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‘Not only a job’: Detroit youth summer jobs program grows again



‘Not only a job’: Detroit youth summer jobs program grows again

The city of Detroit’s summer jobs program will put more than 8,600 Detroit youths to work in roles ranging from police and fire cadets to positions in financial services, tech and hospitality.

Grow Detroit Young Talent, in its 10th year, added 100 jobs for the summer, officials said Tuesday during the program’s official launch at Wayne State University.

“(The GDYT program) gives our youth an opportunity to develop the skill sets that they need and inspires them to get ready for the workforce,” Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison told the Free Press. “During our summer months, it gives them an opportunity to make money when they’re out of school and also to keep them off the streets.”

Since 2015, the program has provided youth ages 14-24 with a total of 79,680 job opportunities. This year GDYT has raised what organizers said is a record-breaking $14 million from a range of sources including individual donors, major corporations, philanthropic organizations and the federal and local governments. Some major funding partners are the city of Detroit, DTE Foundation, Ballmer Group, Rocket Community Fund, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Apple and President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, with all accounting for $100,000 or more toward the program. 

Terri Weems, executive director of Workforce and Detroit at Work, estimated that the program receives between 15,000 and 16,000 applications every year. Participants are selected randomly from a pool of applicants, said Misty Evans, director of program operations for GDYT.

Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield recognized the record number of young people in the program, but said she wants to see that number grow and pushed for more funding.

“Every year, unfortunately we do have to turn down young people because we don’t have enough funding which show that the need is real,” she said.

The first group of young adults in the program started working on July 1, with more to start work on a rolling basis. The participants undergo a six-week trial where they work about 120 hours. The program pays younger participants $12 an hour and participants over 16 years old $15 an hour. After the trial, the program encourages employers to hire participants for long-term employment, Evans said.

Evans added that each year the program responds to the needs of participants, providing more resources. This year, GDYT has partnered with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network to provide mental health services to participants in addition to information about post-secondary options and financial counseling they already provide. 

‘Not only a job’

The emcee of the event, Midtown native Tamyra Browder, 19, is a six-year member of the GDYT summer program. Browder, a sophomore computer science major at Eastern Michigan University, said the program has given her a different approach to life and highlighted the connections she has made through it.

“The bonds that I’ve built meeting new people from different backgrounds and different perspectives and being able to come together and think as one and just talk, I think that’s a very memorable thing,” Browder said about her years in the program.

Another participant, Jayanah Branch joined the GYDT program prior to entering her sophomore year of high school. At the time, Branch had just moved from Tennessee and she was apprehensive about what her life in Michigan would look like.

“During my first year in the program I had a lot going on personally, so I think coming to this camp was not only a job but a safe space,” said the 16-year-old teaching assistant at GYDT’s Math Core, where participants also have the opportunity to become tutors and mentors for middle school students.

Now, Branch is headed to Washington, D.C., to represent the GYDT’s Math Core at a week-long national conference that starts Sunday. Branch said she is excited to talk about the program, which she describes as a “fun and uplifting place to be.”

The application window for the 2025 program is slated to open in early February. Those interested in participating in this program as donors, employers, youth applicants or parents curious about this program, can find information at

Allegra Blackwood and Rebecca Borlace are 2024 Detroit Free Press Summer Apprentices.

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