By Kallie Hoffman
As Abigail Van Buren once stated, “if you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” Every morning, people all around the world rise from their beds, scramble to prepare themselves for the day ahead, and travel to their place of business. In our school alone, many students rush off at the end of the day to attend to their part-time jobs.
In traditionally underserved populations, students understand they need to supplement their academic obligations with part-time employment; this is not a matter of choice, but an economic necessity. In Westchester County, however, teenagers who find work after school are driven by different motivations: increased confidence levels, better time-management skills, and greater appreciation of the value of money. The mentality is that if you earn it, it is truly yours to spend.
Having a job helps the transition into adulthood as adolescents escape the parental-guided environment. As freshman Jordyn Jacobson describes, “after surrounding myself with children all afternoon, I am learning what it will take to be a good mother.” Working can prove to be difficult at times, but when students reflect on their work commitments, they recognize the empowerment they derived, the enormous sense of accomplishment and personal achievement.
Moreover, at Byram Hills High School, there is an extreme emphasis on schoolwork because it enhances the prospect of being admitted to a top-tier college. The best universities are looking for candidates who demonstrate maturity, responsibility, independence, and initiative – all qualities of a student who balances classwork with after-school work. According to Tyler Greenfield, “[A] job looks impressive on the resume,” and graduate Stef Spiegel writes that “working at Hickory & Tweed while [she] was in high school has been essential to [her] growth and imperative when applying for other jobs and internships at Tulane.”
During high school, students are invariably under a considerable amount of pressure due to social obligations, challenging homework and exams, and demanding athletic schedules. It is difficult enough for students to manage the stress associated with these activities, but adding rigorous hours of work may be an additional drain on sleep, energy and concentration.
Childhood is a time to explore new opportunities and have some free time to simply relax. Unfortunately, in our school, students with jobs are often reluctant to participate in extracurriculars in light of the immense strain on their physical and mental health. Tyler Greenfield notes that “[he spend] many hours lifting sharp objects, and [is] constantly at risk of getting injured.” As students spend a greater number of hours at work, they limit their opportunities to build friendships and their intellectual and emotional growth are compromised. Taylor Duffy, who recently quit her job, described how she “had to miss major milestones during freshman year” as a result of the persistent demands of her job. The social and academic aspects of students’ lives are extremely important, so work for adolescents must never interfere or negatively affect friendships or education.
Personally, I feel that students should focus on their school work and interactions with friends should be a major priority. The stress to perform, whether in the classroom or on the athletic field, already exists and is pervasive; add a job to the equation and it will often be too much for a person to handle. Still, I understand that working after school may provide students with a stepping stone toward future achievement. The bottom line is that success is often a function of balance and moderation. Each individual has to decide if he or she can fit in work, maintain high grades and still find sufficient time for friends and the freedom of being a teenager. There are benefits to be gained but also potential consequences from working a job in high school. In the final analysis, it truly depends on who you are as a person and making sure that you are not overwhelmed by your commitments and can maintain a healthy environment that you can thrive in.