Hope And Change In Mississippi

seth doane hitting home greenburg mississippi CBS

For high school senior Jasmine Lafayette, hope and change aren't just political slogans. Hope is what she has and change is what she needs, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.

"I know God has something better in store," she says.

Jasmine counts out quarters to put gas into her car.

"I try to do it before I make it to the gas station - because sometimes it can be kind of embarrassing," she said.

Her tank's never been full - she buys her gas one gallon at a time.

It's no wonder they call this part of America the home of the blues. The Mississippi Delta is rich in culture … but that's about it.

The poverty rate in Greenville, Miss., is about 2.5 times the national average. There's struggling nearly everywhere you look.

And in Greenville, poverty is color blind.

"it's my little bitty bathroom - again, no rod for the shower curtain, but again, no hot water anyway - so it doesn't matter too much," said Heaven Thronson.

There's not much to see touring her apartment.

"You have to be dirt-poor, living under a bridge for someone to say, you know, this person really needs help," Thronson said.

Does she feel like she needs help?

"Everybody does … but I believe I'm one of them," she said.

In her cupboards are spam, salt and pepper. That's it.

She applied for food stamps, but didn't qualify. Does she feel kind of caught in the middle?

"Like I'm getting screwed - because I'm working so hard to only come close to making ends meet," she said.

Read more about Seth's reporting in Greensville on Couric & Co.
She works hard at a café - a bit ironic, perhaps, given the state of her own cupboards.

"I think everyone in America, unless you're Bill Gates, struggles," she said.

Thronson dreams of owning the café one day, but making just more than $200 per week plus tips, that seems like a long-shot.

Across town, Jasmine Lafayette has a dream of her own: college.

She's at the top of her class, but her school day is interrupted two or three times a week because, at 17, she's the caregiver to her disabled mother.

"I just leave to go take care of business for her," Jasmine said. "Going to the doctor, getting bills paid, go pick up prescriptions. It's tough, because it's only me and her, and it's been like that ever since I've been in the world."

Her dad died before she was born - her mother's been disabled as long as she can remember.

They barely make it, living on benefits checks of less than $1,000 a month.

Today, the little bit of gas gave her the chance to get a little bit of food.

"We learned that if you just sit around and dwell in the state of depression and the state of where you are, 'oh, I don't have this, I don't have that,' well, look at the things that you do have," she said.

What Jasmine has most of all is a lot of hope, which might make up for having only a little bit of change.
  • Seth Doane

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