Part-time jobs a ‘worthwhile experience’

For some high school students, the last thing they want to do after getting home from a long day of school is go right back out and devote a few more hours to work. But for others, having a part-time job is an essential part of life.

As of 2017, 19.5 percent of people in the United States aged 16-24 that are enrolled in high school had jobs. Although this percentage is lower than in past decades, the number of high schoolers with jobs has been steadily increasing year after year since its lowest point in 2009, during the Great Recession.

Many ARHS students, including myself, have part-time jobs. I’ve worked at Target for almost a year and a half, so I know the pros and cons of having a job in high school first-hand.

I got a job so I could support myself and have extra spending money. That part of having a job is great, but it can also be hard to balance work with the rest of your life. I wanted to learn more about my fellow students’ experiences working, and how they keep their lives balanced.

There are many different reasons for students to work.

Rachel Kawall, an ARHS senior, has been working at Trader Joe’s since the summer before her junior year.

“I started looking for a job as soon as I was 16 and could legally work at most places,” Kawall said. “My parents wanted me to get a job so I could make my own money and start saving for college. I wanted to be able to have my own income so I could have more flexibility with my money and didn’t have to rely on my parents as much.”

Kawall puts away half of each of her paychecks for college. “I’m definitely a big shopper, so I don’t end up saving a lot of my money besides that,” she said.

Sam Brainin, another ARHS senior, has worked at A.J. Hastings for a year and 6 months. “I decided to apply to Hastings because I loved the idea of working in a community meeting-place for people of all ages and from all places,” said Brainin. “I never know who I’m going to meet when I go to work.”

Brainin says his spending habits are more conservative. “The most expensive thing I’ve ever bought has been a train ticket from Springfield to New York,” Brainin said. “I’m saving a lot of my money for travel later on in life, although I do end up spending money on food more than I’d like.”

Spending money on food seems to be a common theme among ARHS students. Sofia Maroulis, an ARHS senior, finds it easy to spend money on food because of where she works. “I work at Atkins, so I’m surrounded by food,” Maroulis said. “I usually end up getting tempted by something and buy it on my break or after work.”

Another common theme among the students I interviewed was that they genuinely enjoyed their jobs and liked their coworkers. “Trader Joe’s is a very community-based place,” Kawall said. “We’re like a little family. I’ve become friends with a lot of people that I probably wouldn’t have been friends with otherwise. I like everyone I work with.”

Brainin said that he’s met a lot of interesting customers at work. “I’ve become friends with this man who taught history at a college in Pennsylvania for 30 years,” Brainin said. “He retired to Amherst 15 years ago and since I’m interested in human rights and international relations, we have a lot in common and we have really good conversations. It’s a really meaningful relationship.”

Obviously, the main reason most students get a job is so they can make their own money. But I believe that having a job in high school can also help you mature and grow a lot as a person, and others shared this opinion.

“When I decided to get a job, I wanted to have my own spending money, but that’s not the only reason I started working,” Kawall said. “I felt like it would help me become more confident and grown-up. Having a job has taught me a lot of responsibility, and I’ve gotten better at managing my time and my money.”

Although after-school jobs can be enjoyable and beneficial, they also take up a lot of time. Students with jobs have to balance their time well so their schoolwork doesn’t fall by the wayside, and this isn’t always easy.

“It can be hard to balance my job with schoolwork and other activities,” Maroulis said. “If I have to work one night I might just put off my assignments for that night, as long as they aren’t too big. But if I have a really big assignment then I’ll call out of work, or I just drink a lot of coffee and stay up late finishing everything.”

I believe that having an after-school job is a worthwhile experience for every high school student.

It allows you to become a bit more financially independent, and it also helps you learn to save money and build responsible habits.

In addition, you learn how to manage your time, and it can make you more confident in interacting with people that you don’t already know.

“I love my job,” Kawall said. “I’ve learned so much at Trader Joe’s and working there has made me more interested in going into business when I grow up. It’s become a really important part of my life.”