The Collegiate Work Force

Although it may appear to be relatively easy to be a high school student, many adults sometimes forget the difficulties of finding balance between school, athletics, and social life. Some brave students also decide to incorporate a part-time job into their already busy schedules. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, around 5 million teens and counting are currently employed. Although many teenagers get jobs over the summer, few Collegiate students keep their jobs during the school year. Having a job on the weekends or after school is a sacrifice of free time, but some students are happy to do it. Despite getting paid low wages, the money is often what drives students to get jobs. With the common teenage habits of eating out regularly and shopping on their own, having a job enables the students to be conscious spenders and relieves the parents as well. Although jobs can bring some students stress, having a job as a student can teach work ethic, time management, and a greater appreciation for the value of money.

Tidal Wheel participants usually get special recognition for their 100th class. Photo credit: Tidalwheel RVA.

Mary Ottley (‘17) is sometimes described as one of the most hard-working students at Collegiate. Friend Kate Surgner (‘17) describes Ottley: “She does everything with so much tenacity and grit, and it’s shocking in the best way possible. Her passion for what she does goes unmatched. Running several clubs, meeting with teachers, and being captain of the varsity girls tennis team, it is hard to believe she has any time for a job. Although it may not be a typical job for a high school student, Ottley works as an exercise instructor at Tidalwheel, along with with Tana Mardian (‘17). Their job involves teaching and encouraging a class to cycle for about an hour. If you’d like to catch one of their classes, you’d have to wake up rather early for their 6:00 a.m. sessions. Some of Mary’s peers may find it difficult to understand what drives her to wake up that early and work for an hour before heading to school, but she isn’t fazed by the early hours, since she truly enjoys the workouts.

Ottley says, “With each class, I am able to challenge myself to make the experience more valuable—both pleasurable and challenging—for all participants.” Although most people would find those hours undesirable, she claims it is the best way to start her days because she leaves the class “feeling revived, full of energy, and joyful.” On top of arriving to school in a great mood, she also gets the benefit of getting a workout from her job, which helps her athletic lifestyle. Ottley is always happy to see the friends she has made from working there, and appreciates the opportunity she has of working at Tidalwheel in the morning.

Photo credit: Spencer Lyons.

Another hard-working student is John Diemer (‘18), who spends his Sundays working shifts at Ace Hardware on Patterson Avenue. Diemer’s work varies from stocking shelves to assembling grills in the back storage room. Although his job at a hardware store can consist of a rather uneventful eight hours, he appreciates all that he has learned from the job. Diemer claims, “Working has definitely put money into perspective. It’s tough when you realize the $15 dinner you just ate probably wasn’t worth around two hours of work.” He may not be saving for anything at the moment, but he needs the job to fund meals out and small purchases without worrying about using up his parents’ money. On top of learning life lessons, Diemer must constantly struggle with time management. With his shifts taking up most of the day, it is hard to find time for social activities or homework on the weekends. Diemer has often had to make the choice between going to a track meet or working. He reminds himself that it is a job, and he wouldn’t want to look unprofessional by missing too many days, because the last thing any student wants is to be laid off. Although Diemer sometimes struggles to find a balance between work and other activities, he enjoys the work and doesn’t plan on leaving Ace Hardware anytime soon.

Vaden Reid (‘18) is a devoted student who splits his time between school and working at a golf course. Reid works as a cart attendant at the Country Club of Virginias Tuckahoe Creek and James River golf courses, which means he is responsible for washing and parking golf carts, keeping the driving range tidy, and picking balls off of the driving range.  He is almost entering his second year as a cart attendant and is a praised employee by his bosses and members alike.

Reid is an avid golfer, which is what motivated him to take the job. He claims “I figured, I may as well work where I would most likely be during the summer anyway.” Reid’s enthusiasm for the job makes work enjoyable for everyone sharing the same shift. Reid’s supervisor, Tyler Kee, says “I like working with high schoolers because most of them have never had a job before they begin work at the club. This gives us a chance to teach them the importance of having a happy smile and high customer service levels.” Even in the early mornings, Reid will be wide awake, greeting the members as the sun begins to rise. Reid struggled to find a flaw in working at the CCV golf course, but he says, “Sometimes I miss out on a round of golf or plans with friends, but, still it’s always nice to have money to do things for the times when I am free.” As he typically works on Saturday mornings, he rarely encounters conflicts with school or athletics. Reid claims to have never been late to a shift. Although he claims to have a busy summer coming up, he will spend most of his free days working in the warm weather.

Personally, I have two part-time jobs that I work year round. Since the summer of freshman year, I have worked as a waiter at Westwood Pharmacy. Although the job has long hours, I have loved every second of it. Time flew by as I was able to become friends with my older co-workers and my usual customers. Not only was the job enjoyable, but the pay was outstanding for being only 15 at the time. Being a young employee, I was required to have a Virginia Worker’s Permit, which let me to work under the age of sixteen and allowed me to earn the money towards my first car. I worked there for about a year until I slowly began to decrease the amount of days I worked. After building strong relations with the staff and becoming familiar with the habits of the restaurant, I still occasionally get called to fill in today.

On top of being an on-call employee at Westwood, I also work at the Country Club of Virginia as a cart attendant. The work is rather tedious but, again, I love the work. My co-workers, including Reid, are all close to my age and make work just a little bit easier. Also, the job is outside, which can either be great or make the day miserable, depending on the weather. There have been times where I’ve had to hand-pick the entire driving range by hand with water up to my ankles. One aspect of the job is your duty to email your schedule to the golf pros every week so they know when to make your shift. Not knowing what schoolwork I will have in a week has caused problems with studying for assignments and late nights of homework. The hours of the job make it somewhat difficult to plan your day around the shift. Cart attendants are given shifts of opening or closing the course, which means either working from 7:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. or 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Now, in my eighth month of working for the golf course, I still look forward to work every day. Although the hours are long, the work can be hard, and the pay may be less than I made waiting tables, I plan to work there through my senior year next year.

Although I only talked to a few of the many working Collegiate students, not a single person complained about their job in any way. Whether a student began working to save money for something or to earn some money for spending, every student appeared to be grateful for the opportunity to work and has learned many valuable lessons through their time working. The Collegiate faculty has come to appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of their students with jobs. Upper School English teacher (and Match advisor) Vlastik Svab says, “I am a big fan of students having jobs, which I had myself in high school.”

As a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, employed students to spend 49 minutes less on homework during the days they worked, which when added up, can leave a damaging impact on grades. Understanding the difficulties in balancing between work and school, most teachers are sympathetic towards the sometimes chaotic schedules of employed students. CCV’s Kee says, “high school-aged kids cannot work during the week, which makes it tough to fill the schedules correctly.”

The decision to have a job during the school year can be broken down into a question of whether the student is willing to make sacrifices. Since a job can take away from schoolwork, athletics, and time for socializing, it can be a difficult adjustment in a teenager’s life. If managed properly, having a job can be beneficial to a student as it teaches them better conversation skills, money management, and how to deal with real-world situations.

About the author

Spencer is a junior at Collegiate. He enjoys the Reading Rainbow, Google-Chatting with ladies, and incorrectly correcting people's grammar,