Wednesday, April 30, 2008

College Life

Prescription Drugs Aren’t Extra Curricular Activities
By Kat Piracha

Not your typical class requirement, or is it?

It’s your average college campus. A hallway of white walls, bulletin boards with campus activity dates, doors labeled with the names of the residents who reside within on carefully decorated construction paper. Who would suspect that behind these doors a group of co-eds has configured an intricate drug-trading scheme.

The whole dorm doesn’t get involved, but the few students who do get creative. This clique does not smoke crack or snort heroin. That’s too passé. History has taught these students that underground drugs like marijuana and crack are too complicated and dangerous to get. There’s a much simpler way to get high. These drugs have no smell to alert resident advisors, and they are completely inconspicuous. They are prescription drugs, such as Zoloft, Percocet, Adderol, and Demerol, to name a few, and on campuses across America, students are abusing them for recreational use.

In 2007, USA Today found that 51% of college students binge on drugs on an average of once a month. In 2006, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 6%of children ages 12-17 try prescription drugs for the first time every month.

I followed a group of five prescription drug abusers on a college campus to observe their behavior. It all starts with their source. In this case, it was a 22 year-old senior named Erin, the daughter of two doctors, a surgeon and a psychiatrist. Growing up around doctors gives her easy access to prescription medication. Erin is in a lesbian relationship with Anne. (The names of the students in this article have been changed to protect their safety and privacy.)

Anne is a complex character, from an intense home. She has a bad relationship with her parents, and being a lesbian has only complicated it. Anne and Erin are full time students with C averages, no jobs and no internships. They spend a bulk of their time at the dorms, if not with each other, then with the other three people in their clique.

One afternoon in Anne’s room, I saw a loose pile of pills on her shelf next to her Ramen noodles, and Kraft’s Easy Mac. When I asked her about them, she simply replied, “from Erin.” She said she had back pain so Erin asked her father for some prescription painkillers for her girlfriend. Erin’s father, who hadn’t seen Anne in years, gave her a palmful of prescription painkillers.

A "gift" from a friend.

Later in the week, Anne needed money for groceries and to go out for the weekend. She called her friend Matt from the boys floor and offered to sell him most of her prescription painkillers. Matt paid her $15, and split them with two friends in his dorm. Later in the week, Anne gave Erin more money to get by.

I later found out that Erin was ignorant of Anne’s entrepreneurial skills. Very rarely did Anne take the painkillers. She was looking for a drug that could numb her emotional nerves. It was clear that Anne viewed drugs as the sole solution to her problems. She had been seeing the school’s counseling services to help her with the strain between her and her mother. One night she was complaining that her whole year in counseling had been a waste because her counselor hadn’t prescribed her any drugs.

Occasionally, Anne did take the prescription drugs. If she were with Matt and his friends they would all take them together, and sometimes smoke marijuana. The possibility of overdosing didn’t seem to alarm any of these co-eds. Perhaps they were paranoid about overdosing before they would take the pills, but after they took them, they didn’t seem to have any thoughts, on anything. Their ritual often consisted of popping pills, smoking marijuana and showing each other their favorite YouTube videos.

They did straddle the border of overdose and high a few times. It curbed their hunger for prescription drugs, but it didn’t diminish their amusement with drugs. At one point, Anne took nine painkillers before going to a bar with some of the girls on her floor who were oblivious to her habits. Later that night, after one drink, she squatted on the muddy floor of the bar.

While clenching her stomach she began to cry and said she was in too much pain to move. The group of girls seemed befuddled as what to do with her. Erin urged her to walk it off but Anne refused. A few girls insisted she go to hospital, but Anne resisted even more. Finally, she revealed that she was cleared of ovarian cancer a few years ago and lied that her pain was a side effect.

Some time later, I met an alumna of this clique named Ryan, who was a full time student with a full time job in an upscale retail store so he could pay for the housing portion of his tuition. He was so unlike any of the other co-eds in Anne’s clique. After sitting down with Ryan he further explained the dynamic of this group.

Anne and Matt had been friends in high school. They went their separate ways in college where Anne began a relationship with Erin. In Anne’s first semester of college, she was kicked out for drinking so she went home to her local community college and graduated with her an associate degree in psychology and a 3.8 GPA. Erin moved back home with her parents and commuted to school. Anne transferred to her current school near Erin and was reunited with Matt. Since then, the three and a few others, including Ryan, began experimenting with drugs Anne had acquired that her doctors prescribed her for "ovarian cancer." Later, Anne began acquiring prescription drugs from Erin’s dad.

It wasn’t long before all of their grades began to drop. Matt is currently on academic probation. Anne’s GPA has dropped to a low 2.0, and Erin keeps dropping classes that she's likely to fail so she can maintain her GPA. She’s scheduled to graduate three semesters late.

“I had to get out of there,” Ryan said about their situation. “Their lives are all on downward spirals and I knew that if I kept hanging around them I’d be failing out of college too.”

Ryan says he is looking looks optimistically to the future. He recently moved out of the dorms to separate himself from the toxic environment. For Anne, Erin, and Matt, only time will tell what will happen to them.

City Life

More Than You Can See
By Roya Yazhari

Look into her eyes. What do you see? A beautiful blonde girl without a care in the world? Or how about a young woman who must have a miraculous life with guys all over her? She must be a girl without a care in the world because in this society, if you have looks, you have everything, right?

Joy Fischer, a student from a small
Oregon town

Joy Fischer, age 20, grew up in the small, lower class town of Gresham, Oregon. She grew up living on “Snob Hill” because in this town, she was considered to be among one of the richest families. At age 15, before entering her freshman year of high school, Fischer moved to Lake Oswego, Oregon, one of the richest towns in the state. Here, she lived in an apartment with her mother and her brother and went from being the richest kid in town, to the poorest.

