The city should channel teenagers into jobs but not at U.S. Army recruiting stations.
Yet that’s what happened this summer. Fourteen youths were assigned to work at an Army recruiting station through a Queens nonprofit organization participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). The city’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) administers the program.
Fourteen is a drop out of the thousands of jobs that tax-payer dollars support. But the assignment is troublesome. These are impressionable youths working in centers geared precisely at convincing and enlisting young people. It is doubly troubling in light of the social context driving the latest aggressive push in military recruiting, namely the bloody and deeply unpopular war in Iraq.
In minority neighborhoods, Army recruiters have opened storefront “career centers.” They draw kids to recruitment booths at street festivals by giving away trinkets and blaring Hip Hop. The intrusive recruitment activities at high schools, especially where kids are lagging academically, have been documented by El Diario/la prensa and others. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, the Army has access to student information.
Intensified recruiting to meet enlistment quotas has included misleading information. Last fall, CNN showed how New York recruiters were downplaying the possibility of being sent to a battlefront.
With more than 150 New Yorkers dying in Iraq, our city and state have already carried a heavy burden. We’re still reeling from losing baby-faced soldiers like Juan Alcantara, the 22-year-old Washington Heights resident killed in Iraq earlier this month.
DYCD and contracted organizations should refrain from bringing kids a step closer to military service as a condition of their city-funded and assigned summer job.