Summer jobs bring opportunities to students


Feature photo by Kate Byars

Kate Byars

Although movies often portray summer vacation as two lazy months of sun-soaked freedom from the trials and tribulations of the school year, many teenagers are abandoning this idea for a more practical one: a job. Because of the cost of car ownership and the high value of resume-building experience, junior Nick Roland is one of these teens. In late April, he decided to abandon his swimming trunks for a “Best Buns in Town” t shirt in order to make some supplemental cash.
“Basically, I manage the cooler by keeping it clean and looking good,” said Roland, who will spend his summer working at Fuddruckers, “and, you know, appeal to the customers with my winning smile.”
It may not be the best job in town, but it funds his last-ditch attempt to save the car that’s been sitting in his driveway for months. Previously owned by Roland’s dad during his own high school career, the breakdown was no surprise, but that didn’t make it any less devastating.
“I’m going to be making minimum wage, and I’m basically just trying to use it resuscitate my stupid car,” Roland said. “It felt like it would fall apart if you went over 50, but it could still get me where I wanted to go. Hopefully in a couple months I’ll have enough to get it up and running.”
Ron Schmidt, Director of the C.A.R.E. Program, is a strong proponent for summer jobs, which is why his institution works to provide work for Columbia teens.
“The C.A.R.E. Program specifically helps youths who can’t get a job because they don’t really have any experience, don’t have any volunteer experience, and haven’t worked before to have a hands-on introduction to work life,” Schmidt said.
Students in Columbia from 14-19 can take advantage of this opportunity, getting eight weeks worth of work experience as well as wages. With 485 positions at various local businesses, the C.A.R.E. Program is an advantage worth taking for students too young or without the experience necessary to get a job elsewhere.
In January the C.A.R.E. program begins receiving online applications. The organization receives about 500 per year, interviewing each candidate in February before sending out letters of acceptance in April.
For some students a job in Columbia isn’t an option. Those who live elsewhere during the summer don’t have the option of opportunities like C.A.R.E., and their summer living situations saddle them with the added hassle of applying for long-distance gigs.
“I’m living with my mom this summer, so I’ll be working out in California as a[n] ice cream woman,” Kay Thompson, sophomore, said. “It was the only job I could find, and even then it was only through a family friend.”
Although spending the summer with her mother in California dwindled her job prospects to online applications and connections within her family, Thompson doesn’t resent her chosen career. In fact, she looks forward to the challenges and duties of the working world, regardless of how she found the job.
“I’m actually really excited about it, for the most part,” Thompson said. “Handing out ice cream to little kids and just cruising around town will be really fun, even though I got the job through my mom. Unless the truck breaks down.”
Freshman Skyler Froese, however, only sees the negative side of the nepotism that got Thompson her position. As the heiress of Gotcha Costumes, unpaid labor in her father’s store is a given for Froese.
“I help customers, and I clean and I go on errands around downtown to like go to the bank or get food,” Froese said. “I don’t even get paid. It’s just sort of tedious work and it gets really hot in Gotcha, so it’s definitely not how I want to spend my summer. I’m only really working there because my parents can use me as slave labor legally or kick me out of the house.”
For the past 14 years, stuffy summers in the crowded costume shop were the norm for Froese, and without the benefit of a paycheck or even a particularly entertaining job, Froese feels forced into helping her family. She can see some benefit to a real summer job, though, even if her own doesn’t appeal to her.
“I think that for people who chose to work and are making money a job can be really beneficial,” Froese said. “Just because it’s a way to occupy yourself while making money and getting experience for the future.”
Research conducted into the benefits gained from summer employment is plentiful. One such study by the Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation found that the entering wages of those workers once they reach the job market are higher than those of inexperienced employees. This gives them an initial head start in the working world, even if the advantage does not persist to later years.
Schmidt agrees that students having summer jobs can be extremely beneficial, and that the experience gained can give them a boost as they enter the workforce.
“It’s [a summer job] a good experience because, let’s face it, making a little money over the summer is always good,” Schmidt said. “Working during the summer gives teenagers the skills they need to get employment in their later years and keep it.”
By Kate Byars
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