The Value and Sacrifice of Working Through High School

Liz Steddin

As we delve deeper into the school year, many students begin to feel pressures from balancing their part-time jobs with full-time classes and studying schedules. This opens up many conversations on the basis of whether or not teenagers in high school be expected to hold jobs.

Clearly, having a job at a young age and building fundamental life skills is important, and can  enhance a person in many ways. However, for students who simply must have jobs to support themselves and their families, focusing on schoolwork is often sacrificed in the process. Some parents even fully cut their children off as they reach high school, forcing them to develop the ability to provide for themselves financially. 

This mentality is based upon the idea that people should know how to support themselves once they graduate and leave the nest, but it is also quite harsh and puts a massive amount of pressure on students while they are also juggling many other weights as developing young adults. 

Ella Crowder, a student at Novato High and manager at Novato’s DSW, understands the benefits and drawbacks of working through high school. 

“My parents don’t pay for anything. I have to pay for car insurance, gas, food, clothes, and anything I need around the house. It’s necessary for me to make all the money I do,” said Crowder, who works between 20 and 30 hours per week.

When asked whether or not she thinks high school students should be expected to hold part-time jobs, she went on to say “I feel like they should, because a lot of people are spoiled by their parents. They pay for everything for them, and people don’t know how the real world works. So, I think it’s a good skill to have, because even though I don’t focus on school as much as I should, I don’t rely on my parents, and I feel it better prepares me for the real world.”

Students who devote themselves to outside work and truly understand the depth it creates in their understanding of personal responsibility not only become more independent and reliable, but build a credibility that translates very well to their future endeavors. Employers, scholarships, and even college admission boards place an emphasis on people who can effectively balance considerable academic achievements with a job on the side.

There simply is no other way for teenagers to experience this type of independence and accountability than sacrificing activities and time they’d rather be spending with friends.

Whole Foods employee and Novato High junior Leila Marashi reflected on what she has learned by balancing an AP class schedule with her work commitments. 

“It’s a part of life that goes past just going to school and being taken care of by your family,” Marashi said. “You get put in many situations that test your skills, and I’ve improved a lot over time. I am more independent and self sufficient as a result, something that school just can’t teach.”

The New York Times reported that people who start working part time before the age of 18 are much more likely to not only be hired for a job in the future, but hold it for a longer amount of time because of the vital skills and credibility they build, which translates far past their teenage years.

Many people find themselves lost as they move to different cities and states away from their parents to find the financial safety net they have always fallen back on to be clipped. Vital skills they need for self sufficiency simply might not exist for them, such as how to interview well, communicate with uneasy customers and clients, and work productively with people in superior positions. 

It seems that as long as high school students can find a healthy balance that works for them between school and work, they will not only gain a helpful set of skills and a little cash lining their pockets, but also have new doors open. This all comes with a history of clocked hours and an assertive ability to balance a schedule.