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The summer between junior and senior years of high school, I worked at a state home for people with special needs. My job came through a ‘70s era government program that helped disadvantaged teens. I did not want anyone to know my family was barely making ends meet. But it was hard to hide this in our small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, an area once known for coal mining. The industry dried up in the ‘50s and ‘60s hitting Hazleton hard and the downturn cost my father his job as a driller’s assistant. We moved to Baltimore where he found work at Bethlehem Steel. Three years later the plant closed. When we returned to Hazleton, he was often unemployed, and the year I began third grade my father had a nervous breakdown. After that he wasn’t the same. [read full article]

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