Our fifth and final excursion across the United States during
the last week of August took us to the Great Plains, where we
visited two towns of similar landscape, but spoke with two Gen
Nexters who couldn't have been more different.
Stop No. 1 for Judy Woodruff and the Generation Next team was
the small farming town of Leoti, Kan. Leoti (pronounced Lee-o-tah)
is home to a few grain elevators, a large feedlot and miles upon
miles of farmland.
Judy interviewed Cole Carpenter, a 24-year-old farmer who learned
how to work the land from his grandfather Dale Appl. Cole is married
to a schoolteacher in Leoti and has spent most of his life in
the town. Unlike many of his peers, he has no intention of leaving.
Judy spoke to Cole about his decision to become a farmer, a career
that frequently entails hardship and uncertainty and depends each
year upon the whims of mother nature.
Cole and Dale also explained how Cole has helped introduce new
technologies to the farming operation, including GPS devices that
help improve efficiency and reduce costs. And, unlike past generations
of farmers who did not have the luxuries of cell phones and satellite
radio, Cole has lots of gadgets that help him stay connected to
friends and the outside world as he works the land.
After Leoti, we drove west to Colorado -- and arrived in Pueblo
as the Colorado
State Fair parade marched by. Later that afternoon, Judy and
the team met Sgt. Gabe Ballejos at his home. Gabe joined the Army
directly out of high school, looking for an opportunity to travel
and a way out of his sleepy hometown. Three days
before 9/11, he re-enlisted, and on his 22nd birthday he arrived
in Iraq for his first tour of duty.
Now potentially facing a third tour, Gabe was both stoic in describing
his sense of duty and emotional when talking about the relationships
he has made and left behind.
Over the next few days, we spent a significant amount of time
engaging this young man -- joining his family in a musical worship
service, enjoying a weekend barbeque and watching Gabe train at
his base on Ft. Carson.
Finally, we returned to the Midwest to meet a 23-year-old woman
struggling to complete her education with three young children
in tow in Michigan. LaKeesha Perry lives in Detroit and attends
classes at Focus HOPE -- a mechanical training institute still
building on what remains of the auto-industry in the "Rust
Belt" of America. Six of her 11 siblings are on welfare,
sitting at home, she said, doing nothing. This bothers her, so
she is determined to build a different life for her children and
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