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Dreaming Of New York, Hawaii Grad Heads East

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Dreaming Of New York, Hawaii Grad Heads East

Dreaming Of New York, Hawaii Grad Heads East

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Now we go to another big tourist destination. Hawaii has wonderful beaches but some young people who live there feel the state does not have much in the way of career opportunities.

As part of our series on new graduates, Setting Out, Ben Markus of Hawaii Public Radio reports on a Hawaiian who's hoping for better prospects on the mainland.

BEN MARKUS: At the University of Hawaii commencement ceremony, graduates were separated and lined up by college. Ryan Kam remembers making an observation to his fellow liberal arts grads.

Mr. RYAN KAM (University Graduate): So yeah, when we were in line, we saw - you notice the different colleges and then you see all like the people that are in a really short line for the College of Engineering. Those are the people with jobs and people in our line - people without jobs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARKUS: He was simply stating what everyone around him was probably thinking. Twenty-two-year-old Ryan says his work experience likely won't help much either.

Mr. KAM: Well, I mean I have like a background in retail, which is an equally useless skill. Because it obviously doesn't take much to ring up a cash register, you know?

MARKUS: Also, there isn't the kind of diversity of jobs here you'd see on the mainland. Tourism dominates and it offers few opportunities or upward mobility, especially for history majors. So the life-long Hawaii resident has set his sights on a city a world away - New York. Over his shoulder, a subway map is pinned to the wall of his Waikiki apartment, a souvenir from a semester he spent at Queens College.

Mr. KAM: Oh, I think you start to really, to really fall in love with the city just, you know, the more time you spend there.

MARKUS: For Ryan, the allure of New York City's culture and history exceeds any job opportunities the city may offer. Oh, and his girlfriend lives there. Surprisingly, none of this worries his parents.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARKUS: The Kam family gathered one Saturday evening for pizza at their home in Kailua, a sleepy beach town 20 minutes outside of Waikiki.

Ryan's dad, Frank, who's a musician, says he's not concerned about his son's future - exactly the opposite.

Mr. FRANK KAM (Musician): Yeah, I'm kind of excited because I want to see what happens. Because like I said, he's the kind of guy that can make things happen.

MARKUS: In between bites, his mom, Diane, who's a massage therapist, adds that Ryan has always been a meticulous planner. She calls his move to New York a fantasy, and she means that in a good way.

Ms. DIANE KAM (Massage Therapist): Planning ahead, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, I'm going to go, go, and youre like, yes, go for it. Go son, go, you know, do all the things that, of course, we dreamed of when we were kids but never carried out. I always had that aspiration.

MARKUS: Diane joined the Navy out of college because she couldnt find a job with her business administration degree. While stationed at Pearl Harbor, she met Ryan's dad, who had a gig playing his guitar at the base, and she never left.

Diane labels her family solidly middle class. Ryan's grandmother helped him pay for college, leaving him with no student debt. Not too long ago, Ryan told his mother something that hit her hard.

Ms. KAM: He said he wants to be in a better position when he's our age than we are, so that's like every parent wants their child to do better than they did. Every generation has gotten better and so now we are at that point where this generation, they don't know if they are actually going to be able to do better than the parents did because of our economy.

MARKUS: In fact, economists say this is possibly the worst job market for college graduates since World War II. That doesnt deter Ryan. He still plans to leave for New York in August. He'll try to work for a year, put money away, and apply for law school.

Mr. R. KAM: As far as I'm concerned, evading the real world for a little bit is not a bad idea, especially with the current economic climate. Law school is a great way to kill time.

MARKUS: He hasnt had any bites on the resumes he's sent out so far. He's not picky. He's open to working almost anything until law school.

For NPR News, I'm Ben Markus in Honolulu.

INSKEEP: Tomorrow, as our series continues, we'll meet one of the lucky ones, though his success did require a change of plans.

Unidentified Man: I wanted to work for Lehman Brothers, but then, you know, that kind of didnt happen.

INSKEEP: So we'll find out what he did, tomorrow on MORNING EDITION.

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