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Funding Summer Youth Programming Prevents Gun Violence


Last Updated: 1.17.2022


Preventing gun violence in cities like Chicago is most important to me because it deeply affects young people, especially in Black and Latinx communities. Local investments in summer youth programs are critical to creating opportunities for young people to stay safe, earn needed income, and build leadership skills that will benefit them and their communities in the years to come. 

As a leader of the Students Demand Action Summer Leadership Academy in Chicago, I know the importance of empowering students to organize their peers and create opportunities that would have not otherwise been available to them. 

Founded in Summer 2019, the Students Demand Action Summer Leadership Academy enables communities disproportionately impacted by gun violence to host summer programs which empower low-income students, survivors, and people of color to become community organizers. The initiative prioritizes removing barriers (meals, mentoring, transportation costs, etc.) that keep marginalized student leaders from becoming leaders in the gun violence prevention movement. In its first two years, the Academy has reached 45 students in Los Angeles, California and Nashville, Tennessee, and in 2021 will continue the program in Los Angeles and Nashville, as well as expand to Detroit, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, and Tampa, Florida.

Budget cuts over the course of the past year have led to cuts in student programs. With the rise in gun violence across the country, I hope that cities will make it a priority to reinvest and expand summer programming for youth.

—Ade Osadalor University of Chicago National Advisory Board Member, Students Demand Action Leader, Chicago Students Demand Action Summer Leadership Academy

Investing in young people should be a priority for cities as we begin on the path to COVID-19 recovery. Summer youth development and employment programs provide young people with educational and mentorship opportunities, prepare them for the workforce, add income to their homes, and are proven to reduce violence. 

For over a year, cities across that country have been grappling with the uncertainty, loss of life, shared and individual trauma, and economic toll of two public health crises: COVID-19 and gun violence. These dual crises have had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx communities who are impacted by persistent racial inequities, low financial investment, and under-resourced public health and community-led public safety programs. 

Last year, as cities adapted to the public health and fiscal realities of COVID-19, many cities chose to pause or scale back programming that directly benefited Black and Latinx communities. Among the impacted programs were summer youth engagement and employment initiatives. These programs are especially important because they not only provide economic opportunities for young people and their families, but they are also a demonstrated means of reducing gun violence.

Fortunately, the economic landscape for cities in 2021 looks much different from the landscape in 2020. Cities are developing protocols to safely reopen, and $130 billion in federal relief via  American Rescue Plan funding is en route to cities to help local officials counter the economic impact of COVID-19. The Department of Education will be granting an additional $122 billion to states to resource local educational agencies and support youth education, services, and activities.1Public Law No: 117-2, Sec. 2001. American Rescue Plan funding can and should be used to bolster gun violence intervention programs, including youth engagement and employment initiatives.

In June 2021 the Department of Education released updated guidance outlining how its American Rescue Plan grants can support summer youth engagement and employment programs. Specifically, the Department of Education states that the $122 billion to local educational agencies can be used to support students and youth through the following public safety strategies:

  • “Summer and year-round training and work-based learning experience for students, including formerly incarcerated students, and disconnected youth who live in communities most impacted by high levels of violence,” and
  • “Summer education and enrichment programs, including summer camp.”2US Department of Education, “How American Rescue Plan Funds Can Prevent and Respond to Crime and Promote Public Safety,” June 2021, The US Department of Education previously released guidance in April 2021 advising that American Rescue Plan grants could be used to “Provide students with evidence-based summer learning and enrichment programs, including through partnership with community-based organizations.” The April 2021 guidance also advised that the funds could be used to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on students of color . . . .” US Department of Education, “ED COVID-19 Handbook: Roadmap to Reopening Safety and Meeting All Students’ Needs, Volume 2,”April 2021,

In June 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a comprehensive strategy to combat rising gun violence, which includes, “[e]xpanding summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and supports for teenagers and young adults.”3Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Comprehensive Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gun Crime and Ensure Public Safety,” June 23, 2021, The Administration urged local governments to use the $130 billion in locally allocated American Rescue Plan funds to resource expanded summer programming.

Some cities have already taken action to prioritize funding for summer youth programming in 2021:

  • New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), the nation’s largest youth employment program, is returning in 2021 after the program was scaled back and conducted virtually in 2020.4City of New York Office of the Mayor, “A Recovery for All of Us: Mayor de Blasio Announces Applications are Open for the 2021 Summer Youth Employment Program,” press release, March 22, 2021, SYEP will serve a projected 70,000 young people, providing them with paid work experience, work readiness training, and leadership skills.5City of New York Office of the Mayor, “A Recovery for All of Us.”
  • Columbus, Ohio, announced increased investments in summer youth programs with the specific purpose of reducing gun violence following canceled programs and limited opportunities for youth engagement in the summer of 2020.6Eric Lagatta, “Ginther Unveils Slate of Youth Summer Programs Aimed at Reducing Violence in Columbus,” Columbus Dispatch, May 7, 2021, The 2021 programs announced by the city include seasonal employment opportunities, work readiness training, and evening community events.7Eric Lagatta, “Ginther Unveils Slate of Youth Summer Programs.”
  • Washington, DC, plans to expand its summer youth employment program to provide opportunities for 13,000 youth, up from 10,000 youth in previous years, and DC-area school systems are dedicating American Rescue Plan funds to summer education programs.8Tanaz Meghjani, “DC Voices: Summer 2021 programming to address learning loss and student well-being,” (DC Policy Center, May 5, 2021),

