PowerPoint and Kids Inspiration, which helps in their verbal and math lessons.
"It's getting me better prepared for eighth grade," said Jacqueline Guevara, 13. "We're learning computer skills like PowerPoint, and [literary skills] writing stories, poetry and papers."
Since this is Union City's second and last time using the grant, which is no longer available and scheduled to finish this upcoming August, the kids are putting together a newsletter that will highlight all the features of the Union City Summer Program, and have the chance to interview high ranking city officials.
"The newsletter [aspect] helps in many different ways," said Francine Miller, program coordinator. "They are also publicizing all the different summer programs in the city.
Unfortunately the ACE Plus grant will no longer be offered, but Union City is planning to keep up with the same programming, and are looking for alternative grants to help keep the program afloat."
"It has increased proficiency of language arts four fourth, fifth and sixth graders because they are learning computer-based literacy programs," said Miller.
For interested students, summer registration and recruitment usually begins in April through the school guidance counselors' offices. PRICE CHECK - In the "supermarket" class of the Summer Employment and Training program, students learn the basics of running a store, and have the chance to prepare some bake goods, which are given out to the other classes as snacks. ACE - Students in the Access Collaboration Equity (ACE) Plus Program at the Downtown Career Academy have been working a special project this summer which will entail a newsletter encompassing the Union City summer program as a whole. LETS PLAY - In addition to instructional time in the classroom, student in the Summer Employment and Training program gain hands-on experience at job sites incorporating skills they learned in class, as well as getting paid for a day's work.