By Jeff Mays
HARLEM — When asked about the biggest needs facing East Harlem, 1,200 people who responded to a survey said that education, youth services and jobs are the neighborhood's top priorities.
"The results of this survey show that residents are more focused on education and community services than in years past," said David Nocenti, executive director of Union Settlement Association, one of the groups that conducted the survey. "Affordable housing, which ranked in the top three concerns in our 2008 survey, no longer ranks in the top five."
Twenty-three percent of respondents to the survey, which was conducted by both Union Settlement and the Hunter College School of Social Work, said education was the top priority, while 16 percent listed youth services and 11 percent said jobs.
The results come as the City Council announced a pilot program based at the Harlem Workforce 1 Center to help unemployed New Yorkers get their GED.
Richard Reeves, a program coordinator for two Union Settlement programs that focus on connecting young men with jobs and the skills needed to get their GED, said the results show that the community is realizing how important education is in being successful, and also just how disconnected some young people have become from the educational system.
"We have a lot of disconnected young people who are outside of the educational system," Reeves said. "There is a very real need for a holistic approach to education.
Corey Pettaway, 18, said he was one of those people until recently. He began attending job and educational training at Union Settlement in October and is working toward his GED while completing his first internship.
"My grades have improved, my math skills have improved and my resume has changed up a bit," said Pettaway.
Trenton Jones, 18, said he knowns many young people his age who could benefit from greater opportunities.
"A lot of kids don't think they have a chance to stay in school. They don't know that they don't have to quit and hang in the streets. There are other things you can do," said Jones.
Jacqueline Mondros, dean of the Hunter College School of Social Work, said the survey will help the school understand the needs of East Harlem residents as they prepare to move to the neighborhood in September.
"It is very important for us to learn more about the interests and concerns of the local community, and this survey provides some very valuable insights in this area," she said.