By CANDICE CHOI and EILEEN AJ CONNELLY
While a few hundred have been camping out in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, many more join in for a few hours or a day to add their voices. Here’s a look at some of the protesters who ventured by in the past week, and the financial issues they’re dealing with:
John Smith, 31, of Brooklyn, N.Y., works part time at Trader Joe’s because he hasn’t been able to find work in his field for over a year, despite having a master’s degree. He has about $45,000 in student loan debt. His girlfriend, Meropi Peponides, 27, a graduate student at Columbia University, will have about $50,000 by the time she graduates.
“I don’t know in the end what exactly this will achieve, if anything. But if it makes people wake up just a little bit, it’s worth it,” Peponides said. “The potential is huge. That’s why I’m here. I felt the potential somehow.”
Smith said he has sent out about 200 resumes in his search. He’s looking mainly for work with non-profit organizations. “The jobs that I’ve been applying for are all entry level jobs in my career field. I don’t think I’m shooting for the stars trying to get those jobs.” Smith said, noting that five years ago, before grad school, he was able to get work at that level.
He was carrying a sign that said, “I am the 99 percent,” a slogan that resonated with him. “It’s true. I am one of the many people that are having a lot of trouble finding ways to make it through things right now.”
Tracy Blevins, 41-year-old Manhattan resident, has a doctorate in biomedical science but lost her job as an adjunct professor at Touro College this spring. She’s since been getting by on odd jobs; most recently, she acted as a cross-country driver for $2,000.
“I’m earning money off a license I got when I was 16, and still paying off the loans I had to take out to get my degree,” she said.
Even after nine years of paying down her loans, Blevins said she owes $10,000. She’s current on payments now, but said the loans have crippled her credit score and even prevented her from getting work in the past.
“I have paid and paid and paid and I still owe $10,000. It’s the interest that keeps me in debt,” she said. Read more…