Xposure Greenburgh in the New York Times
FOR the most part, they are shielded, their parents seldom letting on
what is really going on. But trouble has an insidious way of making
itself known, and 11- and 12-year-olds in the Town of Greenburgh seem
to have slowly come to realize that the American economy is dreadfully
Jasmine Bradwell, 11, whose exuberance is crowned by a ready laugh, knew something was wrong when she visited Costco two weeks before Halloween. They had plenty of candy, "she said. "Last year they were out."
Her assessment that people are not buying as much candy may be less than authoritative because she was in Costco before the season's peak, but Jasmine has also seen how many stores are seductively trumpeting sales and she worries that people have become gun-shy about shopping. Christmas and her birthday are coming up, and perhaps she won't get as generous presents as in the past.
Lordess Turner, 11, was recently selling chocolates to raise money for her school and, she recalled, "People said they couldn't pay for it."
"The stock market is going down, and they don't get as much pay as they used to," she said.
Jasmine and Lordess were among a dozen children, most of them sixth and seventh graders in Greenburgh's schools, who sat around a table at the Theodore D. Young Community Center chatting about the economy. They are part of an after-school practical-business program that Greenburgh is running under a $335,000 contract with a nonprofit firm, the Xposure Foundation.
The students will learn the mechanics of applying for jobs and good etiquette and habits at work. They will also receive $12 a week to save or invest as they see fit. Some money may wind up in partial shares in the stock market, so the students could soon learn about the maddening capriciousness of that beast.
The students, for the most part, don't watch news programs or read The Wall Street Journal regularly, but the bad news is out there in the ether in remarks dropped at the dinner table, in stray comments from relatives, in sudden moves friends make because a house has been foreclosed on. Some end up worrying and wondering, even if their parents try to cheer them up.
Giovanni Sanchez, 12, learned that an uncle had been fired. Keyonah Bratton, 11, learned the same about a cousin of hers. Awa Nyambi, 11, a slight, bright-eyed young man, has a mother who works at a hard-hit travel company in White Plains. "Mom was talking about the stock dropping and how they may have to let go of some people, people who work on her team," he said. "They don't have all the money to afford to keep them on the team."
Adriana Bailey's father works for the New York Stock Exchange, though, like many other 12-year-olds, she doesn't know precisely what her father does.
"Lots of people at his job are getting fired, and he;s afraid he'll be in the next round," she said.
Her eyes glimmered, and she looked palpably upset and a little confused. "He used to buy a lot of stuff, jewelry and laptops," she said. "He has to stop buying it."
For one thing, these children are clearly sensing the desperate maneuvers of high finance and the United States Treasury.
"Popular banks like Chase are taking over little banks," Jasmine said. "People are losing their bank accounts. My mom changed to Chase. Before she had her money in HSBC."
In many ways, they know their parents days of wine and roses are over at least for a while.
Ciarra Williams, 12, has a friend who had to move back with her father after her mother lost her home.
A lot of people are losing their houses because of the high mortgage, and its causing poverty, she said.
My moms friend, their house is about to go into foreclosure because she couldnt pay, Jasmine chimed in. It was a nice house too.
Teara Williams, 12, Ciarras twin sister, noticed how her school was trying fund-raising gimmicks like talent shows so it could afford to maintain the school and buy supplies.
And the students are mad at the way grown-ups have frittered away money, even as our new Gilded Age has been turning to dross. Jasmine wondered what was the need of a new Yankee Stadium when the old one did the job perfectly well.
I could see if something was wrong with the building, but who needs a new stadium? she said.
That sparked an echo of outrage from Ciarra. Theyre going through a depression and they think about a stadium? she asked. It makes no difference whether its old or new.
Their sense of the nations financial meltdown is already influencing their plans for what they will do with the money they earn. Theyre thinking of investing in stocks that rely on what people always do, good times and bad. People have to eat even if a depression hits. So McDonalds was a stock the students touted.
Im going to invest in Apple, Jasmine said. They make a lot of money iPods, iPhones, computers. People like that stuff.
That brought a chuckle from Raymond L. Thomas Jr., Xposures executive director.
Its always the kids who know when the next big thing is, he said.
But Jasmine quickly confessed to some second thoughts about her money.
Ill put it in savings, she decided. Because the way the stocks are going. Im going to lose.