August 18, 2023

A Summer with My City: My Experiences with the 2023 Summer Youth Employment Program

Maylene Dio shares her perspectives as an SYEP participant and youth employee with the City of Virginia Beach Communications Department.
Maylene Dio

I never would have imagined having a summer job working for the City of Virginia Beach. Growing up in Virginia Beach my whole life, I graduated from Salem High School in June 2019 and from Regent University just this past May. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English, and with a long-lived interest in creative writing, also had flexible ideas about working as an author or a screenwriter. However, I had not put much thought into a municipal job —or my thoughts about my home city in general—until last March, when I learned that Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation offered an annual Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) through its Youth Opportunities Office.

For eight weeks this summer, I worked as an administrative assistant for Community Engagement, a division within the Communications Department. From office projects to City Council meetings to off-site events, every experience in this job was a chance for me to build a deeper understanding and appreciation for my city and how it is operated.

While working in the department, I quickly realized the amount of effort the City puts into reaching out to all corners of the community. This summer, I researched the names and contact information of more than 550 associations for the City’s neighborhoods - houses, condos, duplexes and other homes - along with some of the City’s property managers. This task would enable Community Engagement to build and maintain direct connections with homeowners for news and other critical updates.

Pretty soon, I found myself thinking about the people in every neighborhood and apartment complex I passed while driving around the city on weekends. Through this one task, it helped me understand the value of community engagement and ensuring our residents are informed and up to date on initiatives that impact them.

In the past eight weeks alone, I have learned more about the life in my home city than I have had in the past two decades. The summer employment opportunity presented a variety of experiences for me to learn about the value of municipal government, communications and community engagement.

During my first week of work, I attended one of City Council’s informal meetings. I was excited to explain to my family about the City’s projects involving recycling, flood protection, affordable housing and more.

Two weeks later, I joined my supervisor Nancy Bloom, community engagement manager, in organizing and guiding a delegation from Miyazaki, a sister city of Virginia Beach located in Japan, on a tour around the Municipal Center. Several weeks after that, I joined the Creative Services division of the Communications Department for video shoots at the Oceanfront and the future Bow Creek Stormwater Park.

This summer reminded me that nobody ever stops learning. As I continue to explore my future, I am excited to learn more about what’s in store for my community and how I can be a part of it. I am forever grateful to Ms. Bloom, Ms. Aimee Bellanger, my job coach, Parks and Recreation, the Communications Department and everyone who made the SYEP and my summer experience possible.

About the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)

The Summer Youth Employment Program is held annually to provide Virginia Beach youth aged 16-21 with the opportunity to develop skills, set career goals, earn money and become financially empowered by placing them in meaningful summer jobs. This year, 137 youth employees were placed in job opportunities within the City of Virginia Beach in more than 15 City departments.

Interested youth can apply in January 2024 when the application period opens. SYEP is also looking for businesses interested in participating as an employer. For more information about the program and to apply as an employee or employer, visit

Contact Information

Parks & Recreation Administration

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