Students in the workforce: Valuable experiences, endless sacrifices

According to The Mirror’s survey, 43 percent of students polled have worked a part-time job during their time in high school.
 CASH FROM COFFEE  Senior Anastasia Petrova works as a barista at Panera Bread in Encino, a job that allows her to expand her social skills and earn her own money.
CASH FROM COFFEE Senior Anastasia Petrova works as a barista at Panera Bread in Encino, a job that allows her to expand her social skills and earn her own money.

Life as a teenager is complicated enough as is. Daily homework assignments, late nights, social media and college applications are just a few of the issues that send high school students into a stressful fray.

Yet, some have another responsibility compounded onto their already-busy lives: a part-time job. According to The Mirror’s survey, 43 percent of students polled have worked a part-time job during their time in high school. While fewer teens today hold jobs outside of school than previous generations, LAUSD schools do not have resources designed to cater specifically to student workers.

Senior Jonathan Macias used to be one of those student workers. A teaching assistant at Sylvan Park Elementary, he tutors mostly fourth and fifth graders in their studies. He chose to be a teaching assistant because he wanted to earn pocket money as well as gain a skill that would make his college applications look more appealing.

“I worked as often as possible from Monday through Friday,” he said, reflecting back on his experience. “After school ends here, I’d go over there and work from four to six.”

Macias noted that, while he was able to keep his academics in check, he often ended up needing to sacrifice his social life and his sleep schedule.

“My friends usually hang out after school,” he said. “I couldn’t really go with them because I had a job. I also didn’t get that much sleep because I had to maintain my academics and my job at the same time.”

For senior Kate Tetvadze, the opposite is true. She works as a hostess at Stanley’s, a restaurant serving American cuisine in Sherman Oaks. 

“I chose to work weekends because I need all the time I can get during the week to complete my assignments and study,” Tetvadze said. “Sometimes, I do have to be careful with making plans during the weekends because coworkers won’t always be available for coverage. However, if I ask in advance, then I can make other plans.”

Her employment does make it difficult to participate in extracurricular activities and sports, however.

“Many sports practices and clubs have events during the weekends, so I can’t essentially join them,” she said.

While her social life isn’t affected by her job, which she works on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, her academics and her sleep are.

“I don’t sleep till one, two, three a.m.,” she said. “Sometimes I take a nap and I just wake up too late, and I don’t have time for homework. Thankfully, most of my teachers allow extensions and are very lenient, so sometimes I have to do what I have to do and push back the homeworks that aren’t necessarily due the next day.”

Macias and Tetvadze aren’t alone in this aspect. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2018, an average of 73 percent of high school students in the U.S. reported getting less than eight hours of sleep per night. Students working part-time jobs contribute to this statistic. 

Screentime caused by excessive social media and homework use also contributes to sleeplessness in teens. In the long term, sleep deprivation is associated with increased alcohol use, behavioral issues and depression.

Senior Anastasia Petrova is one of the few to put an emphasis on sleep. As a Panera Bread barista who works closing shifts on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, she often finds herself with little time to do homework from her six AP classes. She often completes her homework during school hours instead.

“To be honest, I prioritize sleep over homework a lot of the time,” she said. “That’s why some of my homework gets done at school. If I’m too tired to get the work done, I’d rather just sleep and get it done the next day.”

In spite of the enormous pressure they have received from their jobs, all three have said that they have benefited from working a part-time job. Improved social skills is a common theme among them.

“I’ve gained a lot of useful skills,” Macias said. “I guess before, I wasn’t that good with kids. I didn’t really tolerate them that much, but nowadays I kind of feel like I matured more and can talk with them.”

Additionally, working a part-time job helped these students develop a strong work ethic and a stronger sense of independence that comes with earning income.

“I feel like the main benefit I get out of my job is the money,” Petrova said. “At this current point in time, I’d prefer being more or less financially independent and being able to buy myself whatever I need rather than relying on my parents.”

All three recommend that high schoolers get a job, so long as their school schedule, extracurriculars and homework allow for it.

“It definitely depends on the person and their situation,” Petrova said. “If someone’s schedule doesn’t work with having a job, it wouldn’t be optimal. However, if it works out, I would recommend the experience.” 

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Fall 2023 print edition. This is an uncut version.

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Daimler Koch
Daimler Koch, Online Editor-in-Chief
As the Executive Editor-in-Chief of my own weekly satirical newsletter, I’m always striving to improve my writing skills in all forms. During my first year of Journalism, I was an Arts and Entertainment staff writer and later the editor of the Opinion section. Now, I’m the Online Editor-in-Chief for the Mirror. Outside of school, I’m always either reading, pretending to be four different people for my newsletter, or preparing for my next martial arts belt test. After I graduate high school, I will go to college and study to become an English professor.
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