No disenchantment for the youth

by Sara Kiesler and Nate Jackson Everywhere you turn, there’s an alarming statistic about America’s youth.

The Atlantic says unemployment is up 55 percent for those aged 16 to 29. The suicide rate is up. Those living at home between the ages of 25 and 34 has jumped 25 percent.

But that hasn’t stopped Washington’s youth from fighting back--for good jobs, for a better future, and for Congress to wake up and create jobs, not cuts.

Emma Klein holds up "Value People Over Money" sign at Occupy Seattle

On Tuesday at the Occupy Seattle movement in Westlake Park, a crowd of over 400 consisting mostly of students attended to speak out about student loans that are breaking them. Jobs are scarce for everyone, but the students said the challenge is great as they wade under a mountain of debt. They came from all over--Seattle Central Community College, University of Washington, Cornish College and more.

The came down in graduation robes and spoke up about how Big Banks have gotten away with criminal acts and then got bailed out, while the gap between the rich and the poor is the highest its been since the depression.

Chants rang up around the park: "Money for jobs and education not for banks and corporations!" and “"The students united will never be divided!"

Students and recent graduates spoke up about the unfair economy, with corporations making record profits while we have to keep paying more.

"I'm tired of tuition going up, Metro (fees) going up, sales tax going up,” said Liam, a recent graduate who has been involved in the Occupy Seattle movement. “Thank you students for supporting us and we support you!" Other young people are fighting back in different ways, by giving their time and volunteer work as much as possible.

On Wednesday, 18-year-old Kitty Jones attended the protest. Despite having been homeless for part of her youth, the senior at Shorecrest High School is an optimist who believes that giving back is the answer and the media is just trying to scare people.

“Being told there's no hope for jobs or futures, how are kids expected to pull up their boot straps and run head-first into this supposedly hopeless economy?” she said.

Kitty volunteered her time this summer collecting signatures for the United States Humane Society ballot measure to help chickens in factory farms, and eventually got offered a job by the non-profit.

But some young people already in the work force have seen the struggle come to a head.

Emma Klein, 28, waved a sign that said “Value People Over Money” as honking cars passed on Westlake Avenue Wednesday evening.

“I definitely think it’s harder to find a job. A lot of my friends are going back to school and getting higher degrees, which increases debt and doesn’t necessarily increase the chance of getting jobs,” said Klein. “At the same time, especially with a movement like this, because so many people are affected and they don’t have resources to live fulfilling lives, they’re willing to risk more.”

As a professional dancer, teacher and performer, Klein is especially effected by cuts in funding that hurt the arts, but she finds inspiration from the unemployed that have less than her and come to Occupy Seattle every day.

“They could be sitting on their couch, but instead they’re coming out to be empowered.”

Fred Wilson is one of those unemployed who is looking for his power among the protestor carrying “We are the 99 percent” signs. The 25-year old construction worker is currently homeless and looking for work.

“The jobs have been just taken away,” he said, “but I’m OK. I’m here.”