Students asked Fischer why she moved to Lake Oswego since Gresham was not very far away. She said her mother wanted her to be in a better school district. The truth was, her parents had began divorcing.

“My mom had my sister at age 18 and me at 21. It was not planned,” said Fischer. “My parents got married because it was the right thing to do in the Christian faith. When my sister Christine was born, she was diagnosed with a severe handicap, which meant she would never develop mentally passed the age of 5. This was so difficult on my family. When I was born shortly after, the responsibilities I was forced to take on as the second child were far beyond my years. I had to be my own mom.”

Fischer describes growing up in a household where she had to be mother to herself and her brother. She had to make her own breakfast, walk herself out to the bus stop every morning, and basically be as responsible as possible all the time.

“My father didn’t connect much with me. He never said I love you, and to this day he has a lot of trouble sharing his emotions.” This relationship with her father has led Fischer to be very cautious about any male she lets into her life.

According to the Americans for Divorce Forum, in 2002, 76 percent of the U.S. population had gotten a divorce. This is an alarming statistic. Single mother families increased from 7 million in 1990 to 10 million in 2000. Today, 13.8 million children live with just their mothers. Grimm-Wassil, in his book Where’s Daddy: How Divorced, Single and Widowed Mothers Can Provide What’s Missing When Dad’s Missing, states: “Female observation and perception is dependent upon whether they lost their father to divorce, abandonment or death, and at what age. How and why a father is absent will have an impact on the emotional and material outcome for the child.”

“I have met very few people that come from married, stable families. Those hardly exist,” Fischer says.

Fischer says her father was present for most of her childhood, however his emotional disinterest in her life has led her to feelings of emptiness she has been forced to battle in the last few years. “I am still dealing with these feelings,” Fischer says. “However, I am more in tune now with why I am feeling this why, and how to make it better.”

Fischer says she realized in the last year that it was not healthy to bottle up her feelings, and that she must express them in order to heal and move on. Fischer’s mother, Sonya, has always been very open with her. Fischer explains that what kept her from going down a bad path in life was that she had a great mom.

“My mom told me everything in my entire life. She talked to be about sex, relationships, friend groups, drugs, etc. I feel like I was educated at a very young age. My mom was always very open,” she says.

When asked if her relationship with her mother changed after the divorce, Fischer said, “I had to babysit all the time for my little brother. I think my mother felt that if she made me stay home, I was less likely to get into trouble. Little did she know, I was not the typical rebellious child. I didn’t drink, I got good grades, and my friends were nice!”

Fischer (right) with childhood friend,

A study by the American group for single-parent households showed that children without a father figure in their life are more likely to not go to college. If this is the case, Fischer is the exception. She never let her life circumstances or hardships get in the way of her goals. Her father’s lack of support both emotionally and financially never hindered her from her fulfilling her dream of moving to New York City, going to college, and living the life she had always wanted to live. Most people get to this point in their lives with extreme amounts of help and support from parents. Fischer did it own her own.

Fischer (middle) at a formal event in
New York City

To this day, Fischer has issues with her father that need to be worked out. The fact that he recently remarried someone half his age, and his lack of emotional interest in her are among the many issues she is dealing with.

Behind the pretty face there is always baggage. The stereotype that pretty people have perfect lives must go away. There is no perfection in everything. Money can’t by happiness, and lack of money does not always hinder progress.

Fischer says, “If you have a goal in life and are motivated, you can be your own hero.”

City Life

Citizenship Status Crushes Immigrant’s 2008 Voting Plans
By Sara Bauknecht

As the 2008 presidential election approaches, numerous men and women across the U.S. are eager to take part in an election that may bring about historic change for America. Mihajlo Spasojevic is one of those people—he values America’s political process and wants to be a part of it.

But for Spasojevic, a 34 year-old immigrant from Serbia, voting next November will likely remain nothing more than a dream. He is one of more than approximately 1.3 million legal permanent residents residing in America who will be forced to sit back and watch as others cast their ballots for the country’s next president. Although he pays taxes and has never committed a felony, his pending status as an American citizen prevents him from having a vote and, therefore, a voice in a country that is rooted in the principles of democracy.

Spasojevic, one of the more than 140,337 Serbian immigrants believed by the US Census Bureau to be living in America, came to New York City in 2002 in search of new career opportunities and a fresh beginning.

Mihajlo Spasojevic
Photo by Marija Vajs

“In Serbia, I achieved more or less everything I could have ever dreamed of accomplishing," Spasojevic said. "So when the opportunity came to move to America, I took it because it was a new challenge for me and a way for me to try to develop my writing career from scratch all over again.”

Upon settling in New York City, Spasojevic took time to explore America, a country he had previously never visited. “Although I had never been to America, moving here wasn’t scary because I had grown up under the influence of American culture. Even though I found some things different in America, nothing was shockingly different,” he said.

Spasojevic also did not find his relationship with his family and friends in Serbia to be too different once he had moved because he had always distanced himself from them due to his introverted personality.

“The transition went very smoothly. But I’m a very introverted, private person. So being separated from my family and friends isn’t as bad for me as it would be for someone who is more connected with the outside world,” Spasojevic said.

In the years following his immigration to the U.S., Spasojevic worked at a photo store and completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Marymount Manhattan College. In 2007, he was accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows program, which will allow him to begin working on his Masters degree in English Education in September 2008 while teaching creative writing in New York City public schools.

