The Queens Defenders Summer Youth Internship came to a close on Thursday, August 27th. This eight-week internship was created when the status of New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program was cut by 40,000 slots due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City’s budget. With the support of our generous donors, we were able to offer eight-week virtual internships to 56 Queens youth — our largest cohort in the program’s history.


As an organization that has hosted large groups of SYEP youth for the past six years, Queens Defenders was unwilling to let the summer pass by without providing an opportunity for youth to work and grow while receiving financial compensation.


“While I loved pretty much everything about Queens Defenders, I think what stuck with me the most is how passionate everyone was about their community. I want to be a strong voice in my community and in many others to create real change. This was one of the most important takeaways from Queens Defenders – besides learning about the law – and I really want to be the change I want to see.”


Throughout the eight-week program, interns engaged in remote work including professional development and college and career readiness workshops. Interns learned about legal careers by participating in mock trials, workshops on the U.S. Constitution, and hearing from attorneys at Queens Defenders. We also hosted a series of guest speakers from BAM Creative architecture firm and Queens College during Career Week, who spoke about career fields in architecture, accounting, and politics.


“My biggest takeaway from the internship was everything that I learned. Not only did I learn new information about the law and various other social topics, I also learned more about myself through frequent group discussions with my peers.”


Perhaps the most meaningful part of the summer, according to the interns themselves, was the continued discussions about current events. Interns engaged in conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, women’s rights, rights for the LGBTQIA community, mental health, and more. The youth valued the time spent on these topics, citing that they felt safe to speak their mind and that everyone was always respectful of differing opinions.


“This internship introduced me to many things. It showed me the importance of having a strong work ethic, it gave me a better sense of professionalism, and most importantly, it opened my eyes to the world of law and helped me gain knowledge in the field. My favorite parts were participating in the mock trials because that was a new experience for me and it helped me step out of my comfort zone.”


While the summer of 2020 did not look how any of us expected, Queens Defenders is thankful for our staff and donors who made this program possible. Queens Defenders is committed to providing opportunities to youth in the community, whether virtually or in-person.