On the Job Hunt

After a long day of high school, with all the homework and the teachers and the gossip, who has time for a job? Is it not enough to have to worry about all of those things without adding on the stresses of working after school at the local burger joint?

Despite the many issues the average teen faces today, some are still deciding to add a job to their already busy schedules.

“I saw a lot [of expenses] coming: SATs, college application fees, and class rings.” High school senior Sonia Olivares said she soon realized “you’re not going to be able to count on your Mom for everything.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year alone, Latina girls between the ages of 16 and 19, like Olivares made up 2.4 percent of the entire workforce.

Carolyn Woodul teaches a work-based learning course at El Paso High School in El Paso, Texas that requires its students to work or volunteer a minimum and maximum of 15 hours a week for a passing grade. Woodul, who has been teaching the course for nearly 17 years, said her students seek employment for a variety of reasons. These often include the students’ need to help parents with household expenses, gaining valuable work experience, and having something that will make them stand out on college applications are usually what push teens to tackle a job

Still, Woodul also recognizes the many factors that may prevent teens from obtaining jobs.

“A variety of employers are requiring a minimum age of 18, which eliminates most of our students,” Woodul said. She added that jobs in healthcare have all but diminished for teens mostly due to new policies.

“It’s hard, I feel like I missed out on my junior year,” high school senior Sonia Olivares said of her job as a librarian at her school. Currently Olivares has transitioned from being a paid employee to a volunteer at the library due to lack of funds.

Olivares’ classmate, Ashley Avalos also suffered from a similar setback last year. Avalos, who is also enrolled in Woodul’s work-based learning course, said that no matter where she applied last year, no one would call her back.

Finally, the 17-year-old said that through the course and Woodul as a reference, she was hired as an office assistant at a local middle school.

“I wanted to be able to start learning how to support myself, get experience, and let [potential employers] know that I am reliable,” Avalos said. The high school senior said she is using her earnings to prepare for graduation and help her parents with bills at home.

Avalos’ classmate Tanya Lopez said she finds juggling work and school difficult, but “worth it.” Lopez, a high school junior works as a teachers’ aide assistant at a local elementary school to help out her family and concedes that this experience is what she “needs now through college and beyond.”

With the economic downturn, the average of teens in the workforce is only expected to grow.

“Jobs available to teens do not vary much,” Woodul stated. She also added that programs such as the one she teaches are “not completely dependent of the local economy.”

Still, having a job while attending high school is something all three girls agree is a part of life no matter what the economy dictates.

“Education is just as important as work. I want to do well in both,” Avalos added.

February 2010

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