Because of these accomplishments, Spasojevic is pleased with the decision he made over six years ago to migrate to America. “I’m very happy that I came here, and I am becoming more and more happy about it all the time.”

Due to these positive experiences, and the life he has established in America, Spasojevic decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. “Since I want to stay here, I want to be able to be involved in the election process," he said. "As a permanent resident, you can do pretty much everything except vote. So, since I’m paying taxes, I want to be able to help determine how that tax money is spent through having the right to vote.”

When Spasojevic first applied for citizenship in September 2007, he was asked to resubmit his application because of a spelling error in his personal information that occurred during processing. After submitting his information again and waiting the required 45 days to correct such errors, Spasojevic learned that a similar mistake had been made when his information was rerecorded.

“It is definitely a frustrating experience," he said. "No one ever gives you a straight answer about what is going on, and there is always a cloud of mystery around the status of the situation. I’ve tried filing complaints, but I was advised to drop all of them since filing complaints slows down the application process even more.”

Now, almost eight months after Spasojevic first applied for naturalization, his citizenship status is still pending. “These delays don’t affect my daily life too much, but I was very excited to vote since I think this is going to be a crucial election in the future of America and the world. But it doesn’t look like that is going to happen due to the government offices being inefficient with handling immigration matters like mine,” he said.

Delays in obtaining American citizenship, like those that Spasojevic has experienced, are not rare. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the majority of naturalization applications can typically remain pending anywhere from 14 to 18 months. Furthermore, as the number of immigrants applying for citizenship continues to increase, the average time to become naturalized could grow longer.

In spite of the high volume of naturalization cases that remain pending for extended periods, the USCIS assures immigrants that steps are being taken to make its workforce more efficient. During 2008, USCIS plans to hire 3,000 additional employees to aid in processing citizenship applications, and to quadruple its funding for overtime workers. As a result of these efforts, USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez, “expect[s] USCIS will have completed 36 percent more naturalization cases than last year without compromising national security or the integrity of the naturalization process.”

With between six million and eight million people expected to apply for American citizenship in the coming years, it is too soon to project whether the USCIS’s plans for improved efficiency will accommodate the needs of the country’s immigrants. “But we can only hope for the best,” said Spasojevic, “and just try to relax.”

City Life

An Unexpected Graduation Present
By Amber Gray

For most 18 to 21 year-olds, their daily world is all about the pursuit of fun. Weekends are filled with keg parties, flip cupping, beer pong’ing and bar hopping, and they often carry an attitude that they are entitled to these activities.

The right to wake up Monday morning still hung over from Saturday night, able to fulfill their aspirations and goals because they led the traditional high school life of applying for college, because they are told it is the only way to make it in the real world, graduating and going to that perfect school so they can get a diploma and that great job they “deserve.”

What makes these young people even luckier is that many of them have amazing parents who pay for the path to these dreams, and sometimes even slip a few $20s bills in their bank accounts to help contribute to their crazy weekends, just so they can have the best college experience ever.

But not all young adults take the conventional route. Christine Lewis, commonly known as “Chrissy,” is a 20-year-old Wethersfield, Connecticut native. I hadn’t seen her in nearly a year so when she walked into the local Starbucks for our interview, we ended up talking for hours. Dressed in a frilly pink skirt and a button up top, and sporting new chic blonde tresses, her face was glowing and she looked utterly happy.

Christine Lewis

When she was 17, and a senior in high school, she had similar dreams that many of us are working to fulfill now. She was a proud honor society member, varsity cheerleader, manager for the women’s treble choir and working a part-time job. With the world at her fingertips, she really felt the desire to take on college and continue her success.

“Chrissy was extremely well rounded and had, and still has so many goals she wants to accomplish,” says her sister, Claire Lewis.

However, these aspirations needed to be put on hold. Days before her graduation, Chrissy woke up with pains in her stomach, cramps and morning sickness. “I literally wanted to die. I didn’t know what was happening to me. It was nothing like anything I’ve experienced before,” says Lewis of her experience.

Lewis reflected on a night that happened just about a month previously when she regrettably spent a night with an old flame, Kyle, and found him lying next to her in bed the next morning.

Alarmed about her morning sickness, she immediately took a pregnancy test and when the two pink plus signs showed up, a calm and collected Lewis took responsibility. “I learn from my mistakes, I don’t just make them disappear,” said Lewis, who commonly could be found with a bible in her backpack at school, and morally, knew what she needed to decide. “Abortion was never an option for me. It works for others, but it’s just not in my faith. I attend church, I knew that God had this planned for me and I just knew my parents would be supportive,” she said.

According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, some 560,000 teenage girls give birth each year. Almost one-sixth of all U.S. births are to teenage women. The costs of teen pregnancy are staggering. Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school, less likely to get married, and more likely to go on welfare than their peers and be dependent on their parents.

Lewis’s relationship with her mother was quite different. “The day I told my mom I was pregnant was so nerve racking because she can be very rigid but very loving and understanding.” Lewis’s mother, Marie, said her daughter’s confession was “mature.”

“She told me she was pregnant and at first I was disappointed,” said Marie Lewis. “But we brought Chrissy up as a strong Catholic and when she said she wanted to take full responsibility and love this child, I was relieved she wanted to keep it because my daughter, to me, had made the right choice and would be a great mother.”

The only question that needed an answer was what would be the father’s role in the child’s life. “Kyle was back together with another ex-girlfriend when I found out I was pregnant,” said Lewis. “When I told him, he said when the baby was closer to being born, he would take full responsibility for it but wanted to concentrate on his girlfriend for now. Although it was selfish, I was just concerned about having the father be a part of the baby’s life and didn’t want to fight,” she said.

