Dreams Deferred

By Liana Loewus — April 16, 2009 1 min read
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A heart-wrenching piece in the New York Times tells the story of 18-year-old Tiffany Clay from Newark, Ohio, a straight-A student and gifted violinist whose ambitions are being stymied by the dreary economy.

As Clay’s high school music teacher explains in the article’s accompanying video, “Tiffany is very, very talented, incredibly smart. If I could uproot her and put her somewhere else, she’d probably be going to Harvard or Yale on a full scholarship.”

As it is, Clay, who moved out of the house at age 16 due to family conflicts and now shares an apartment with her unemployed boyfriend, is focused on a need for financial security. Currently, she works 30 to 40 hours a week making minimum wage as a Sonic Drive-Thru carhop to pay her $345 monthly rent and expenses. “I’ve struggled my whole life,” she says on camera. “And I don’t want to have to do that anymore.”

She dreams of becoming an orchestra director, much like the teacher who inspires her, but has been discouraged by the fact that the music program at her high school—despite recently tying for runner-up in a prestigious competition at the Lincoln Center in New York City—may be slashed from the budget next year. “I understand that if I choose to work in a school . . . and something happens, the music teachers are the first to go.”

Instead, Clay has decided to pursue a more stable career path: nursing. “Everybody gets sick,” she explains.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.