Hard work in high school

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Jenna Liu

Students give insight into how high school jobs affect their lives
Up until a month ago, Darcie Kinnison worked 40 hours a week at minimum wage. What set her apart from other workers at the restaurant Jack In The Box, however, was that she was only a high school junior. As a student with a job, Kinnison said it was often a struggle to handle schoolwork and work duties.
“It made it difficult to juggle my work and my actual life,” Kinnison said. “[My employers] expected so many hours. It was shocking because when I applied I emphasized that I was in high school. They think more about the business than they do about the person working.”
Kinnison ended up leaving her job after she and her employer could not resolve the issue of her work hours. The balancing act between employment and academics is one that millions of teenagers across the United States experience. One in four high school students have jobs, totaling more than three million teenage workers nationwide, according to the 2013 U.S. Census.
However, most students work part-time jobs, with only one percent of high school students working full time similar to Kinnison’ situation. Even with the long hours Kinnison put in, she only made eight dollars an hour, just a hair above minimum wage. The majority of jobs available for youth fall in the lowest-paying sectors, with more lucrative employment opportunities being rare. In Columbia, where college students are in the same job market as high schoolers, the competition can be difficult, Kinnison said.
“The college kids are looking for nearly the same jobs as high school kids,” Kinnison said. “In an employer’s eyes, a college kid has more need than a high school student. Also, I think college students are often more available.”
For Elly Bethune, owner of Elly’s Couture, 914 East Broadway, this sentiment is not exactly true. Bethune said she doesn’t discriminate and hires both high school and college students.
“I don’t have an age requirement,” Bethune said. “I just prefer them to be at least 16, so they can drive themselves to the store.”
Bethune has always valued the importance of a job, from delivering newspapers as a preteen to working as a bagger at Schnucks in her teens. She has gone through her fair share of applications and resumes and said a potential factor an employer takes into consideration when hiring a teen is inexperience.
“It’s kind of the chicken and egg effect there,” Bethune said. “You don’t have a lot on your resume, but you need someone to give you a chance.”
Unlike Bethune and Kinnison, who both went through the standard application process, junior Shray Kumar entered the employment field by in a different way. Kumar works as a counselor for a robotics camp at the University of Missouri, a job he fell into after a chance meeting with the director of the camp.
“I was over at a friend’s graduation party, and he had this job before me,” Kumar said. “So I met his boss, and he asked me to come onto the job.”
Kumar is only required to show up one weekend a month, for 20 hours per weekend. In exchange, Kumar receives $10 an hour, along with free lunch. However, Kumar admitted his job isn’t the norm for most.
“Every single friend I know who has a job works in fast food and had to get through an application to get the job,” Kumar said.
When looking at prospective employees for Elly’s Couture, Bethune said the interview holds the most weight in her eventual hiring decision.
“I’ll bring you in and interview you, and that’s when I can see if you’ll be a good fit for the store,” Bethune said. “For me, obviously you have to have an interest in fashion.”
Kinnison may be in luck if she applies at Elly’s Couture. The 17-year-old plans to go into the fashion industry and is looking for a job in retail. With the many hours of work experience Kinnison has, she places a lot of value on the life skills she has gained, which she hopes will help in the future.
“I think it’s very important for students to get jobs,” she said. “It teaches you how to be professional, work with other people and is preparation for being an adult.”
By Jenna Liu
Feature Photo by Caylea Erickson