My 99% Story: A New Career Shutdown by Wall Street’s Greed
And How I’m Fighting Back
by Stefan Fritz, a leader in the North Park Justice League (@NPJusticeLeague), Northside POWER, and the IIRON Student Network
In May of 2009, I graduated from North Park University with a degree in Mathematics and certification in Secondary Education. I was lucky enough to get my first job at the very well respected Maine South High School. Everything was looking up for me. But a few months into the school year I heard murmurs of budget cuts. Soon after, school district-wide meetings began popping up on the calendar to discuss the growing deficit of the district’s budget. The housing crisis was causing property tax problems, and this is how the district gets most of its money. For the next six months, I was uncertain if I would be cut from the budget line. I spent the majority of my first year of teaching wondering if I would have a job the next year. In the end, the district let go of 75 teachers and 62 other staff positions, and as a new teacher, I was one of the ones to go. Finding openings at other districts was impossible; every school was tightening its budget, and the few schools that were hiring would only take the teachers with more experience.
All the while, I had student loans breathing down my neck, and I was finding that this education that I had spent so much money on wasn’t getting me out of debt. My source of income would come to a halt, but my loan payments sure wouldn’t. I would have been able to pay off my loans by this year 2012 if I had been able to keep my job, and now I don’t know when I’ll be able to pay them off. I had followed all of the rules, and was set up for failure. Go to school, work hard, get a degree, get a job, and climb the economic ladder. This is the story I was told was true, but it is a lie.
In the midst of my stressful, unsuccessful job search, God led me to seminary. And I am thankful for that. The Lord has called me into ministry and has once again made all things come together for God’s good. While in school I am temporarily safe from paying my loans and have a great scholarship that pays for my tuition. However, I must take out more loans to cover living expenses, and the interest on my already existing loans continues to rise. I am safe from my loans now, but when I get out of seminary, I’ll be in even more debt than I was when I graduated from college. I do believe that when I finish seminary, I’ll be able to find a job and work on paying my loans, but that will only happen through prayer and taking action. My job was taken from me because Wall Street crashed the economy, and I want to make sure that does not happen again.
But how do I fight for a fair economy and help create a stable financial environment for myself and others? I organize. What I’ve come to find during my time with the North Park Justice League and the IIRON is that alone, I will never be able to hold accountable the big banks and financial firms that caused my job loss. Part of God’s call on my life (and all of our lives) is to seek justice, and that must become part of my ministry as a church leader. This is easier said than done, though. Learning how to organize churches and mobilize congregations to act justly requires some training, and thankfully, IIRON provides such a training. After attending the clergy training last year, I now have an excellent toolbox to organize a congregation/community. If you’re clergy or a seminary student interested in attending such a training, there’s one coming up real quick – April 26th. I highly recommend this for anyone who is involved in ministry and wants participate in restoring righteousness and justice. People of faith, let us unite!