Thousands of students from all over the state of California gathered in Sacramento on March 14th, 2011 to march through the pouring rain towards the Capitol building. Signs with bleeding ink read "CUTS HURT," "Save Our Schools," "TAX THE TOP, NOT THE BOTTOM," and another that read "Do Not Go To School, Go Directly To Welfare, Do Not Get A Future, Do Not Get Education Funding," designed to parody a Monopoly game card. The energized crowds worked themselves into an organized frenzy, with some people beating on drums and others bleating out frantic cries with plastic vuvuzelas.
"Education is going in the toilet," said Savannah Bethany Dowell, a 20-year-old college student of Modesto Junior College. Her major was culinary arts, but due to recent budget cuts, those courses are no longer available to her.
"These cuts are affecting my ability to be employed, and employable, in the near future; they're affecting my ability to get into a career I'm able to advance in."
Dowell's story is only one example of just some of the human costs of the Californian educational system's budget cuts. She explained how her options were quickly running out, about how being unemployed and living off food stamps was taking a toll on her outlook on life. When asked where she would have to go from here if things continued down the same path, she said, "probably the military. It's the last haven for anybody with half a brain who wants to get some kind of an education. And even that's iffy."
Montrell Williams, a 20-year-old unemployed student at Santa Monica College studying construction management, explained how with very limited financial aid amounting to 1,000 dollars per semester, if not for his grandmother putting him up in her home, he'd be in a very precarious situation. "I eat less, I budget more, and I am literally forced to have more of a solid focus on getting out of school faster," he said. "It's sad, that I'm hungry a lot, but you don't complain about it; you just do your homework."
Tobil Holmes, an unemployed and homeless 29-year-old film student of City College of San Francisco, lives without support from any family members or financial aid. "While going to school I was essentially in the shelter at 8th street, just struggling really hard to try and make it work," said Holmes.
But facing the reality of raised fees and living in poverty, the prospect of continuing his education is looking harder with every passing day. "It's very stressful being broke," said Holmes, "I have to worry about getting something to eat every day."
Outside of the Capitol building, the massive crowd shouted "Let the people go," a biblical allusion to the struggle to break free from Pharaonic powers.
"Everyone deserves an education," said Holmes. "What they're trying to do is dumb down the youth."