Finally, Lewis could rest knowing that all she could do now was be healthy and take care of herself. She followed the typical pregnant woman’s nine month journey, attending child birth classes (with her mom), many nights of McDonald’s Oreo McFlurry cravings combined with readings from, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” and shopping sprees at Kids R’ US for the best items for her bundle of joy.

It seemed Lewis wasn’t a kid anymore and she didn’t take it lightly. ”At my baby shower is when I realized I was losing my childhood. I had tons of my high school friends come and when they were leaving they started talking about their plans for the evening, to go out to a party with some new guys they had just met. I got really upset. I knew it wasn’t intentional of them, but I thought that I may never have that life back.”

But Lewis didn’t dwell on what might have been, and instead she regained her motivation. She finally entered into the final stretch of her pregnancy, eight months and three weeks, with a belly bigger than ever. “I hated being that fat. So gross,” she joked.

On January 31, 2006, she felt whopping pains down her back so bad that she couldn’t stand up. “I knew it was it,” she said. “Mother’s intuition I guess.” Her mother took her into the emergency room and almost immediately, her water broke. She was going into labor, at 17, so young and so strong.

“She was a champ. She fought off that epidural until she saw Kyle walk into the room. She knew she was going to slap him because he was late so she gave in,” Claire Lewis laughed.

Marie Lewis, with “Chrissy” and her son, Noah

After seven hours of labor, her son Noah James was born at 4:52 pm. “When he came out I was speechless. I couldn’t stop crying. He was so beautiful. We joked and said he was our future underwear model and he would make mommy lots of money.”

Noah, now 2-1/2, is a big, handsome boy for his age. Lewis and he are inseparable and all of her friends take care of him as if he is their own. “Everyone loves Noah. Often I will bring him to my work at the grocery story and just spend hours there. He is so popular and I always have a baby sitter.” Lewis says.

Lewis and son, Noah

Lewis is now back at school at a community college, working part time and still finding time to be with friends. “I’m 20 years old, there’s no way I’m letting these years get away from me. I still go out and party every now and then. But I keep Noah as the biggest priority in my life,” she said.

Lewis is truly lucky, and has overcome obstacles that many teenage mothers face. “I don’t regret a thing and I couldn’t imagine not having Noah in my life,” Lewis said. “Of course I couldn’t do it without the people in my life who give me the willpower to do so.”

City Life

A Tale Of Two Cultures
By Alexandra Kolbeck

Dressed in blue jeans and a grey and black, striped sweater, Alain Furcajg, a 26 year-old freelance filmmaker, appears to be your average, young New Yorker living in some hipster corner of Brooklyn. His English is almost impeccable. “The Golden Hour” is how he described the time of day during our interview in Union Square Park. Other than a few mistranslated American idioms, no one would guess that Furcajg grew up in France before moving to New York only one year ago.

Furcajg was born in raised in Paris, which is not only the capital of the country, but is also France’s largest city. France, with an estimated population of more than 64 million people, mostly speaking the French language, one can only imagine how difficult the language barrier between French and English must be. U.S. Census data shows that from 1981 to 1990, 23,149 people immigrated to the U.S. from France. From 1991 to 2000, the number of French immigrants rose to 27,444. But from 2000 to 2005, the number French immigrants fell to 22,177.

Although France has a high unemployment rate, the government offers French citizens social protections in employment, as well as affordable health care. These are only a few of the differences Furcajg spoke of when we met one recent Tuesday evening.

Furcajg, a transplanted
Parisian wants to make it
in New York.

The child of an American woman studying abroad in Paris and a Polish textile merchant running his family business, Furcajg comes from a unique background. His father was born in Poland and escaped during World War II to Normandy, France. His family found protection on a farm with two other Jewish families until the war ended.

Thereafter, the family moved to the outskirts of Paris where Furcajg’s grandfather began his own textile business. Years later, Furcajg’s father took over the business. A native of New York, Furcajg’s mother was studying French at the Sorbonne at the same time his father was studying philosophy there. After marrying, they moved to Paris and had Furcajg in 1981.

Furcajg grew up as most French children do with school as their main focus. “School in America is a piece of joke,” he said before he corrected himself saying, “or cake, is it?”

For him, school began at 8:00am and would run as late as 6:00 pm with an hour break for lunch. After school, he said children would go home and spend time with their family, eat dinner, watch an hour of television, if they were lucky, and then study for one or two more hours before going to bed.

“Not many children were able to play sports because you don’t have the time," he said. "On the weekend you have to devote at least one full day to studying so if you played a sport it was only one day a weekend, if that,” Furcajg explained.

Furcajg said that unlike America, colleges do not give scholarships, for sports nor does a college education cost as much. College is France is free unless you go to a private one, and even then, the most expensive college is around $10,000. He also said the level of difficulty in French high school is equivalent to that of an American college.

Furcajg said it is normal for about 90% of French children to fail at least one year of elementary education because it is so difficult. French students also must take the baccalaureate exam in order to graduate high school. For the 60% of those who fail, they must repeat the entire year and retake the exam.

"Finding a job once you do graduate college is very difficult in France because of the high level of unemployment," he said.

However, the French government offers social protection to its citizens for this reason. A full time position in France is 35 hours per week with a six week paid vacation and full benefits. When someone loses their job, they can claim unemployment for up to six months from the government.

“I feel that Americans are very money driven," said Furcajg. "That is not necessarily bad, but France definitely nurtures our people and takes care of them in ways America does not.”

