By: Bradley Neal
Mel Leviton graduated in 1998, and is still paying her student loans in 2011. Now she is occupying Moscow.
“I had been watching the Occupy Wall Street movements before they actually started,” Leviton said.
Her daughter, Sarah Sundquist, was a co-founder of Occupy Moscow who pulled her mother into the movement a few months ago.
Sundquist said her mother’s interest in the movement stemmed from her care for people. No matter how busy she is, she is still helping Sundquist with the movement.
“She is willing to be active,” Sundquist said. “Provide the same care (as Leviton’s parents gave her) and opportunities for me.”
Sundquist said even though her mother has a job, her mother’s student loans have added to Leviton’s anxiety with the economy.
“I don’t know if I’ll be employed in a month,” Leviton said.
The local movement has had its fluctuations in the number of people actually protesting. Leviton said anywhere from a couple people, to as many as 25 people will show up for the protests.
“We’re all people who probably wouldn’t come into contact with each other,” Leviton said.
Leviton was born in Sacramento, Calif. but grew up in Idaho Falls. She left Idaho at 16 and moved around to different states, while spending the majority of her time in Idaho because she loves the people who live here.
“I always do this rubber band thing with Idaho,” Leviton said.
Leviton went to Urban Community College at the age of 22 while pregnant with her daughter. She graduated with an English degree from Idaho State University in 1998. Leviton said she chose the degree because “people don’t know how to write.”
After graduation, she became a substance abuse counselor for children with drug and alcohol abuse problems.
Leviton has lived in Moscow for 12 years. Her daughter is attending the University of Idaho and her son is working in Brazil. She works full-time for DisAbility Rights Idaho as a legal advocate to help write grants and reports. DRI is an advocacy and lobbyist group for people with disabilities in Idaho.
“I think it’s something that touches a lot of people,” Leviton said.
She met her partner in Moscow. They were friends for a couple years, and have been together for 9 years.
Leviton said her children are not ashamed of who she is, but she is cautious of talking openly about her relationship, because her partner is worried people in the community may not fully accept their relationship.
Leviton’s partner has had a particularly hard time with her small business in Moscow. Leviton said she is consistently denied loans to help build her business, and the banks usually suggest having a friend or family member loan them the money.
“It was ridiculous for a banker to tell someone that,” Leviton said.