We wake up really early — 5 a.m. — which is hard for me since I’m used to sleeping in. I put on lots of layers — a long-sleeved sweater, a hat, boots, and a handkerchief. It gets hot, but we need to wear it all in order to protect ourselves from sunburn later in the day. We have to bring our own food and water. In the mornings, mom packs lunch for both us (usually sandwiches and beans) and then we head out together.
The issue is particularly troubling in Merced, which ranks third the state in the number of disconnected youth, or people ages 16-19 who are neither in school or employed. Nearly 12 percent of young people here fit into that category, at exactly the age when young people are desperate for a job or educational path forward.