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A Nation Engaged: Northern Illinois University Students Consider Their Role In The Economy

Jenna Dooley

This week, WNIJ is participating in a national week of conversation along with other NPR Member stations in an enterprise we call A Nation Engaged.

We’re asking this question:  “What can we do to create economic opportunity for more Americans?”

Millennials have a big stake in the economy. DeKalb is home to Northern Illinois University where more than 19,000 students are preparing for careers. Some are thinking in terms of the here and now, while others have their sights set on where they fit into the economy in five to ten years.

We asked students how they feel about their role in the economy, and where they see opportunities for upward mobility.

Ashley Golden, corporate communications and journalism, Chicago

"I think it kind of depends on what you go to school for and if it’s like a demand for your field. So if it’s like not a demand for your field, you’re obviously going to have a harder time trying to find a job. So it’s going to be harder for you to do better in life, going to be harder for you to make more money.

"Honestly, probably once I graduate, I’m going to move back home with my mom because I don’t even have the funds saved now to even think about trying to put a down-payment on a house. I think I’ll wait until I’m about to get married before I make a huge investment like that. I’ll probably just be renting for a while."

Esther Fagbemi, physical therapy, Calumet City

"I don’t think [the economy] will be better than back then because of the cost of living and the government we have; the system is so corrupt now. So I don’t think so. It’s just going to plummet from now on, especially with these presidential candidates we have. I don’t feel like anyone is up to par to change the economy -- for our good, at least."

Jasper Noland, communications and marketing with an emphasis in entrepreneurship and a minor in black studies, Chicago

"I have two or three mentors that I always am talking to. My mentor just told me he’s an entrepreneur, so I’m trying to be an entrepreneur in my own field, which I do barbering. Honestly, you have to make your own money to get up to that type of stature. If people invested in black-owned businesses, we would not worry about that. So being your own entrepreneur and making your money."

Credit Jenna Dooley
Garret Foster

Garret Foster, systems engineering, Rockford

"[My wife and I] are hoping in four years we’ll get a house. But as for the uncertainty, it’s everywhere; manufacturing is leaving the U.S.

"Industrial and systems engineering is mainly manufacturing, so everything is moving to Mexico and China.

"Luckily, I live in Rockford and there still is manufacturing there. So I’m hoping I can find something local. But as for economy-wise, apparently it’s on an upswing. So I’m kind of optimistic to see what happens."

Hugo De La Barrera and Omar Perez

Hugo De La Barrera, mechanical engineering, Schaumburg

"Our first step is getting a job or working from behind, because most of us owe money. So I don’t think we’ll really be an impact to the economy until we're even.

"I guess I am not really concerned about the economy as much as I should be since the economy doesn’t affect me as much – in the way of I don’t have money tied into it. Yeah, it affects my student loans and all that, but that’s minimal compared to like in ’08; you had all your savings and 401K tied up."

Omar Perez, mechanical engineering, Rolling Meadows

"I feel once we get into that job, we’ll actually have some sort of impact and, hopefully, a good amount of money so we can rent an apartment, get a house, and start investing in some stocks. So, hopefully, try to further ourselves and not get stuck in one place."

Join the conversation with @wnijnews at #anationengaged


  • WNIJ's Jessie Schlacks contributed to this report