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Grim reality of economy relayed to seniors
RUMFORD -- The grim reality of this economy was relayed to seniors from Mountain Valley and Dirigo high schools last Wednesday, but the news was not all bad.
During a seminar about future educational opportunities, Dist. 92 State Rep. Matthew Peterson
Rep. Matthew J. Peterson (D-District 92) addressed the Class of 2012 during a recent seminar. "Business as usual is over. (But) You can still make it with hard work and being flexible.”
He began by tracing the history of his family in the Rumford area. “Our town (Rumford) was laid out so people could walk to the mill and the downtown area. It created a close-knit community."
Peterson said that when his grandfather graduated, it was expected that they would go to work in the mill. “That is no longer true for my generation or for you."
He outlined four keys to success in the new economy.
“First, use the resources around you such as your teachers, guidance councilors and Mr. Gilbert (MVHS principal). The Androscoggin Valley has an abundance of resources and networking with people from different jobs and backgrounds is an important life skill."
“Second, play to your strengths. Focus on what you do best and become better at it."
“Third, embrace change, but don’t let go of your values. Life is about going out on the limbs — because that’s where we find the fruit. The economy is different now than it was just a few years ago and those who succeed will have to take calculated chances to change their businesses and themselves."
Peterson cautioned, “Hold on to your values as you take these chances.”
Finally, there is no substitute for hard work. Peterson quoted many philosophers by telling students to that "success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence. And if we rest, we rust."
Peterson's words certainly resonated with his audience.
Senior Kate Cote said, “It was depressing – all those unemployment facts – but I liked listening to Representative Peterson.”
“It was cool that he graduated from here,” reflected Jamaica Ford. Peterson was a member of the MVHS Class of 1996.
“He hit the nail on the head about how important infrastructure like good roads and bridges is in regard to the economy, especially in Rumford,” said Alex Parent.
Peterson also urged students to Google Don Peck and middle class. “The economy has changed so the middle class is at risk.”
He quoted Peck’s article in the Atlantic at length. “It’s hard to miss just how unevenly the Great Recession has
affected different classes of people in different places. From 2009 to 2010, wages were essentially flat nationwide — but they grew by 11.9 percent in Manhattan and 8.7 percent in Silicon Valley. In the Washington, D.C., and San Jose (Silicon Valley) metro areas; job postings in February of this year were almost as numerous as job candidates. In Miami and Detroit, by contrast, for every job posting, six people were unemployed. In March, the national unemployment rate was 12 percent for people with only a high-school diploma, 4.5 percent for college grads, and 2 percent for those with a professional degree.”
When he stated the unemployment rates for people with a high-school diploma, there was a noticeable hush. For some students, the grim reality of the current economy is sinking in.
Peck wrote, “Job losses have been far more severe in middle skilled white and blue collar jobs than in either high skill, white collar jobs or in low skill service occupations.”
Indeed, from 2007 through 2009, total employment in professional, managerial, and highly skilled technical positions was essentially unchanged. Jobs in low skill service occupations such as food preparation, personal care, and house cleaning were also fairly stable. Overwhelmingly, the recession has destroyed the jobs in between. Almost one of every 12 white collar jobs in sales, administrative support, and non-managerial office work vanished in the first two years of the recession; one of every six blue collar jobs in production, craft, repair, and machine operation did the same.
To conclude the presentation, Peterson invited the students to join him for a day in Augusta during the legislative session.
“I’ll pick you up, we’ll have breakfast and you can follow me for the day, either in the House or in committees.”
Rep. Peterson represents Andover, Byron, Roxbury, Rumford, Weld and Plantations of Rangeley and Sandy River, plus the unorganized territories of West Central Franklin and Madrid Township.
Also participating in the day were freshmen, who listened to the outlines of several technology courses offered by Vocational Region 9. Some got to sit in a skidder seat, learn about the many tree species harvested, or watch older students climb a firetruck ladder.
Seniors also learned the ins and outs of writing college essays, financial aid and the college admission process.