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National Youth Organization
Editor’s Note: This entry includes an introduction, a copy of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 7086 Establishing the National Youth Administration and a statement the President made when the Executive Order was published on June 26, 1935. This is followed by a letter the President sent to Aubrey Williams on the occasion of his retirement from NYA dated September 7, 1943.
Introduction: The National Youth Administration (NYA) was a New Deal agency designed to provide work and education for young men and women between the ages of 16 and 25. Launched on June 26, 1935 it was originally a component of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), headed by Harry Lloyd Hopkins. In 1939, following passage of the Reorganization Act, the NYA was transferred into the Federal Security Agency. Then, shortly after the start of World War II, the NYA was put under the War Manpower Commission (WMC). The NYA ended in 1943.
From the beginning, the Executive Director of the NYA was Aubrey Willis Williams, a prominent social worker and liberal who was close to Harry Hopkins and Eleanor Roosevelt. In a 1937 speech before a conference
of university administrators and secondary school officials, Aubrey Williams reported:
“…With regard to whether or not the methods employed by the National Youth Administration tend to weaken rather than strengthen the moral fibre of our Youth, that can only be answered fully by detailed following through of the youths who have taken advantage of these opportunities. Enough of the record, however, has been made already to indicate that not only has this thing tended to attract and give opportunities to young people who were strong, but it has left them indeed, if anything, stronger because of what they have done in connection with the National Youth Administration. For, four years now those youths given work in the colleges of the Nation by the National Youth Administration have been among those averaging the highest grades in their respective schools.
“From information received from 291 colleges in 31 states–168 of those colleges, or 57.7%, reported that NYA students made higher, grades than non-NYA students 71, or 24.4%, reported that there was no essential difference in the grades of NYA students and non-NYA students 31, or 10.7%, reported that non-NYA students made higher grades two, or less than 1%, reported that NYA students made below average grades. Seventeen, or 6%, reported that NYA students made above average grades. Two, or less than 1%, reported that NYA students made just average grades.
“From information received from 432 high schools, in 14 states–154, or 35.6% reported that NYA high school students made higher grades than non-NYA students 82, or 19%, reported that there was no essential difference in the grades of NYA students and non-NYA students. One hundred and thirty four, or 31%, reported that non-NYA students made higher grades. Twenty two, or 5%, reported that NYA students were above the average. Twenty one, or 5%, reported that NYA students were equal to the average. Nineteen, or 4.4%, reported that NYA students made below average grades
“As a matter of common knowledge, we do not have much to fear about this business of making softies of those young people who are eligible for work with the Youth Administration–they come from either families on relief or in such obviously hard bitten circumstances that the daily provisioning of enough food, obtaining funds for the month’s rent, and patching daily the clothes on their back, involves the whole family in the struggle….”
Executive Order 7086 Establishing the National Youth Administration. June 26, 1935
By virtue of and pursuant to the authority vested in me by the’ Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, approved April 8, 1935 (Public Resolution No. 11, 74th Congress), I hereby establish the National Youth Administration, to be within the Works Progress Administration established under Executive Order No. 7034 of May 6, 1935.
There shall be a National Advisory Committee and an Executive Committee for the National Youth Administration. The members of said National Advisory Committee shall be representatives of labor, business, agriculture, education, and youth, to be appointed by the President ….
The National Youth Administration shall be under the general supervision of the Administrator of the Works Progress Administration and under the immediate supervision of an Executive Director. I hereby appoint Aubrey W. Williams as Executive Director thereof to serve without additional compensation. The said Executive Director shall also be a member of the Advisory Committee on Allotments, established under said Executive Order No. 7034 of May 6, 1935
I hereby prescribe the following functions and duties of the National Youth Administration:
To initiate and administer a program of approved projects which shall provide relief, work relief, and employment for persons between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five years who are no longer in regular attendance at a school requiring full time, and who are not regularly engaged in remunerative employment.
In the performance of such duties and functions . . . the Executive Director is hereby authorized to accept and utilize such voluntary and uncompensated services and, with the consent of the State, the services of such State and local officers and employees, and appoint, without regard to the provisions of civil service laws, such officers and employees, as may be necessary and prescribe the duties and responsibilities and, without regard to the Classification Act of 1923, as amended, fix the compensation of any officers and employees so appointed; Provided, That, in so far as practicable, the persons employed under the authority of this Executive Order shall be selected from those receiving relief.
Allocations will be made hereafter for administrative expenses and for authorized projects.
A Statement by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the National Youth Administration June 26, 1935.
“Satisfactory progress in setting up the work program for the unemployed is being made. This program calls for the removal of unemployed from direct relief to jobs and should be well under way during July.
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.
In recognition of this great national need, I have established a National Youth Administration, to be under the Works Progress Administration.
This undertaking will need the vigorous cooperation of the citizens of the several States, and to insure that they shall have an important part in this work, a representative group will be appointed to act as a National Advisory Board with similar Boards of citizens in the States and municipalities throughout the country. On these Boards there shall be representatives of industry, labor, education and youth because I want the youth of America to have something to say about what is being done for them.
Organizations along State and municipal lines will be developed. The work of these organizations will be to mobilize industrial, commercial, agricultural and educational forces of the States so as to provide employment and to render other practical assistance to unemployed youth.
It is recognized that the final solution of this whole problem of unemployed youth will not be attained until there is a 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 cooperate whole-heartedly with the National and State Youth Administrations in the furtherance of this National Youth Program.
The yield on this investment should be high.”
Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Statement on the National Youth Administration.” June 26, 1935. The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid
President’s Letter to Aubrey W. Williams on His Resignation from the NYA, September 7, 1943
I have your letter of resignation in which you thank me for the opportunity of serving as Administrator of the National Youth Administration. I want to thank you for that service—for the great job you have done in the splendid human and democratic enterprise of giving over four million young people a chance to acquire training and education through work.
I can well understand your statement that you leave the N.Y.A. with regret. I, too, regret the termination of this great activity for American youth. Nevertheless, while Congress brought an end to the N.Y.A.’s existence nothing can end the long results of its usefulness. It would be difficult to evaluate the proportions of the resource which this training of young men and women has been to America in the war crisis. You have a right to pride and America a reason for appreciation in the fact that at the time its functions ceased N.Y.A. was continuing to render a ‘national war service by supplying 30,000 young people, thoroughly trained in some skill, to essential places in the production program every month.
We may rejoice together in the confidence that whatever is done with respect to young people in the future, we know that through the National Youth Administration a valuable contribution has been made to our knowledge and experience in assisting young Americans to make the greatest use of their capacities for themselves and for their country.
Very sincerely yours,
Hon. Aubrey Williams,
National Youth Administration
Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Letter to Aubrey Williams on His Resignation from the N.Y.A.,” September 7, 1943, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid