National Youth Administration

By: Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr.

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: September 24, 2020

The National Youth Administration was established on June 26, 1935, and operated for eight years. It was first under the general auspices of the WPA (see WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION), although its administration was essentially independent. In 1939 the NYA was transferred to the Federal Security Agency, and in September 1942 it was placed under the direction of the War Manpower Commission. The national director during this entire period was Aubrey Williams of Alabama. In Texas there were two state directors, Lyndon Baines Johnson (1935–37) and Jesse Kellam (1937–43). The administration at the state level included the director's small staff of assistants, an appointed state advisory board, and local advisory committees in the counties. The purpose of the NYA was to provide education, jobs, recreation, and counseling for male and female youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. Among the most important NYA projects was the student-aid program. It provided financial assistance in the amount of six dollars a month for high school students, fifteen dollars for those in college, and an average of twenty dollars per month for graduate students. In exchange the students performed part-time jobs, usually as clerks or maintenance workers. An out-of-school work program provided jobs for young people who had dropped out of school or who had graduated and were unable to find employment. Participants worked part-time for wages of ten to twenty dollars a month. For the most part, they worked on highways and roadside parks, playgrounds and schools, recreational parks, and public buildings all over Texas. Other out-of-school projects, such as the agricultural training center for men in Luling, or the teaching program in stenography and general office practice for women at Blinn College in Brenham, included on-site housing and were called resident training projects. Financial need was a criterion for participation in both the student aid and out-of-school programs. A third program, only partially effective in Texas, was the Junior Employment Project, which worked through the Texas State Employment Service to counsel and place youth in full-time employment. It successfully placed over 5,500 people by November 1937. Even less successful was the Apprentice Training Program, which was intended to be a direct feeder to private industry. It was ineffective in Texas, as well as in most other states, because of fear that it would antagonize labor unions.

After the beginning of World War II, in eleven resident training centers in Texas, young men and women received instruction in skills vital to the defense effort-welding, sheet-metal work, woodwork, and radio repair. After their training they were sent all over the nation to jobs in private companies with defense contracts. After this program was inaugurated, other aspects of NYA operations were phased out, and financial need was eliminated as a requirement for participation. The NYA continued to function in this manner until 1943. In Texas the NYA operated a separate program for Blacks, which had its own advisory committee and such projects as the domestic service training program at the Prairie View A&M resident center. Although the NYA had a better record than other New Deal relief programs, the number of Black participants never corresponded to the percentage of Black youths on relief. Hispanic Americans participated in the NYA in Texas, but unlike Blacks they were not listed separately, and it is difficult to determine how many were involved. After lengthy debates in Congress in 1943, the NYA was voted out of existence. In pleading their case the opponents of NYA argued that it was expensive and no longer necessary. The overall effect of the NYA in Texas was beneficial. Between 1935 and 1943 more than 175,000 students received assistance that enabled them to complete their education, and more than 75,000 were employed in the out-of-school programs. At such places as Inks Lake State Park and the restored La Villita in downtown San Antonio, Texans continue to enjoy the results of the work of the National Youth Administration.

Christie Lynne Bourgeois, Lyndon Johnson's Years with the National Youth Administration (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1986). Christie Lynne Bourgeois, "Stepping over the Lines: Lyndon Johnson, Black Texans, and the National Youth Administration," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 91 (October 1987). U.S. National Youth Administration, National Youth Administration, Texas, 1939 (Austin, 1939).

Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr., “National Youth Administration,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
September 24, 2020