When asked Furcajg what he felt were the main social differences between the French and Americans, he had much to say. “Americans are more of nomads where the French tend to stay at home. French people are also more introverted and conservative," he said. "The French intellectualize everything and complain a lot. They can be very critical.”

When it comes to women, Furcajg feels there is a huge difference in the way they are perceived. There is a French proverb that is well known about women in France. It translates to, “Be beautiful, and shut up,” Furcajg explained. “French women are very quiet. They will never make eye contact with you at a bar or make the first move. If they get drunk and crazy at a party French guys are totally turned off,” he said, adding, “American women are much more open and independent. They are more like dudes and are more open about their sexuality.”

Moving to New York City, of all the places to move in America, Furcajg said he definitely experienced a bit of a culture shock. However, it isn’t the shock you might expect.

“Parisians are bitter and cold compared to New Yorkers,” Furcajg said. “I have no regrets about moving here and have met some very interesting people.” As for the future, Furcajg hopes to continue his filmmaking career and establish himself in New York. He added, “I wouldn’t mind finding love in America if she’s willing to travel with me so I can surf all over the world.”

City Life

Discreetly, And Lavishly Working His Way Through College
By Brian Batista

It is another mild spring morning in the city that never sleeps. Just before 9 a.m., the rush hour crunch is at its peak, and the island of Manhattan is in full swing. As you walk down the major streets of New York City, it is literally impossible to predict the life of the people walking along side you the minute you step out into the crowded streets. It is what makes living in New York a special environment, when their concerns, are not your concerns.

Of these millions of people, one man, named “Alex”, whose real name is not used to protect his identity, is a 21-year-old aspiring fashion designer, attending Parsons School of Design. Like most college students, Alex works to make ends meet. However, he didn’t just go to the Gap and ask for a job application. He knew he needed a significant income to be able to pay rent, save money to start his own fashion line, and pay for other half of school that federal aid does not cover. Alex works as an on-call escort, and woke up one recent morning in the lavish hotel room of one of his regular clients.

“Sometimes, I look at what I do, and need to laugh," he said. "I never thought that I would move to New York and be involved in this field of work. But let’s face it, a retail job is not going to help me pay the rent, pay for some of my school, and keep up with my lifestyle. It was almost a no-brainer to fall into this kind of work. I chose to do it,” he added.

Alex, a native of Miami, landed in New York at 17, after being thrown out of the home of his highly religious family when he came out to them. He came to New York because his best friend had just moved here, and knew he could rely on him.

“He’s six years older than me, and at the time he had just moved into the place we share now, and needed help with the rent,” Alex said. He landed a position as a fast food worker just to make enough for the rent, but as he recalls “it was enough to help with rent and eat occasionally, everything here is so expensive”.

Shortly after arriving, Alex enrolled at a high school to complete his senior year, and that’s where he met the person who introduced him to the underground game of male escorting in New York City. It is a world filled with drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and disposable income to throw around. Upon graduation that summer, his mentor supplied him with fake identification, an online profile, and advice.

“He told me never to have sex without a condom, to never accept any drink or food from a client if offered, and to never give out my real name and address,” Alex said.

Alex would use his fake ID to attend the biggest parties where escorts would roam the dance floor for potential clients. He would also use his online profile to communicate with clients wanting services.

“When I started escorting at 18, I was not making any money at all," he said. "I wasn’t exactly sure what to do and how to go about it, and my (mentor) taught me techniques that would bring me a lot of money, and it did."

Alex described his mating strategy. "I always went for the well-dressed, clean-looking and sometimes older clients. They are usually the ones with the most money. I always went for the highest hourly, or daily, rate.”

The online escort game is an industry that pulls in between $10 million to $20 million annually, depending on the methods used, national locations and escorts, according to industry reports.

Alex has posted himself on a website where potential clients can contact and chat with him directly. In order to keep himself on the site, he must pay $50 a month so he can remain on the market. He has the liberty to post his own pictures and information for any client to see. After a client contacts him and they determine a time and a place to meet, Alex keeps all of his earnings.

The many risks Alex faces in doing this kind of work include sexually transmitted diseases, being ambushed by police and psychical abuse. Since Alex is independently posted, and hired out of a website, he has no means of protection by another person. He is putting his life into his own hands every time he meets with a client.

His clients usually hire him off the Internet because it is discreet and short. The Internet works as a springboard for those looking for no strings attached entertainment, often using fake names, renting out hotel rooms and never transmitting their photographs. Rates and services are posted next to the profiles of each escort, and the potential client chooses from there.

“The clients are scared they will get caught by the police, or that I will “out” them to their wives," he said. "Most of the clients I serve are married men with children, millionaire moguls, traveling business men and city workers. We will meet at a hotel or the home that a married client shares with his wife, during the day when no one is home. Some wish to experiment with drugs or drink before the act. But I never do it because it’s a rule of thumb in the lifestyle--never take candy from strangers.”

Alex said he has heard of some narrow escapes. “Another escort friend of mine almost died last night in the hands of a client who tried to rape him, steal his money, and stab him to death. It is a scary thought to know that could happen to me, and at times it makes me want to stop altogether. To turn to the police is a risk, because its either you will be charged and jailed for prostitution, or your luck will be that the cop you run to for help is an old client.”

Alex left his client at the Gansevoort Hotel that morning, heading for his shared apartment in Chelsea, before going to Parsons to debut one of his final collections for his advanced design class. He will graduate Parsons this semester with a 3.2 GPA and an internship with a major American designer.

