Rough Economy Impacts Young People Too The economic slowdown has an impact on Americans of all ages. "I'm not made of armor. I just want to be a kid again," says one young person, who is feeling the impact.
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Rough Economy Impacts Young People Too

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Rough Economy Impacts Young People Too

Rough Economy Impacts Young People Too

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Cohen. There's a lot of concern of how the economic crisis will affect our nation's youth in the future. But young people are already living out the downturn right now alongside the rest of us. Youth Radio brings us the perspectives of three young women whose lives are getting harder as a result of the nation's financial troubles. We'll here first from Janay Powers (ph) of Oakland, California.

Ms. JANAY POWERS: Back when I was in third grade, I was the first person at my school with a cell phone. In junior high, my closet was always filled with designer brands, gifts from an older sister and grandmother. Now, I'm 16, and things have changed in the economy and in my family. Three months ago, my sister was laid off and now, she counts on me to put gas in her tank.

My grandmother was once the financial foundation of the family but now, I see her struggling, too. If family members needed a loan, she would give it to them, but her willingness to dig loved ones out of their financial holes is how she ended up in her own money pinch.

My grandmother took over some of my mom's financial responsibilities when my mom started struggling last February. This left my grandmother with an extra house payment, two storage rental bills and also, my sister and me to take care of. So now, when family members ask for help, she says, I can't. I'm broke. Or, I'm not made out of money.

Helping my sister and grandmother forces me to save any money I earn to make sure we all get through this financial hardship. But I don't mind helping out because it allows me to repay them for how they used to spoil me.

COHEN: That's Youth Radio's Janay Powers. Next, 19-year-old Blanca Cabrera (ph) in Longmont, Colorado. The economy is making her rough life even rougher.

Ms. BLANCA CABRERA: Like lots of kids my age, I'm living at home with my parents, trying to finish up school and squeezing in 24 hours of work on the weekends in my uncle's ice cream shop.

Most of the money I earn goes straight to medical expenses. When I was 10, I found out I had diabetes, and then, when I was about to turn 14, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called lupus, which can make me feel really weak, with no energy for anything.

I take like seven prescription pills a day. Even with Medicaid, they cost between 1 and $3 per bottle, and then there's the over-the-counter stuff, which I pay for myself. For example, I have to take baby aspirin every day. Recently, the prices went up.

Sometimes, I'm tempted not to take my medications, but if I don't, I'll have a flare-up right away, which means a trip to the hospital and sometimes a blood transfusion. That's 40 bucks for gas, plus paying for lunch while I'm there.

With all the economic mess going on, a normal teenager is probably worrying about the clothes, the food, or whether they can go to the movies. But with my medical condition, I'm concerned about more serious stuff, like my personal survival.

COHEN: That's Blanca Cabrera. Denise Tejada (ph) may be what Blanca calls a normal young adult, but she says her responsibilities leave little time for fun, even if she did have the cash to pay for it.

Ms. DENISE TEJADA: For many immigrants, this financial crisis is the enemy of accomplishing the American dream. My family's story is a little bit different than other immigrants struggling to make ends meet. We've been in America 13 years and are in a more comfortable position than most.

But there is one thing we have in common with newer immigrants. The land of opportunity has suddenly become workaholiclandia. My family consists of four members with a minimum of two jobs each, but with the economy getting worse each day, it's gone to three jobs each. These days, my parents are depending on their kids' contributions to the household bills.

I'm a college student balancing three jobs. My daily routine on a typical Friday is 12 to 3:15, school; 3:30 to 9:15, work; and 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., working my other job. There are times I come home from work angry because I haven't slept, and I'm too tired to sit down to talk.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not made of armor. I'd like to just be a kid again and not have to worry about next month's bills. But I know this struggle is part of my dad's dream of seeing his kid be successful in the long run.

During the current crisis, while many people have lost their homes, my dad is thinking this is the perfect time to buy another house at a much lower value, and my brother's following the theory. He's the first American-born family member to buy his own home. I know my dad's tough love is what's getting us through these hectic times and through the bumpy roads of workaholiclandia.

COHEN: Denise Tejada, living in Richmond, California. You also heard from Blanca Cabrera and Janay Powers, and the essays were produced by Youth Radio.

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