Students Balance Work, Academics, Activities

According to the United States Census in 1990, 35 percent of high school students held a job. This figure is more than double the number of students working today.

The most recent Census shows that in 2011, only 15 percent of high school students in the U.S. held a steady, part-time job for longer than a week.

Opinions on the explanation for this decrease in working high school students vary widely.

“It is plain and simple, high-schoolers are lazier than they used to be,” says Shaun Todd, a resident of Anchorage for over forty years.

“I feel like kids these days believe that they are more entitled to things than they are motivated to work for those things,” Todd said.

“We worked hard back then. I had my own lawn mowing company in high school. Having a job gave me money, freedom and work experience for later, more qualified jobs.”

While some older generations may believe that high school students have simply lost their motivation, other adults have a different view.

“Kids have more homework now,” said Megan Wood, a stay at home mother. “My kids are up way later doing homework than I ever was. Even my first grader sometimes has more than an hour of homework in one night.”

Many high school students think the same.

“We have more stuff to do than they did!” said Margie Howard, a senior going to West High School.

“I am in a sport, taking AP classes and play two instruments. I seriously just don’t have time for a job at this point in my life. Life is way more complex nowadays than it was back then,” Howard said.

To an extent, Howard’s opinion is true. There are dozens more clubs and sports offered now than there were even 26 years ago.

“AP classes weren’t even offered at my school,” said Wood, when thinking back to her high school days.

The increase in available activities came along with the technological advancements of communication and transportation. These advancements allowed more sports, education, and recreational opportunities to be crammed into a short 24-hour period.

With all these available activities and opportunities, having a steady part time job has often become a side thought, a foreign concept placed on a dusty shelf.

In reality, having a job has proven to be one of the most valuable experiences a person can have in high school.

“I learned salesmen duties,” reflects Todd, “I learned how to build trust within a group, I learned how to collect and manage my money.”

The benefits of holding a job during high school are even better explained from a current first-hand source.

“Having a job helps me understand people,” said Airelle Delos Reyes. Reyes, a senior at Dimond High School, currently works at McDonalds for almost 20 hours every week.

“I get free drinks!” she said and laughs when asked about her job.

“It helps me work with people, I get customer service skills by working.”

But the ultimate reward is money.

“The money I get from my job helps my family pay rent, and I can buy things that I want,” said  Reyes.

However, it can’t be ignored that all rewards, such as money and free drinks, ultimately come with a price. Reyes acknowledges that having a job can be a burden at times.

“I don’t get to hang out with my friends as much, I miss some family events and I had to work during Homecoming.”

These demanding time commitments are some of the prominent deterrents that affect a student’s decision on whether or not to hold a job.

However, gaining a belief in the value of sacrifice and hard work ultimately becomes a valuable reward in itself in the long run.

Todd states simply, “I think more high schoolers should have jobs, it would prepare them for life. The value of sacrifice and earning what you want is priceless.”

Whatever your opinion, the facts clearly state that as time had gone on, fewer and fewer students have chosen to obtain jobs during their high school years. Perhaps it is because of the increasing homework load, perhaps social media has become too much of a distraction, or maybe students really are getting lazier.

As a new generation grows, it will be interesting to see how the number of high school students with jobs will fluctuate over the years. Will the percentage rise? Will is flatten out? Or will the number keep going down until there is no percentage left at all.