“I feel like things are starting to fall into place," he said. "It will only be a matter of time before I land a secure position and I can leave this industry behind me. After having nine steady clients since the age of 19, I have made over $150,000. So much of that money went into school, and buying fabrics to make my own collection. I still live off the money, and am making more of it now. With the exception of my best friend and four other friends in the industry, no one knows what I do. Being discreet is part of the job, and I will soon leave the industry, and stop lying about how I make my money.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Millennials In The New Millennium

Millennials Or Extraterrestrials?
By Kat Piracha

“A new breed of (blank) is about to attack everything you hold sacred: from giving orders, to your starched white shirt and tie. They are called, among other things, "Millennials."

“American worker” is supposed to be in the (blank) in the above statement. But according to two specials from CBS’s 60 Minutes, "The Millennials Are Coming" and "The Echo Boomers," this is how young American adults in the workplace are. It almost seems like they are not speaking of human beings. It sounds like the description of an extraterrestrial attack.

New generations of “Millennials” or “Echo Boomers” are coming, and they are going to replace the baby boomers in the work place, run offices with the most up-to-date technology, and allow coworkers to perform in flip-flops on hot days.

I think I read about this in the Book of Revelation. This is surely a sign of the Apocalypse. First terrorists drove planes into our towers killing thousands of civilians, then the U.S. occupied Iraq, the country is sliding into a recession, homeowners are barely capable of covering their mortgages, and “Millennials” work with their ipods on.

Perhaps many young Americans do seem non-traditional in corporate America. However, many institutions do groom students in preparation for the work place. These “Millennials” go on to blend into corporate America. Is there going to be a 60 Minutes on them? Probably not. These shows are propaganda. The two episodes on young Americans not fitting in with Baby Boomers in the work place seems like a story done because of outraged employers, upset by the few employees that have shocked them.

Take the alumni of college preparatory schools from the Northeast, alumni from private and Ivy League schools and see if they conform to these “Millennial” behaviors. At Maria Regina Preparatory High School for girls in Westchester, New York, a seminar is offered every year for girls in their junior year about etiquette in the work place.

That means at the tender years of 16, these young women are taught that any piercing and/or tattoos they may get in the near future should be able to be covered up when they enter the work place. They are taught to arrive 15 minutes before a job interview, write thank you notes, and not use slang around their employers.

At Saint Gregory the Great school in Harrison, New York a private school for grades K-8, administrators take students from grade six and up on periodic dinners to demonstrate proper dinner etiquette and suitability for the future. These young students are taught to sit up, put napkins on their laps, use cutlery, among other courtesies. Where are these students on the 60 Minutes reports?

Tiffany Mayuga, a recent graduate of Manhattanville College, a private liberal arts and science college has just been hired to work as a part of a marketing company in the Mecca of corporate America, midtown Manhattan.

At the ripe age of 23, her work wardrobe consists of button down shirts and black power suits. She has no tattoos and only one piercing on each ear. “It's unfair to put that (prejudice) on us and assume that because we’re computer savvy we’re inefficient,” says Mayuga. It’s more than the way we dress to go to work, or whether we listen to iPods when we work. It’s about our ability to meet deadlines.”

Tiffany Mayuga defies
the stereotype offered
by 60 Minutes.

Rest assured America. Historian Neil Howe and co-author William Strauss who were interviewed on 60 Minutes have spent a majority of their careers studying generations and have come to the grand conclusion that this generation of young adults will be different from the previous generation of baby-boomers. Shocking.

Both 60 Minutes reports seem incredibly biased. To dissect a generation under a camera lens is a waste of intelligent peoples' time. You don’t have to be a historian or an academic to realize that there will be personality differences between generations. It’s nature. Without progress, we would still be in a cave in Pangaea carving obscure figures on walls.

Perhaps the next time 60 Minutes does a report on an entire generation of Americans they should include every member of that generation, not just the few who conform to a stereotype.

Millennials In The New Millennium

Mister Rogers Says “You’re Special”
Damn Right We Are
By Amber Gray

I remember being in second grade and embracing the feeling of the soft keyboard against my fingertips for the very first time. I sat in awe glued to the computer screen that read AOL 2.0 “Get Connected.” This began my love for technology. I held it in my arms like a newborn baby and waited for more.

The media is defining echo boomers as those born between 1982 and 1995. According to 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer, we have the upper hand. “They are the first to grow up with computers at home, in a 500-channel TV universe. They are multitaskers with cell phones, music downloads, and Instant Messaging on the Internet,” he said.

Is this such a bad thing? What’s bad is that my 45 year-old mother recently asked me to take a typing test for her so she could get that job she’s been yearning for, but is falling short because of her lack of computer skills. However, for Millennials, this is a great thing. There are about 80 million of us, and according to a 60 Minutes report on Millennials, that said, "we’re “rapidly taking over the baby boomers who are now pushing 60.”

While 60 Minutes, as always, tries to get all the angles for this story, I can’t help but be angered by the old wrinkly men who think they still know what’s best for the future. We are the future, not them.

It’s true, as a child I was taken care of. I could even go as far as to say I was spoiled. Catholic school on Saturdays, cheerleading on Sundays, basketball on Tuesdays and Thursdays, piano lessons on Wednesdays, ice skating lessons on Fridays. I did it all and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I was also brought up with good values and was taught that all of these activities were provided because of one thing: Money.

Dr. Mel Levine says it perfectly in the 60 Minutes report that parents put these kids into these activities to create stability and structure. “This is a generation that has long aimed to please. They’ve wanted to please their parents, their friends, their teachers, their college admissions officers.” Although I did live a childhood where I was treated like a princess, it was because my parents could afford to do it and that’s exactly how I want my kids to live.