As cities develop their spending plan for American Rescue Plan funds, they should prioritize and plan funding for summer youth engagement and employment programs. Additional information about the importance of summer youth engagement and employment programs to counter gun violence is below. For more information on how to use American Rescue Plan funds to address gun violence in your locality, please contact us at [email protected].

Why is summer programming for youth important?

Violent crime tends to increase in the summer.

Crime trends show that cities often experience increases in violent crime during the warm days of summer.9Samuel J. Michel, et al., “Investigating the Relationship Between Weather and Violence in Baltimore, Maryland, USA,” Injury 47, no. 1, (2016): 272-276,; Leah H. Schinasi and Ghassan B. Hamra, “A Time Series Analysis of Associations between Daily Temperature and Crime Events in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Journal of Urban Health 94, no. 6, (2017): 892-900,; Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Shootings, Cities, and the Summer,” June 2019, For example, from 2016 to 2020, 39 percent of gun homicides and non-fatal shootings in Baltimore occurred between May 1 and August 31.10“Part 1 Crime Data,” Baltimore City Open Data, accessed April 27, 2021, From 2016 to 2020, there were an average of 994 gun homicides and non-fatal shootings in Baltimore, 387 of which occurred between May 1 and August 31. 

Youth are at high-risk for becoming victims and participants of gun violence. 

American youth ages 15 to 24 are 23 times more likely to be killed with guns than those in other high-income countries.11Erin Grinshteyn and David Hemenway, “Violent Death Rates in the US Compared to Those of the Other High-Income Countries, 2015,” Preventive Medicine 123 (2019): 20–26, In an average year, nearly 36,000 15- to 24-year-olds are shot and killed or wounded in the US—59 percent of these deaths are by gun homicide, and 46 percent of these injuries are by gun assault.12On average, 7,891 15- to 24-year-olds are shot and killed and 28,061 are shot and wounded in the US every year. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “A More Complete Picture: The Contours of Gun Injury in the United States,” December 4, 2020, A yearly average was developed using the most recent available data: 2016 to 2020 for gun deaths and 2016 to 2018 for gun injuries. Homicide and gun assault includes legal intervention.

Violence in cities is often cyclical and the trauma that comes with it can lead youth to engage in violence. The same youth who are victimized by violence are often also perpetrators. In cities during 2019, youth under 25 made up 42 percent of arrests for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, 52 percent of arrests for robbery, 27 percent of arrests for aggravated assault, and 39 percent of arrests for weapons offenses.13Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Crime in the United States, 2019,” table 47, (2020), Weapons offenses include “the violation of laws or ordinances prohibiting the manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation, possession, concealment, or use of firearms, cutting instruments, explosives, incendiary devices, or other deadly weapons.”

Gun violence is costly.

Gun violence costs the US $280 billion each year, of which $12.7 billion is paid by taxpayers. While costs vary depending on the circumstances of the incident, each gun fatality costs taxpayers an average of $270,399 for the initial and long-term repercussions of that incident, and each nonfatal injury costs $52,585. As local governments seek to close budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, investment in gun violence prevention programming can save lives and money.

Youth development and employment programs are proven to reduce violence.

Summer youth employment programs in Boston, New York City, and Chicago have demonstrated that they not only boost employment, but also have longer-term impacts on crime. An evaluation of the Boston Summer Youth Employment Program found that relative to a control group, participants’ violent crime arraignments reduced by 35 percent in the 17 months after program completion.14Alicia Sasser Modestino, “How Do Summer Youth Employment Programs Improve Criminal Justice Outcomes, and for Whom?” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 38, no. 3 (2019): 600-628, A study of New York City’s program showed it reduces participants’ probability of incarceration by 10 percent (54 percent for those aged 19+), and reduces mortality by 20 percent at least four years post-program completion, relative to baseline.15Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen, and Judd B Kessler, “The Effects of Youth Employment: Evidence from New York City Summer Youth Employment Program Lotteries,” Working Paper, Working Paper Series (National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2014), In Chicago, assignment to a summer jobs program decreased violent crime arrests among participants by 43 percent in the 16 months following program completion, compared to the control group.16Sara B. Heller, “Summer Jobs Reduce Violence Among Disadvantaged Youth,” Science 346, no. 6214 (2014): 1219-1223,

Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.

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