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WHO ASKED US?—Young People on Budget Cuts and Their Futures

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Silicon Valley Debug,The Know, Commentary, Various Authors Posted: Mar 06, 2010

On March 4, young people, parents and teachers in more than 30 states marched to protest budget cuts to public education. The demonstrations were particularly widespread in California, where massive budget cuts have crippled elementary schools, high schools, community colleges and universities.

Three young people--in Fresno, San Francisco and San Jose--speak to how the budget cuts are affecting them and why they supported the massive protests.

Dasen Thao, 18, Freshman, California State University, Fresno

FRESNO – On March 4, 2010, I joined hundreds of other people in a march to advocate for better higher education and stop the budget cuts in our state.

None of my friends went, but still, I went with the crowd and I got on the bus that took us to the march location. Immediately, they asked me to help make signs, which made me feel empowered, as if I were part of this important movement.

Being part of this impacts my life since without higher education I would not know where to turn. My mother is a Hmong refugee and she has high hopes for me. There are times when I see her so upset and stressed that she wants to leave this world behind to be with my father, who passed away a few years ago. I feel like my siblings and I have disappointed her. She can’t tell the world that she has a son who is done with college and has obtained a degree.

But no matter the consequences, I know this fight to stop the budget cuts to education is not going to be an easy road. Regardless of what may come, there are people who are willing to support me.

This was my first time being part of a large demonstration. It made me feel motivated and involved with my campus community. Just seeing all of the faces and feeling the positive energy got me pumped up. The time has come for us as students, staff, and faculty members to take a stand and strive for our rights.

Walter Lopez, 22, Sophomore, San Francisco City College

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco welcomed thousands of protesters with open arms and a sunny sky yesterday and I, a 22-year-old San Francisco native, was one of the youth who joined the masses. The goal was to be heard—the budget cutbacks are not what we need as a state or as a nation. We, as a unit, made sure that our voices echoed throughout City Hall.

I suppose you can call me a late bloomer for lack of better words. I struggled to find myself as a youth and dropped out of school in the tenth grade. My past mistakes have come back to haunt me now that summer school is being completely canceled at my community college. It will now take me much longer than I had planned to transfer out of San Francisco City College and into UC Berkeley, where I hope to go.

I was on track until I realized that I couldn’t meet my required units because of my inability to get into a required math class. I thought I could take that class in summer school instead, but now summer school has been canceled. My last choice is to take the same class at another community college, but I may not get in, because there will be an influx of students from San Francisco trying to get into their summer classes.

This means I may have to put my dreams on hold for at least another six months, if not longer.

My career goal, as it is right now, is to become an editor or a writer. I also would not mind helping others as a teacher, but my passion is writing.

We all have a right to learn, and sadly it seems as if our right is being taken away from us. California used to be a Mecca for those in search of freedom and opportunity, but it seems as if our state is dilapidated, standing on its last legs and leaning on the will of the people to hold it up. Only time will tell how far our efforts will go, and for now we can only speak out and force the government to acknowledge us and our needs. We can only hope they’ll listen.

La Mar Williams II, 24, applying to De Anza College, San Jose for next year

SAN JOSE -- My educational dreams are to support myself and fund my future education, and to get pretty damned good at traditional animation. My parents would like to see me graduate, and do work that I enjoy doing.

I've only applied to school recently, and it's been a few years since I dropped out of art school, so things like tuition hikes don't affect me as much as some others. It is strange, and a little disturbing, that my registration date for classes isn't until two weeks before classes start, especially considering all that I've been hearing about shrinking class sizes and ever-expanding waitlists. Not to mention, the field of traditional animation isn't in very high demand anymore, so I do fear that in the budget cuts, the classes I'd like to take could just as well end up canceled. That is, for me, the most frightening trend, because it could lead more students to choose majors based on popularity and job market viability over personal growth and fulfillment.

I didn’t attend the march because I had to work. However I am supporting the movement -- which affects every student of every stripe -- by spreading the word, and giving information to those students who feel further removed from the problem posed by the state budget cuts.

I don't feel like opportunity is dying in California. If anything, I'd say there's more opportunity now than there would be if everything were in proper working order. Every time something goes wrong -- classes are canceled, fees are raised, students can't get into classes -- it is an opportunity for creative and enterprising individuals to take action and see to it that the student community is properly served. Necessity is the mother of invention, and right now there's no shortage of necessity, I'm sad to say.

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