Working 5-9: Students who work during the school year

At some point during the school year, 30 percent of high school students are employed. Reasons for working vary, including students who work for spending money, and others who are saving for college. Regardless, working in high school has several benefits. 

Many students who work in high school don’t yet have their licenses, so how do they get to work? Peter Eriksen, a sophomore at LHS, rides his bike after school straight to work at Sunset Foods in Libertyville. 

“That can be a lot just because you’re tired from the school day, and now you have to bike as fast as you possibly can to go all the way to the northern side of Libertyville.”

Peter Ericksen bags groceries at Sunset Foods during a four hour shift on a Saturday. (Sarah Wuh )

Eriksen works Mondays and Fridays for two hours, and works a four hour shift on weekends. He explains that when he turns 16, he will be able to increase his hours. Even with work after school, he still finds time to complete homework, due to his lack of extracurriculars. 

“[Work] kind of fits perfectly into my schedule,” he explains.

Sophomore Yvie Gaiden, who works as a hostess at Milwalky Taco in Downtown Libertyville, also handles a busy schedule. Gaiden works three days a week from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., as well as dancing 12 hours a week at her dance company. After school ends, she gets a ride straight to work. She describes how a full schedule can add significant stress to her week, especially with other extracurriculars. 

“It’s been difficult. I’ve just gotten really used to using my time in class wisely when teachers give us more time as well as using my lunch study hall, and [just] squeezing in homework on where I can fit it.”

Though work can be stressful, Gaiden explains the many positives of working.

“I get to work with a lot of really fun people that I enjoy being around so I try and use it as a social time as well, to kind of de-stress a little bit.”

Through work as a hostess, Gaiden has learned several important skills and valuable lessons. She explains the importance of patience when working in customer service which can be stressful, especially for a teenager learning to adapt to stressful situations.

“I have had a lot of difficult interactions with people, and it’s taught me to be patient with anyone and everyone no matter how they’re treating you,” she adds.

Gaiden includes how important working can be for a high school student. Students obtain skills they may not learn in the classroom. Even during the summer, working can be incredibly valuable. Gaiden’s message to any student interested in working is to go for it.

“I think that giving it a try never hurts, and there’s [a lot of] great things to learn through working as well as amazing people to meet, so it doesn’t hurt to try.”

Many working high school students don’t work on the weekdays. Junior Cris Montero works as a soccer referee for GLSA (Greater Libertyville Soccer Association). He referees for kindergartners, first graders, and second graders. Montero works on weekends, usually Saturdays, refereeing about two to three games a week. He has played soccer for 10 years.

“It’s a game I know and love,” he explains.

Montero states he is fortunate to only work on weekends, as it doesn’t impact his school schedule majorly. Montero is careful about managing his time so his activities don’t collide.

Cris Montero works as a soccer referee for GLSA at the Libertyville Township Soccer Complex. (Sarah Wuh )

“I make sure that my games don’t exceed 12pm on Saturdays so it gives me enough time, maybe if I have an extracurricular on a Saturday or if I need to do homework.”

Montero says the most important value he’s learned through working is patience, especially when working with little kids. Teaching kids to work with each other and play as a team can be tedious, but he is not only passing on valuable lessons to the kids, he is also learning from the experience as a whole.

Montero adds that though high school students can learn many of these skills in school, a job creates a completely different environment in which to learn and grow. Montero agrees that working during high school can be incredibly advantageous for students, and introduces them to real world circumstances.

“It’s really just life skills at the end of the day that you’re going to need at some point,” he said, “and this is a great time to learn.”

Handling real world circumstances in the workplace is nothing new for senior Kaeden Theobald, who works at Ace Hardware in Libertyville. She works as a cashier, as well as organizing and helping customers around the store. Currently, Theobald is only working weekends due to her involvement in tennis. She works seven hours on Saturdays and Sundays, but when her season ends she plans to work four hour shifts during the weekdays. To avoid homework stress over the weekend, Theobald uses her study hall at the end of the day to get as much work done as possible. She does her best to balance her responsibilities by prioritizing school and work over social activities.

Yvie Gaiden works at Milwalky Taco and Kaeden Theobald works at Ace Hardware. (Sarah Wuh )

“I do manage [my schedule] pretty well. I’d say the week is very easy for me but the weekends do get hard.”

Theobald states one of the most important values she’s learned through working is communication. Whether it’s customers, coworkers, or your employer, communication is key. 

“I feel like communication is one of the number one things that everyone needs to have, and I’ve gotten a lot better at while working this job.”

Senior Grace Moore, who works as a hostess for Milwalky Trace in Libertyville, also balances sports involvement and work. Moore is currently only working on the weekends due to her involvement in cross country. Moore manages her school, work, and extracurricular activities by taking advantage of study halls and gym exemption offered at LHS.

Being a student athlete as well as working a job can generate a lot of stress. Moore adds that enjoying what you do is just as important and working hard.

“When I get overwhelmed, I try to just remind myself that I enjoy all of these activities.”

Grace Moore greets guests at Milwaukee Trace, where she works as a hostess. (Sarah Wuh )

One of the most important values Moore has learned while working is empathy, when working in customer service. Moore describes a new respect she has for members of the service industry. She also explains the importance of checking in with yourself and understanding how much responsibility you can handle. She relates how enjoyable a job can be when you find the right fit for you.

“If you’re trying to find a job, I would go somewhere where it’s a fun environment and you know you’ll like it. And [maybe] some friends because that always makes it more fun.”

Similar to Moore, senior Sarah Larson, who works as a hostess for both Mickey Finns and Mainstreet Social, is involved in several extracurriculars that she balances with school and work. Larson works at Mainstreet Social three days a week, after school, from 4 p.m to 8 p.m. She works at Mickey Finns on weekends from 4 p.m to 10 p.m. At LHS, Larson participates in Link Crew, Student Council Senior executive board, and National Honors Society. 

“I’m able to do what I can with the time that I’m given. I like to participate in as much as I can.”

Larson explains how she always makes time for responsibilities as well as social activities. As a senior, Larson hopes to participate in as many social events as possible. Larson has learned several key values while working that she states she’ll carry with her going forward. She adds that especially when working in customer service, kindness is essential. 

“You just have to be as accommodating as possible and as nice as possible, and make sure that the customer is happy.”

Larson believes working, in more social settings especially, can truly advantage high school students, and help prepare them for the beginning of life after high school. 

“I think that customer service is a very good job to have in high school before [you get to] college because it’s a way to understand how to deal with people.”

Larson’s message to any student interested in working during high school is trusting yourself, and managing your time to the best of your ability. She advises that stress can be overcome as long as you manage your responsibilities and prioritize what’s important to you. 

“[Business owners] want you to work there; they don’t want you to quit, so they’re going to try and help you get through everything that you’re stressed about.”