MOUNT VERNON, NY (PIX11) — The City of Mount Vernon swore in 200 young people on Thursday to kick off off its annual Summer Youth Employment program.

The teenagers and young adults will work paid jobs for a portion of the summer to keep them off the streets and so they can learn life skills for their future careers. They took the oath on the steps of City Hall, committing to six weeks of working this summer.

Debbie Burrell-Butler is the executive director of the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau, which heads the program.

“[It] trickles down to 200 youth not on the street doing anything illegal [or] unnecessary and they’re using their time to do something beneficial to them in the long run,” Burrell-Butler said.

The program partners the participants up with different industries at over 35 work sites in the area from the business community, city government, school districts, nonprofit organizations, and more to see what they may want to pursue in the future.

Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard is a supporter of the program.

“We say to everyone, ‘It’s easy to get a job. It’s hard to keep a job,’ and ‘put yourself in a position to be promoted,’ so we want to give them that extra advantage,” Patterson-Howard said.

They’ll be earning $15 to $17 an hour – a minimum of $1,800 for the month and a half. About 300 students apply, but not everyone gets in. This will be 18-year-old Sebastian Gilliam’s third summer with the program.

“It’s just a sense of family community that they have because they truly do care about us,” Gilliam said. “They put in the work to give us these jobs and everything and I just love the program. I made amazing friends in the years that I’ve been here.”

First time participants, including 14-year-olds Tyla Burgess and Melanie Nuñez, are excited to begin.

“I want to start this program because I [want] to meet new people and learn job readiness,” Burgess said.

Nuñez’ sister was working in the program.

“I was kind of interested too because I feel like many young people had many opportunities,” Nuñez said.

They’ll come out of the summer with a strong work ethic and extra cash in their pocket.

“We don’t want them just hanging on the block,” Patterson-Howard said. “We tell them all the time, ‘This is a good legitimate way to make money. We don’t want you on the corner trying to make money. We don’t want you to connect with the wrong people trying to make money.'”

For the young people who did not get into this year’s program, the city is encouraging them to reach out because, the mayor says, there are still many businesses looking for people willing to work.