When Rabiul Sany fills out college applications later this year, one thing will set him apart from his peers.
Sany, 17, didn’t spend his time at Absegami High School playing multiple sports or joining as many clubs as his schedule would allow. Sany’s resume contains the impressive credential of not just working at a retail store, but managing it.
For New Jersey high school students, a job is a way to gain financial independence and experience for the future, but balancing the demands of work and school can be challenging. A tightening job market has also meant fewer jobs for those who do want to work.
But for those who find work, the rewards are worth it.
“I want to be able to run the store my way. That’s the difference between working somewhere else and working here,” said Sany, a Galloway Township resident, who is the manager of his family’s store, Dollar Plus Gifts in Atlantic City. “Here, I can do just basically whatever I want because there is no boss. I am the boss.”
Close to 86,000 of the state’s 459,800 students between the ages of 16 and 19 were employed last year, according to information from the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
There were more teenagers working prior to the recession. In 2006 134,400 16- to 19-year-olds in New Jersey were working out of a total population of 445,800.
One of the positives of working after school is gaining experience in the outside world and learning responsibility, said Mary Alvarado, a guidance counselor at Oakcrest for the last 10 years.
“The downside is I do see a lot of my kids getting out very late. Some of them get out where they don’t get enough sleep or don’t have enough time to do their homework, and they come unprepared,” Alvarado said.“
Alvarado said she sees more school students working after school because of the economy.
“A lot of the times, I hear students say, 'My parents don’t work, or they can’t find a job or have been unemployed,’ so they try to help out with their parents,” Alvarado said. “The other thing is students want to work, so they can save money for college because they don’t have the full financial aid. They don’t think they are going to get that full ride.”
Sany catches a bus at school at 3:30 p.m. to take him to the store where he takes over from his mother. He does his homework at the store when it is slow. One of his parents picks him up at the end of the night to bring him home.
The only time he doesn’t head to work immediately after school is on Thursdays, when he spends an hour on activities with the chess/science club.
“I would absolutely not recommend this to anyone else. If you are a sane person, don’t do it,” said Sany. “
Dr. Inua Momodu, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, said learning to balance priorities is an important skill teenagers need to learn because it is necessary later in life. There are advantages and disadvantages for teens working after school, Momodu said.
The advantages include a chance to learn proper time management and to earn money, which helps them learn vital skills such as financial planning and budgeting, Momodu said.
But a job can also mean less time for school work and lead to academic problems, or less time for extracurricular activities, which offer different advantages, he said.
The demands of work and school can create a lot of stress for teenagers, which is not beneficial, Momodu said. Extracurricular activities after school can help teenagers develop interests and hobbies that they might not pursue if they spend their afternoons working.
This fall, Stephanie Howard, 17, of Mays Landing, will learn for herself what it takes to balance school work with a part-time job. In May she landed a job at Custard’s Last Stand on North Dorset Avenue in Ventnor and plans to continue working there through the school year.
Howard serves water ice, soft-serve yogurt, ice cream cake and hand-dipped ice cream. She also cleans up. In May and June, Howard would go to bed at 11 p.m., but then wake at 5:30 a.m. to attend Oakcrest High School.
“I was pretty tired, but I pushed through it. I was fine,” Howard said.
Howard is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club that meets until 3:30 p.m. every Monday and Thursday. She plays for her school’s volleyball team in the fall and a traveling volleyball club team that plays year around.
“My boss... helps me out a lot and is willing to be flexible with the schedule, but I will be working on the weekends because I don’t have volleyball on the weekends, after school when I don’t have games, I will go to work, or I will work really late at night after my practices,” said Howard, who does her homework during study halls and when she arrives home from work.
Rich Kreie, the owner of Custard’s Last Stand, said he hires high school students because he wants young people who will be around for a couple of years. He already had his college-age employees leave to go back to school in the middle of August.
Kreie said he just hired a couple of 15-years-old with the understanding that they work at his place for the next couple of years. When it is slow, the high schoolers are allowed to do their homework at the job, Kreie said.
Danielle Dimacale, 17, entered her senior year at Egg Harbor Township High School this fall.
Dimacale, of Egg Harbor Township, could see she needed money for college next year and to keep a car on the road, so she landed a job working at the concession stand and the box office at the Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township.
“It’s my senior year, and I want to have my own money,” said Dimacale, who added she will work between 20 and 25 hours weekly and maybe do either an art or a media club. “I think I will be pretty tired, but I will be fine because I stay up late. If I’m that tired and I don’t have homework after school, before I go to work, I will take a nap.”
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