12/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

"The Great American Detour"

This summer, I took a road trip across the country to see what's really on the minds of young Americans at this critical moment in American history. I've never been across the U.S. by land so I was excited to see this big and open country of ours.

High gas prices and a curiosity to talk to as many people as possible inspired me to ditch the car and hop on the bus. I was given twenty days and ten bus tickets to document young Americans living the issues that we hear so much about, but rarely see.

The first stop on "The Great American Detour" was Houston, Texas. Houston is one of the most uninsured cities in America. Candy, 25, works as a bartender while applying to medical school. She can't afford the monthly payment for health insurance and save for medical school at the same time. Her last dental bill cost her over $2,000. Like a lot of her friends, Candy knows the risk of not having insurance, but having it is not an option.

From Houston, the bus took me to Port Arthur, Texas considered one of the most toxic places to live in the country. One of the first things you notice in Port Arthur is that it smells. It's the smell of industry and high rates of cancer and asthma that young Port Arthur environmentalists are concerned about.

From Texas, I headed north stopping in Berea, Ky. to check out a tuition-free college. I wanted to see what it's like to go to school without the debt often associated with a college degree. There, I met Charlie, a twenty-something Berea student who is thankful for the school's tuition-free model because he can get an education without having to mortgage his future.

From big cities to small towns, the theme of the war followed me across the country. On one bus, I met a group of high school best friends on one last road trip before one of them enlists in the Marines. In seat eleven, just next to me, I met an AWOL soldier on his way back to the U.S. from Canada to turn himself in after deserting his army unit.

For most of my detour across America, the economy also took center stage. On a bus going to Louisiana, I sat next to Shane, a construction worker who travels to California for three months at a time to work because he can't find work in Louisiana. In Detroit, I spent the day with a young schoolteacher talking about the economic worries in her hometown. Ten minutes after interviewing her, she called me saying the school district laid her off because there aren't enough students to teach now that families are leaving Detroit to find work in other cities.

I spent twenty days zigging and zagging my way across the country, speaking with dozens of young Americans about their concerns and worries. Despite the hardships and challenges that so many are facing, I come away from my journey with hope for a generation often accused of being apathetic. Why? Because this is a critical time for America and the youth are feeling it.

- Lauren Cerre, "Vanguard" Correspondent

Lauren Cerre is a producer for the award-winning "Vanguard" unit of Current TV journalists. "Vanguard" airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT. "Vanguard" pods are also available on

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