Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Total Action Against Poverty (TAP)

Summer Youth Employment Program
Roanoke, Virginia

Key Characteristics


The Summer Youth Employment Program is one of more than 30 programs coordinated by Total Action Against Poverty (TAP), a community action agency located in Roanoke, Virginia. In existence for more than 20 years, all of the programs focus on a common theme: helping low-income individuals achieve self-sufficiency through education and training. The Summer Youth Employment Program, funded through the Job Training Partner-ship Act (JTPA), operates at several sites in Virginia. In 1993, the Roanoke program profiled below served 190 youth between the ages of 14 and 21. Students may participate in academic or work portions, or both. The academic program, first offered in 1982, offers six to eight weeks of basic remedial classes, Monday through Friday mornings, for 25 hours a week with a minimum of 90 hours over the course of the summer. The work program places students with nonprofit employers in the afternoons for 30 to 40 hours a week.

School Context

Students are drawn from 6 high schools and 8 to 10 middle schools in the Roanoke area. According to their scores on the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE), these students function at academic levels between third and tenth grade. Slightly less than 10 percent of the students have limited English proficiency. A similar percentage are classified as physically handicapped; less than half of all students are in special education programs. Forty-five percent of the students are Anglo; 45 percent are African American; and 10 percent are Asian, Haitian, or Puerto Rican. Program eligibility is based on place of residence, age, income level, physical handicaps, and whether the student's family receives public assistance. Almost half of the students live in public housing projects, and between 85 and 90 percent of the students live below the federal poverty line. Approximately 10 percent of participating youth are either not school-age (over age 18) or have dropped out of school. Students are referred to the program by community agencies, the department of social services, and schools.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

One of the biggest obstacles the program has had to overcome is convincing youth who are at risk for dropping out of school to enroll in what amounts to summer school. In fact, when the remediation requirement was added to the program, many youth declined to participate. The program had to convince these adolescents that the summer experience would be very different from the traditional school setting they were used to.

Now, because of positive word-of-mouth communication among students, the program has no trouble getting students to participate. To entice students who would rather be at a job site to attend the academic remediation, TAP pays the students the same stipend offered by the job site: $4.25 an hour. Sources did not report any problems with space, transportation, or school relations.

Evidence of Success

The completion rate for the program is close to 90 percent, which program coordinators consider a measure of success because the program serves such a high-risk population. As one program administrator said, "All the other programs don't want these kids--this is a last stop for them. If you can get them through a program, it's a miracle." In addition, 95 percent of these students return to school in the fall. As one individual involved with the program commented, "Some of these kids would without a doubt fall by the wayside if not for this program."

All of the students in the program have achieved post-program TABE scores at the same or higher level than their pre-program scores; most scores rise by at least three months, as measured on a grade-level basis. Students who are working in a full-time job at the end of the summer are not post-tested.

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