Recession's High Schoolers Scale Back Life Goals

World leaders started gathering in Toronto Thursday for the G-20 summit. It opens Friday, and one of the key topics will be how to keep the world from slipping back into a recession.

For some Americans, the recession never really ended, and it's still hitting children especially hard, CBS News Correspondent Seth Doane reports.

Last year, CBS News saw how schools were providing a lot more than just an education. Even as teachers are being laid off or furloughed, schools are still filling a gap.

Principal Hook still welcomes his students every morning but not the changes at Montclair High School. The news that the recession has come to an end doesn't translate to what he sees.

"That's what I read in the paper, but here in the school it doesn't seem that way," Hook said.

Budget cuts have almost doubled the size of a freshman-year English class in southern California from 20 students last year to 36 next year.

A year ago, CBS News interviewed two students reeling from the recession.

"What the recession means to me is not being able to afford the things they really need," Kristen Beltran said in 2009.

Her dad, a welder, had lost work.

Today they're still five months behind on the mortgage although business is starting to pick up.

"There's still that stress every now and then, but now it's just like, OK, we've been through this before," Beltran said. "We can make it through."

She says dealing with so much has made her stronger, an outcome her former classmate Faith Herrera wouldn't have anticipated after her dad lost his job.

"What the recession means to me is losing my dream house," Herrera said in May 2009.

One year later, she's happy with her home. She focused on school while her parents got back on their feet.

"I'm going to college," said Herrera. "My mom and dad are getting some work now than before, and I feel comfortable here, my new home."

She's comfortable but hardly complacent.

"Each day you're, like, thinking, is this going to happen again? Is the recession going to come back? Is it going to get worse?" said Herrera. "So I think, yeah, it kind of sticks with you."

In fact, in a CBS News poll, more than two-thirds of parents said the recession had affected plans for their children's futures.

"I wanted to be a dentist, but I kind of saw how bad it was going to cost my family and me," Herrera said.

Now she's studying to be a dental hygienist at a community college. Beltran got a similar recession reality check.

"Originally I wanted to be an obstetrician," she said.

Instead, she'll study to be an ultrasound technician.

While both families are now in better shape, Beltran's mom might've said it best: "there's a light at the end of the tunnel... we just don't know how far off it is".
  • Seth Doane

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