Young Adults Putting Their Dreams Aside
Dos Palos, Merced County — Dos Palos, Merced County —
A Salvadoran flag wrapped around his neck to block out the sun, Geremias Romero hunches low to the ground alongside the other laborers, following the tractor along rows of cantaloupes.
He reaches into the leafy green rows of fruit, touches a melon to gauge its ripeness, and then tosses it into a cart, where another laborer boxes it. Walk, pick, toss. The pattern goes on all morning.
Harvesting cantaloupes for $8.25 an hour isn’t the job that Romero, 28, dreamed of as a child. Born in Newark, N.J., to immigrant parents from El Salvador, he graduated from high school and has taken classes at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and Merced Community College. He has experience as a special education teacher but, unable to find a teaching job, he’s started working in the fields.
Hard work is OK
“I’d rather keep myself working than get in trouble,” he said, wiping his hands on his ripped jeans, stained with grass. “My dad started from nothing. He worked hard, so I don’t mind working hard, too.”
Many young Americans are finding themselves worse off than their parents were at their age, without jobs or working below their skill and education levels. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 17.4 percent, up from 10.6 percent in 2006.