This story does conflict when it comes to my life. Today, I know the right thing to do is be independent and work hard in school. When our parent’s were 20, they could live an all right life not going to college. It’s not like that for us, so it’s not as if we aren’t working hard. I have a job, pay for my own food, cell phone bill, clothes, hair, nails, and soon, my own apartment. All of my friends are the same way; they’ve grown up with parents who have more than enough money to continue providing for them, but all of them tense up with the sense of guilt when it comes to asking their mom or dad for twenty dollars.

The fact is we aren’t going to settle for anything less than great. I grew up with a father who from age 16 started at one company and continued with it for the next 25 years. Recently, he was demoted because a lot of college kids were flooding the market with revolutionized ideas for the future of his company. I don’t want to be my dad and maybe that could be why we aren’t sticking to one job.

As Marian Salzman reminds us in the 60 Minutes report, “I believe that they actually think of themselves like merchandise on eBay. If you don’t want me, Mr. employer, I’ll go sell myself down the street. I’ll probably get more money. I’ll definitely get a better experience. And by the way, they’ll adore me. You only like me."

I do agree that Millenials may sometimes be too distracted to look up from their cell phones during endless texting, and we may even spend just a little too much time on the Internet. But don’t say that we don’t work hard. More importantly, don’t doubt the genius Mister Rogers, who told us we are special.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Millennials In The New Millennium

What About The Real Generational Issues?
By Jennifer Carbonara

An “echo” is defined as a reflection, an imitation, or a mimicking response to what has come before. Labeling the generation born between 1982-1995 with the term therefore, is not particularly offensive: any generation, after all, is going to be a response to the one that precedes it—it’s only natural.

In 2005, CBS aired a 60 Minutes report on the so-called “Echo-Boomers,” “a generation in which rules seem to have replaced rebellion, convention is winning out over individualism, and values are very traditional.” A mere two years later, however, a new 60 Minutes report aired on the “Millennials,” “the narcissistic praise hounds now taking over the office.” From values and people-pleasing to shallow and demanding—what happened to this generation?

Both specials agree that the “Echo-Boomers” or “Millennials” are intelligent, resourceful, technologically competent, and extraordinary influential in politics, business, and the economy. Both specials also agree that this is a generation that grew up believing it was #1, “special”, and worth celebrating. What the two year’s difference between the CBS reports demonstrates, however, are the two competing views on a generation that is simultaneously the hope for our economy and the demise of corporate America .

This difference in perspective reflects the disparate motivations of each special: the 2005 special focused on the way in which “Echo-Boomers” are a target market in advertising because of the amount and their willingness to spend money; the 2007 special focused on the way in which corporate America is responding to “Millennials” in the workplace. Just to clarify: apparently, it is okay to spend money, just not to make it.

No generation is without its faults. Both specials make it clear that the generation who grew up with trophies for participation and what is known as “helicopter parents,” or parents who hover over their children incessantly, will have its shortcomings when it comes to the reality of failure, criticism, and rejection. It is how the faults transform in these specials from quirky anecdotes about children with schedules full of “Mommy and Me” and “Gymboree” to condescending reports about 20-somethings who want to enjoy their professions, or who live with their parents that raises suspicion.

The faults that in 2005 made this generation endearing and even more economically viable suddenly are “[attacking] everything you hold sacred.” Forget the fact that the “Echo-Boomers” special reports that violent crime, tobacco use, and teen pregnancy are at all-time lows--they have tattoos and don’t wear ties!

In fact, “attack,” “take over,” “shove,” “battlefield,” and “epidemic” are just some of the words associated with the emerging “extraterrestrials” explored in the 2007 special. For a generation that needs to be bottle-fed and Mom-Approved, the “Millennials” sure do seem to pose a threat to the status-obsessed Baby Boomers they are replacing. Keep buying those cars and iPods and trucker hats “Echo-Boomers,” just don’t try to get a job or succeed, especially if you have ideas that might bring about change.

The real question to ask about the new generation is not “friend or foe?”—it is not about how to deal with them, nor is it about how to manipulate their values to make money. It is what can this generation do to change the world. Forget changing the three-martini lunch to happy hour or children’s playtime to “play dates.” What about things that matter. After all, our polar ice-caps are melting, American troops are dying in the Middle East, and it seems like the only change CBS wants this generation to make is to nix the yoga classes and get to the office.

Wake up, Baby Boomers: we have real problems.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Millennials In The New Millennium

It’s Time To Go To Work
But Will Millennials Be Ready?
By Sara Bauknecht

My generation has been trained in everything from soccer and singing to basketball and ballet. We were praised by society for simply being ourselves, and our parents were both our authority figures and our fan club.

But as this generation of Millennials and Echo Boomers, or individuals like me born between 1982 and 1995, prepares to enter the workforce, will our smorgasbord of skills and solid sense of confidence help us climb the corporate ladder of success?

According to a 2005 CBS 60 Minutes report titled, “The Echo Boomers,” the structure and support that commonly characterized the childhoods of many Millennials will hinder us from adapting to the corporate world’s conservative, demanding environment. This news report suggests that the importance of teamwork that coaches, teachers, and parents embedded in our minds during youth will stifle us from acting as individuals and leaders in the workplace.

And, according to some Millennials, this may be a credible prediction. “I do think there is an increase in the number of people in my generation who want to follow,” said Marc Marn, a 19 year-old interior communications engineer for the U.S. Navy. Although Marn feels there could be Millennials who will rise up as leaders in their chosen career paths, he believes, “there are a lot of Echo Boomers who would rather follow than step up.”

Photo by Katie Marn
Marc Marn says more
Millennials want to follow.

