What is the NYA - 1938
"Just what is NYA?"
"I heard about a boy at college who gets some sort of Government scholarship."
"Isn't it the same as the CCC?"
With few exceptions, these were the comments we heard from our friends, from educators, bishops, business men, even from Government people, when we told them: "We are planning to write a book about the National Youth Administration."
We didn't know much about the NYA, ourselves, but we had heard enough to stimulate our curiosity about this new and interesting development on the American scene.
We knew, for example, that on June 26, 1935, by executive order of the President, the National Youth Administration was set up with $50,000,000 of relief funds earmarked for its use.
This was the President's declaration, in establishing the NYA:
I have determined that we shall do something for the Nation's unemployed youth, because we can ill afford to lose the skill and energy of these young men and women. They must have their chance in school, their turn as apprentices, and their opportunity for jobs—a chance to work and earn for themselves.
It is recognized that the final solution of this whole problem of unemployed youth will not be attained until there is resumption of normal business activities and opportunities for private employment on a wide scale. I believe that the National Youth Program will serve the most pressing and immediate needs of that portion of unemployed youth most seriously affected at the present time.
It is my sincere hope that all public and private agencies, groups, and organizations, as well as educators, recreational leaders, employers, and labor leaders, will co-operate wholeheartedly with the National and State Youth Administrations in the furtherance of this National Youth Program.
The yield on this investment should be high.
We collected reports of NYA activities, State by State, from all parts of the United States. We pored over columns of figures. But they didn't give a picture of the 327,000 high school and college boys and girls who are earning from $6 to $40 a month by work planned in their own educational institutions and paid for by the Federal Government.
Still less did these reports give us a comprehension of the program for 155,000 boys and girls from relief families who are earning by part- time work from $10 to $25 a month, and many of whom on their own volunteer time are receiving related training under the impetus of NYA.
So, with a suitcase in one hand and a notebook and typewriter in the other, we set out to see NYA in action. In our trips, we tried to see as many projects as possible, talk with NYA youth themselves, meet the NYA personnel, visit junior employment services (another NYA activity), get the reactions of local people to the NYA program, and talk with employers who have ex-NYA boys and girls on their pay-rolls at the present time.
It occurred to us that perhaps the best possible introduction to NYA might be through pictures. As the program varies greatly from State to State and even from locality to locality, it is impossible to show all phases in photographs. The pictures on the following pages illustrate activities of NYA girls and boys.
Except the high school students, who form a separate and younger group, these young people are from 18 to 24 years old and average less than 20 years of age. Most of them had never held regular jobs before going to work for NYA.
Betty and Ernest K. Lindley, A New Deal for Youth: The Story of the National Youth Administration, New York: The Viking Press, 1938.