CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When she was a kid, Sabrina Shrader used to go with her dad and her three brothers and sisters into the woods of Twin Branch Hollow in McDowell County to hunt for ginseng that they would sell to local dealers. Anything to make a little extra money.
Shrader was born into poverty. So were her parents. And her grandparents. And her great-grandparents.
Now 29, she is working hard to break that generational cycle. In 2002, she became the first member of her family to finish high school. She is the first member of her family to graduate from college. Come June, she's on track to be the first member of her family to earn a master's degree.
It's not been easy. Shrader and her husband both have jobs, but they still struggle. She said she hasn't even thought about having kids because she doesn't see how she could support them.
"Even if you work hard, even if you do everything that you're supposed to do, you still can't make ends meet," she said Wednesday.
Shrader fought through sobs to speak to legislators at the Our Children Our Future Symposium, taking place at the Capitol during interim legislative meetings. She and other community leaders were there to put a face on the issue of child poverty.
Shrader works at Concord University in the Upward Bound program, helping low-income high school students in Mercer, McDowell, Summers, Monroe and Greenbrier counties prepare for college. The program offers counseling and tutoring, and on Saturdays its staff members take students to tour college campuses and museums. Shrader went through the program herself and credits it for her success in college.
Under the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration, Upward Bound's budget has been cut by 5.2 percent this year.
"That's 10 kids that we have to turn our backs on," Shrader said.
Joshua Napier, 20, got his job, which he loves, on March 15, 2012. His daughter was born the same day, two-and-a-half months premature.
Napier will qualify for Medicaid in January under the expanded eligibility offered by the Affordable Care Act, but he doesn't have health insurance now and he was uninsured when his daughter was born and had to spend months in a neo-natal intensive care unit.
That's led to a year and a half of haggling with the hospital over bills, trying to pay what he can and being told again and again that it's not enough.
"It's awful not having health insurance," Napier said.
Napier works as a carpenter for Coalfield Development Corp., a nonprofit, turning dilapidated buildings in Southern West Virginia into low-income housing.
Before getting his current job, he had cycled through three fast-food jobs in two years, earning next to minimum wage and dealing with demanding, unpleasant customers. Putting up with bad attitudes is never easy, Napier said, but it's that much tougher at $7.25 an hour.
"It makes you realize how hard it is to work fast-food jobs," Napier said.