Jessica Williams says she is lucky. The 27-year-old Cleveland resident has a job that provides health insurance. It's basic and she pays for most of it, but she knows others have struggled far more in this economy.
She wants to hear how President Barack Obama will help people who are unemployed obtain jobs when he speaks today at Shaker Heights High School. And she has other concerns.
“I know people who went to college like I did, and they have mediocre jobs,” said Williams, who went to Case Western Reserve University. “Most of my paycheck goes to student loans.”
Many in Cleveland’s Shaker Square shared similar stories. Some work two jobs, some have moved back home. But things are good, they say. They still have a big wish list for Obama, who is
Hefty student loans are exactly what pushed Chelsea Smith, 28, of Ohio City, out of the Cleveland Institute of Art eight years ago. She ran out of money, she said, and tried cosmetology school. She worked as a beautician for three years. Now she’s back in school at Cleveland State University studying art history.
She wants to know what Obama will do for people struggling to pay off their student loans.
Michaela Kehoe, 24, of Cleveland Heights, graduated in 2009 and majored in international relations and Spanish. She spent two years teaching English in Nicaragua. When she moved back to Cleveland, she had her own place, but has since moved back in with her dad to save the money she makes serving at and to pay off student loans and to travel.
But she said living at home and working two jobs is not so bad.
“I like the flexible schedule. And it allows me to get the experience to travel,” she said.
And business is good at the restaurants — people are coming in and tipping well.
Suzanne DeGaetano, co-owner and manager of in Cleveland Heights, said local book stores are doing better than in years past as well.
"We had a really good season at the bookstore, and I think a lot of of my colleagues, not only in the city but in the county, would say that with the big stores gone, the smaller stores are starting to see business they haven't seen in years," she said.
She said she wants Obama to make sure the government is fair to booksellers — those online should pay sales tax, too.
She still gets several job applications a week, she said, indicating that others have not fared well in the economy. But a few years ago, the age and experience of applicants varied greatly. Now she sees mostly young people.
The unemployment rate in Cleveland in November 2010 was 11.1 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. A year later, it's 9.1 percent.
Clarke Buchanan, 28, of Cleveland, is a full-time employee at Deweys Coffee Cafe in Shaker Square. He's about to get married, and said his job at the coffee shop and work doing freelance graphic design "won't cut it."
But he said people can't rely on the president to solve their problems, and he loves his job.
"I think everybody who works here, even though we make less, loves it because it's a great job to have," Buchanan said.
Byran Marshall has two jobs, too. He works from about 8 a.m. to midnight five days a week.
But he said it’s a choice, not a necessity.
“I don’t have any kids. I just like to work,” the 39-year-old Lakewood resident said. He got out a little early from his job bartending at Sarava and met coworkers at a nearby bar in Shaker Square for a drink. “I like to go to my Browns’ games. I like to travel.”
Marshall wants to hear about how Obama plans to keep art in schools.
He works with kids in several Cleveland City schools during the day at Dance Afrika Dance, an arts program through Art is Education.
“Do not drop the arts. I work with inner-city kids and my words for you right now is that they’re lost,” he said.
Dr. Cynthia Taylor, of Shaker Heights, said her son, who goes to Shaker Heights High, waited in line for tickets to see Obama from the time school let out until about 6:30 p.m. She brought chairs and they ate pizza while waiting.
Taylor has watched as the home prices in her neighborhood have dwindled. But she wants to hear about Obama’s efforts to save public education, which Taylor said is being threatened by charter schools.
“My concern is the state of our education system and trying to instill and excite young people about their future. And for them to have a positive view about their hopes and dreams.”
Doors open at 10:30 a.m. at the North Gymnasium of Shaker Heights High School, 15911 Aldersyde Drive, Shaker Heights.