BARSTOW • Young local students are stressed out — and it's noticeable when they discuss the uncertainty of their post-collegiate futures.
"A degree is an opportunity for you to get the door open, but it's not an absolute," said 18-year-old Tyler Osejo, a freshman at Barstow Community College who commutes from Phelan.
According to a new study by the American Psychological Association which surveyed 2,020 people, young adults in Osejo's age range of 18 to 33 — known as Millennials — are the most stressed of any generation.
"(Young Americans) report higher stress levels than older generations and say they are not handling it well," the study found.
In fact, 39 percent of Millennials said their stress had increased in the last year, when compared to 36 percent of Generation Xers, 33 percent of Baby Boomers and 29 percent of Matures.
They cite factors of work, money and job stability as their most pressing concerns — far more so than their older counterparts.
Seventy-six percent of Millennials said work was somewhat or significantly a cause of their stress.
Osejo said he fears not being able to find relevant work as a post-grad.
"Now we're no longer competing with just our neighbors, we're competing worldwide," he said.
Donald Marx, 20, is also a student at BCC and too feels the pressure of what awaits him after he's handed his degree: Increased competition amid a less-than-booming job market.
As of December, the state unemployment rate sat at 9.7 percent, with the county rate at 10.8 percent and Barstow at 13.5 percent.
"The college professors will tell you when you're here," he said, "you need to focus because there is somebody else who will take that job you're going for."
Bobbie Bess, 22, is planning to earn her associate's degree at BCC — a benchmark on the way toward one day becoming an elementary school teacher. In the meantime, Bess, who was recently laid off from her job, paints nails on the side and is finishing the school's cosmetology program so she can use that certificate to make money sooner.
She takes the trip to Barstow four days a week from Apple Valley even though she faces transportation issues.
"Sometimes I don't have a ride and I have to get my car fixed," she said. "Everything will work out, though — slowly, but surely, we'll get it done."
The APA study concluded that "(Millennials and Gen Xers) are falling short in their ability to manage stress well."
Rich Johnston, a counselor at BCC, believes it's because, in part, students are putting too much on their plate.
"A lot of their concern is they're not finishing fast enough, not getting the best grades, the pressures they put on themselves," he said. "They need to learn to be comfortable with saying 'no.' "
Johnston said he has noticed a higher level of stress in more students over the last five years. It's no surprise that a smaller percentage of Millennials labeled handling their stress well as important when compared to other generations.
Travis Simpson, 20, alleviates his stress with music and the self-admittedly unhealthy habit of smoking. However, he maintains an unwavering optimism about the years in front of him. Child to a single mom — a teacher who put herself through school — Simpson noted recent salary cuts have "caused a lot of stress in our household."
Hopeful the economy will have rebounded in eight years when he projects to have made it through law school, Simpson wonders if the younger generation is soft.
"The older generations didn't have it easy — you had to work," he said. "I mean, is it stressful — yeah. I just have to try to push myself further."
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.