Students Gain Life Skills By Balancing School, Work


photo by Tania Royster

Senior Kennedi Lawson sports her company t-shirt while waiting on more hungry customers to come through the door at Gigi’s Cupcakes.

Tania Royster, staff writer

After the last bell rings, most students are relieved to go home and relax, but some students have other responsibilities. Along with juggling tests, homework, and classes, many upperclassmen have also joined the workforce. Although a part-time job can add to the pressure of being a full-time student, some students have found the secret to managing and succeeding in both.

Students in Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and the Occupational Educational Careers (OEC) program can leave school during fourth block to work throughout the week. During either A1 or B1 period’s students attend either JAG or OEC. The 2 classes have the same concept, but OEC requires more working hours per week than the JAG program. In these classes, the students learn work ethics, and the teacher monitors their hours per week to dictate their grade. Balancing work and school may be hard, but work programs make the task much easier for students.

“Since I can leave school earlier I go home and do my homework and then I usually go to work at 5, so it works perfectly,” senior Kayla Jones said.

Kayla works a part time job at American Eagle, a popular clothing store in the Outlets of Little Rock. Kayla works about 12 to 16 hours per week, earning her a nice chunk of change to enjoy later. Although there are fabulous perks at the store like the cheerful atmosphere and a wide selection of clothes, it isn’t all glitz and glamour when working in the real world.

“I like that I can get a good discount, so I don’t have to spend a ton of money on fashionable clothes,” Kayla said.

Not all customers are nice and patient when it comes to retail.

“I don’t like the rude customers. Sometimes they don’t realize how hard we actually work,” Kayla said.

Dealing with the hustle and bustle of flash sales and rude customers isn’t the only hot spot to make money in town though. Senior Kennedi Lawson, an OEC student, earns extra cash at Gigi’s Cupcakes, a tasty bakery specializing in mouthwatering desserts. Kennedi works almost twice as much as Kayla at 25 to 30 hours per week. Instead of waiting until later in the evening to go to work Kennedi clocks in at around 3 p.m.

“When balancing my school work and my job, I try to prioritize the most important task to the least important,” Kennedi says. “Not only does my job preparation class help me by letting me leave school early, but it teaches me skills like organization, interview etiquette, and other great things that I can use today and when I start a career in the future.”

The work programs help tremendously, but some students don’t take the class and still maintain the weight of a part-time job.

Senior Chrystalyn Branch takes on a job as an associate at Shoe Carnival. Branch works 5 to 6 days a week, which is approximately 35 to 38 hours per week. Working a part-time job helps pay for senior year activities such as graduation and prom, incentives on the weekends and during breaks, and also helps her mom with other funds. From booties to tennis shoes, Chrystalyn sorts them all and aids customers in finding their perfect shoe.

“I like that the employees are very friendly and we’re all close to each other. It makes it easier to work together,” Chrystalyn said. “I dislike getting minimum wage, because I feel I work hard and deserve more, because I work almost everyday.”

Since Chrystalyn is not enrolled in a work program through the school, she has a full schedule with seven classes, four of them being AP courses. Rigorous courses and a demanding part-time job can make the task of managing both difficult, due to the high workload and time that the classes and labor take.

“It’s really hard to balance work and school, and sometimes I find myself struggling to complete all my homework while fulfilling my duties at work and getting a good nights rest,” Chrystalyn says. “If I was enrolled in a work program I would use the extra time to finish my homework and then go to work once I’m done. I think that if I wouldn’t have taken so many AP’s I would be better off.”

Lastly senior Jasmine Carpenter, another student not enrolled in a job program, has an easier time managing classes and a job.

“I usually don’t have much homework, but when I do it’s easy to get it done at the end of the class,” Jasmine says. “My classes aren’t as hard as some, so not having the work program doesn’t matter to me.”

Jasmine works at Boomerang Car Wash, a laid back place where customers cleanse their car at low prices. Jasmine works about 24 hours a week.

“I like that my job is easy and doesn’t require much, but when it’s bad weather or raining there isn’t much excitement,” Jasmine said.

When obtaining a job during your junior or senior year it is important to not stress or put too much on one’s self, so that managing both won’t be another job in itself. Getting a job is a good experience to get a glimpse of the real world and earn extra cash. Job programs can help tremendously because of the important skills they teach and can help explore career directions and reach goals.