(National Youth Administration NARA RG119)
The National Youth Administration grew from the concern voiced by Eleanor Roosevelt that many young Americans had never held a job. Created in 1935 the agencies charter granted it the authority “to initiate and administer a program of approved projects to provide emergency relief and employment to persons between the ages of 16 and 25 who are no longer in regular attendance at a school requiring full time study and who are not engaged in remunerative employment.” The executive director of the program was Aubrey Williams and Lyndon Johnson directed the Texas office of the agency.
The agency operated from 26 Jun 1935 under the WPA until 1939 when it was transferred to the FSA with the implementation of the Reorganization Act. By 1938 over 327,000 high school and college students were participating in the Student Aid Program. They were paid between $6 and $40 a month for “work study” projects at the schools. Congress distributed money directly to educational institutions for scholarships and grants.
The Works Project Program provided more than 150,000 youth who were no longer in school and belonged to families that were on relief with part-time work and on the job-training. They were paid between $10 and $25 a month, with that money often going to the family of the youth.
NYA offered self-improvement, health benefits, citizenship courses, and vocational guidance. It also provided social opportunities through community youth centers featuring athletics, hobby clubs, dramatics, games, music, and dancing.
Unlike the CCC which was limited to young men, the NYA included young women. While participants most often lived at home, NYA did furnish educational camps for unemployed women between ages
eighteen and twenty-five who needed personal and occupational guidance. The one-four month training period included self-government, cooperative living, and studying the problems of women in industry. Other programs utilized school campuses where participants might live for 6-8 months as they learned a new trade.
Projects were run at the state level and differed according to the facilities, funds, materials, and manpower available. Major projects included construction, public and semiprofessional service, and home economics. Participants learned skills in road and building construction, woodworking, office work, nursing, furniture and auto repair, radio operation, landscaping, blacksmithing, welding, agriculture, and domestic science.
WPA regulated the hours which were limited to 8 in a day, 40 in a week and 70 in a month. The annual budget for NYA was approximately $58M.
In 1942 it was transferred to the War Manpower Commission before officially folding in 1943.
Virgil E. Baugh created a finding aid to the NYA records., “Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the National Youth Administration,” NC 35 (1963). The National Archives at San Francisco (actually located in San Bruno) has over 9 cubic feet of material for the Region 12 of NYA (Entries 341-345 in Virgil E. Baugh, comp).
Look for memoirs and interviews that include reminiscences of time spent in the NYA in archives and libraries throughout the country. You will also find photographs and posters in many collections.
Learn a Little More:
- “Youth Jobs & Defense” NYA The National Youth Administration – Youtube
- National Youth Administration by rigoROD88
- National Youth Administration on LOC
- Work—Study—Live: The Resident Youth Centers of the NYA – Gordon Halstead
- National Youth Administration – Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
- Family Tree Friday: The National Youth Administration (1935-1943)