Natasha Berry, 24, made the difficult choice to focus on her education instead of getting a job, even though money is a high priority for any student. As a graduate student at the New School in New York studying media management, Berry is not always free to take advantage of production jobs because of her schedule.
“For me, being in school, it kind of limits my availability for what kind of jobs I can work and how many days,” Berry told BET.com. “And I'm in the production industry, so it's hit or miss. It's either you can do it or you can't. And if you’re not fully available, on to the next person.”
Berry shared this story at a roundtable discussion on unemployment and minimum wage during a webisode of BET's new web series, What's at Stake, hosted by BET News correspondent Marc Lamont Hill. This week's panelists include Orlando Watson, the Communications Director for Black Media for the Republican National Committee; singer Elle Varner; and Angela Rye, the former Executive Director/General Counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus.
In the video, Berry gave her thoughts about the struggle many people are having in finding work and creating a quality life.
"For me, you're trying to balance the thing that you need, whether it's for your family or an individual, and you're stuck with the challenges of, 'Oh, can I get a job?,'" she explains. "Or when I do get a job, is it enough for me to maintain the basic things: groceries, insurance, tuition for my kids or for myself, whatever. Right now the basics can't even be covered."
In the meantime, Berry explained that her mother recently retired and her father owns a company, but she also has two siblings that her parents have to look after. Berry feels she should contribute to her household even though she does not have consistent income.
"I need to also juggle and not spend my savings when you're not sure of the job yet. You know you can be optimistic but optimism doesn't pay the bills in the challenges," she continued.Berry knows missing out on these opportunities may affect her down the line when she graduates and looks to start her career, but she remains optimistic in the job hunt.
“I know it's about your drive and your effort and your ambition and consistency and all the resources that you build while you're in school and being able to stay in touch and you know, reach out when you're about to graduate. That's how you will be able to set yourself up," she said.
For African-American college graduates, the odds are against them, compared to others in the same age group. The Center for Economic and Policy Research released a report in May 2014 stating that 12.4 percent of Black college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 were unemployed in 2013. This is double the overall unemployment rate for all graduates, which was 5.6 percent.
Berry says before voters put policymakers in office, they need to know who is truly invested in their quality of life and interested in the issues of the generation that will come.
"They need to be aware that even if you're not old enough to vote yet, you still need to know what that process means and what difference it can mean," in their communities, Berry adds.
Follow Natelege Whaley on Twitter: @Natelege_
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