While our involvement in group activities that stressed the value of teamwork may prevent us from feeling comfortable being leaders, it is also predicted that the abundant praise we received during childhood may impede us from meeting the demands of the corporate world.

In a 2007 CBS 60 Minutes report, “The ‘Millenials’ Are Coming,” Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow explains that parents, mentors, and media figures like Mr. Rogers conditioned us to believe we were special. Zaslow, therefore, suggests that Echo Boomers will not feel the need to work as hard to succeed since we were raised with people constantly reminding us how wonderful we were just for being ourselves. As a result, Zaslow concludes that Millennials do not have as strong of work ethics to contribute to the workplace as members of past generations.

Like Marn, high school junior Leigh Ann Stephens, 17, believes there may be truth in these judgments concerning Echo Boomers and the workplace. “I am a dancer, and most dance competitions give everyone an award even though everybody doesn’t win first place. Because of this, I think that when people go get jobs some will not want to work unless they are given something.”

Photo by Liz Stephens
Stephens says some Millennials
are used to being “first.”

Although the team structure and praise we were exposed to may complicate our transition into the workforce, these predictions may be too generalized. While these characteristics of our childhoods may cause some Echo Boomers to have difficulties conforming to the corporate world, they also may motivate others and allow some of us to have no problems accepting leadership positions and working hard in order to receive praise.

“I know lots of teenagers and young adults who were extremely involved in extracurricular activities as kids and are now more concerned with becoming strong leaders than with wanting to only fit in with the team,” said Patricia Giffin, 50. A mother of a 20 year-old daughter, Giffin believes that the manner in which Millennials adapt to the corporate world will depend on their personalities and career goals.

Photo by Skip Bauknecht
Giffins says many

Millennials want to
become strong leaders.

And parents like Giffin are not the only ones who feel that childhood experiences may not be detrimental to Echo Boomers’ professional lives. Some Millennials think that participating in team activities and receiving support during childhood helped many of us cultivate confidence rather than damage our chances for success in the workplace.

“People like Mr. Rogers were self-esteem builders for my generation. They did not taint our futures,” said Marn.

With approximately 80 million Echo Boomers expected to infiltrate the workplace in the near future, it is too soon to tell how the majority of my generation will adapt to and impact the corporate world. But while some of us may let the praise and principles of teamwork from our childhoods become roadblocks on the path to professional success, other Millennials may end up being sources of intelligence and creativity that will help the corporate world continue to thrive in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Millennials In The New Millennium

Are We That Bad?
By Brian Batista

We are a culture that is obsessed with labels. It seems like we can no longer hold a conversation without dropping the name of label that our society has placed on an object or subject. This is especially true of the terms “echo boomers” and “millennials”, a label modern society has placed on the future-those born between 1982 and 1995.

The children born in this era are now in their teen years and early twenties, thriving off hopes and dreams, dependency from their parents, instant gratification and text messaging. According to Steve Kroft, a correspondent for 60 Minutes, these elements of youth are making for a grim outlook for the future of American society. During his report, Kroft highlighted the faults of my generation, and why our current actions and lifestyles will not fully prepare us for the dark reality called life that is on the horizon.

As the report discussed my generation, it highlighted how we are too dependent on our parents, live off modern technology, take advantage of every activity offered to us, demand only the best, and expect a pat on the back at the end of the day, similar to the way our parents raised us as the report relieved.

Speaking to “millennials” about this report certainly raised several eyebrows. Diana Ramirez, 21, discussed how not all children have the resources to live off their parents. “I live with roommates, pay rent, work and attend school full time and manage to live a great lifestyle within my means”.

After moving from Boston to New York for school at 18, her parents stopped giving her financial support to teach her that leaving the family household means kissing all comfort and piece of mind of home life, goodbye.

“They explained that if I chose to come to New York for school, I would need to do it all myself, even if they had the means to support me through school. It may have to rough in the beginning, but it taught me to stand on my own two feet. I am confident that I will succeed in the future, without dependency,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez explained that this kind of bittersweet lesson taught by her parents has given her clarity about herself and what she hopes to achieve in the future. “I hit the ground running when I started college. I was not sure what I wanted to do with myself. Being responsible for other things aside from just myself helped me to discover what I want out of life,” she said.

Others feel that it is the full responsibility of parents to support their children as they attempt to succeed in life. However, even with the full support of parents, emotionally and financially, it puts a student between a rock and a hard place, unsure of what one wants to accomplish in life.

Steven Tillberis, 20, has always had full financial and emotional support from his parents. A student from New York University, he is starting to feel the crunch of real life, even before he graduates. “My parents support me, pay for mostly anything I need-clothes, food, cell phone and part of my tuition, with the rest of it coming from student loans” he said.

Even though Tillberis is taken care of in the financial section of his life, he feels he is lacking skills he needs to be able succeed in his career. “I’ve had internships, but that’s about it,” he said. “Since I feel like my parents should support me though college so I can focus on my education, I’m starting to feel like I am too dependent on my parents and life after graduation scares me. I may go back home to Texas after I finish, just because it’s the easiest, and safest, plan to fall back on.”

Two different students with two very different outlooks. This is what the future is holding for us, the determined and the unsure. A cycle that is no different from other generations when looking at it as a whole. The reasons why Ramirez and Tillberis believe we are being labeled “millennials” are the same reasons why the generation before us was referred to as “baby boomers.” People are always obsessed with youth culture because it can be documented from the start. The instant gratification attributed to our generation is in special thanks to our friend, technology. Without it, our society could not have progressed and become what it has today.

Can you really blame us for being born during a time when technology was created that would make our world easier for us to manage?