Think about your high school experience.  Did you graduate in four years? Was it easy or difficult? Did you have help along the way? Some students need help that public schools just do not provide, that is where the Learning to Work (LTW) Program comes in.

In the year since coronavirus sent us into quarantine and changed the entire world’s idea of normal, life has been turned upside down for many, including many young New Yorkers. With schools transitioning to online or hybrid programs, the education system is struggling along with their students. Programs like LTW provide assistance to these students – an alternative pathway to a high school diploma or GED, paid internships, counseling, and post-graduate planning. However, these programs are being threatened with cuts to their funding. 

In order to try to balance an already unstable budget, NYC planned to slash budgets by 72%, or $30.3 million dollars. That would prove disastrous for the students that LTW helps. They fund 3,000 paid internships that many teens rely on to gain valuable experience while still helping with bills at home, afternoon and night classes for those who word during the day, and extra staff who act as advocates for the students. 

However, this July, LTW’s contract across the city which include the Staten Island Young Adult Borough Center (YABC) at Tottenville High School and Concord High School will begin another year with 25% less funding, putting the non-profit’s future in jeopardy once again.

People are now rallying around Learning to Work, advocating for pre-pandemic levels of funding. Misha Winston, a Learning to Work alum from the Staten Island YABC , believes that the program is the best she’s ever been in “[the] staff isn’t just staff; they’re family. They just help you no matter what with open arms and they never turn their backs on you even after you graduate, they’re always there for you.”

Watch Misha speak passionately about why the Learning to Work funding must be fully restored to pre-pandemic levels down below.

LTW’s goal is to reconnect students who have lost their way on their educational path. It is an effective program that increases graduation rates compared to schools without LTW – on average schools with LTW exceed graduation rates by 4%. They provide services such as small classroom and learning environments, youth and family counseling, work-based learning, and shared leadership. It helps make these kids feel cared for and supported, to believe that they can make something of themselves. Currently, LTW funding goes to over 60 schools and programs, as well as 20 community based organizations.

By not rescinding cuts, NYC would be doing a disservice to already underprivileged communities. Through systematic defunding of the Summer Youth Employment Plan, community schools, and afterschool programs, and now the Learning To Work organization, students will not have the same resources to truly succeed. 

How can you help? 

This upcoming Thursday, April 1, at 4 pm, The Learning to Work Coalition will be holding a virtual rally where former students will be talking about their experiences with LTW and how it helped them get to where they are now. You can stream the rally here. Also, you can use the hashtags #SaveLTW and #ProtectLTW to share your voice. Every little bit will help save Learning to Work and our communities!