The recent troubles with DC's jobs program indicate that it was viewed as an entitlement for teenagers. Teenagers, in return, view it as an entitlement. Expecting them to work well and to have useful jobs to do is unrealistic.
The Spring 2008 issue of ArcUser has an article "Techie Teens Use GIS to Increase City Revenues" (p. 49). While the article focuses on the work the kids did, deeper points lie in the article. 6 of 60 kids in Safford, AZ's jobs program were selected to do the work. The work consisted of a fixed project and the kids had to give a report in the end. The kids gained useful skills and are expected to work on future projects.
The implication for DC is to severely scale back the jobs program and to make the jobs part of discrete, measureable projects. Teenagers should apply to work on the projects, thereby encouraging them to gain an internal locus of control. This also means a reduction in DC's democratic centralization. Only a small number of projects should be done in the first year, as everyone gains experience with the system. As experience grows, the number of projects should increase. In no case, should a project be make-work. The projects can range from high value-added things like GIS and IT to simple beautification and clean-up projects. One obvious clean-up project involves removing trash from the Anacostia River. The work will be tough, but the benefits can be made clear to workers, and the money is still money.
So, imagine the results. Kids will have shown their willingness and ability to do hard, useful work and the initiative to take those jobs. This will look good on college applications.