Making it work
High school changes one's economic outlook
September 28, 2018
There exists a stigmatism around money that warps our ideas about life outside these walls. It is money —the governing ingredient in the global melting pot— that first separates these two spheres of life, one behind school walls and the world beyond it. We find it seeping into our world from all over, from politics to economics to religion. And the tangent most directly related to one’s wallet in one’s livelihood, the motivation behind working hard during high school.
Texas High offers three main educational opportunities for students’ careers: student-working programs that give students real-life working experience, endorsement career plans required by the state of Texas that promote specialized career fields, and certification and licensure programs that students can use to gain a legitimate document for a certain occupation.
Pam Hamilton oversees the DECA program at Texas High School. The DECA program, which is a career and technical student organization, is a school-integrated work program allowing upperclassmen to split their day between work and school, leaving school early or getting to school late and then going to their job to work.
Hamilton offers herself as mentor to her students, dispensing practical advice about balancing work and school, managing money and building character, even going as far as to check in with bosses about how her students are doing or to make sure that their boss isn’t overscheduling them.
“Could you handle working 15 hours a week with your school load? Would it fit into your schedule?,” Hamilton said. “If the answer’s no, you shouldn’t be in my class. If the answer is yes, I’ve got to work to help support you.”
The need for cash —whether it be for college, for family, for pocket change, or just for fitting in— echoes the challenges and responsibility of adult life as high school life welcomes the privileges of the working world: driving a car, individuality that comes from spending money. Learning to work and hold a job is an essential skill — a reality for most college students— that DECA extrapolates in high school.
DECA students are required to work 15 hours to remain in the program, though a lot of students opt for more rigorous schedules.
“I try to advocate for the student and help them realize that you gotta there has to be a balance Yes, schools the most important and that’s your number one job,” said Hamilton. “Because if you’re not successful in school, and you don’t graduate, what kind of future you going to have any right what kind of job or you know, the funding the future. So, my goal is for them to be successful here.”
Even though DECA offers students an opportunity to work outside of school, Hamilton reinforces the need to go to school and get their education.
Texas High currently offers more than 30 certification and/or license programs ranging from horticulture to interior design to manufacturing to finance from a variety of nationally accredited institutions, but these accolades are accompanied by a caveat of distresses that make them hard to obtain: a long list of prerequisite classes that complicate a student’s schedule and four year plan, age requirements and a whopping $400-800 price tag for the certification tests themselves.
“And if they’re not come to school, I try to get their boss to help me encourage them that school is important,” Hamilton said. “And that they need to come to school and you know, and support them in that endeavor.”
Though DECA can mitigate the hardships of the working student lifestyle, some students simply make an enterprise out of their pastime or hobby.
Junior Coltin Minter is in Tigervision, but he takes his interest beyond the studio and runs Texarkana Media Solutions, which he began when he was 12 years old. Texarkana Media Solutions is a business that specializes in graphic design, marketing, photography, videography, website design, smartphone repair and DJ entertainment.
Minter’s passion for technology inspired him to get a leg up on his future career early on.
“I hate seeing young adults who struggle to make ends meet and not pursuing their real passion,” said Minter. “I thought, ‘What better way to ensure a positive start into the real world than to start doing what I love.”
During high school, some students get a chance to hop into the real world. Students are trained to think about their career aspirations at an early age, seeds planted during primary education that are cultivated throughout middle school and high school, but according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only about 30 percent of college grads end up in a job in the field of their college major. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80 percent of college students change their major during their college career.
While the majority of work done by the faculty at our high school is directed toward the refinement and growth of career aspirations and academic success, it makes one wonder whether or not the skills learned in high skill will translate later in life. However, a number of skills absorbed indirectly during high school can be utilized in a number of fields: social skills, cooperation, persistence, work ethic and time management.
Holding a job can help direct and train these aspects of one’s training, but high school is merely the fulcrum for a number of tradeoffs where our actions can be felt in the effects of the world around us, allowing students to feel pride in their work, conviction in their cause and their goals, honor in the way they treat people, and dignity in the way they carry themselves— whether it be studying for an AP test, going to the football games, finding a community of like minded peers, or holding a job.
Photo by Merideth Stanfill
Senior endures hardships of balancing adulthood, adolescence
As her shift ends, she removes her apron, escaping the pressures of being an employee and submerges herself into the pressures of being a high school student. She returns home to an empty apartment, exhausted after a 16 hour day, and begins her assignments to prepare for the next day. She goes to sleep before repeating it all over again the next morning at 6 a.m. School. Work. Homework. Bills. Everything in between.
Senior Miracle Watson is in the Distributed Education Clubs of America (DECA) program where she splits her school day between classes in the morning and working her job at Golden Corral in the afternoon. Watson’s job as a cashier ensures that customers are accommodated to the best of her ability. She found out about the job opportunity through job hunting and discovered the benefits of working in a restaurant environment.
“I am responsible for customer service needs at my job. I also make sure that our cups and straws are stocked. My main responsibility is cash handling,” Watson said. “I knew I wanted to challenge myself in a fast paced working environment. The restaurant is pretty busy all the time. So, it’s a way to challenge myself to get stuff done in a fast atmosphere.”
The DECA program fit Watson’s current schedule. Her main concern is finding a balance between school and work but being part of the program has taught her about more than how to handle work a working life.
“In the practice marketing class, we learn about professionalism. The class has taught me how to be more professional, what not to do in interviews or all my job. My advice to the underclassman is to not get into DECA because you get a chance to leave school early and to start making mature life decisions,” Watson said. “DECA is a great program that allows you to leave school early but also make sure to get your other responsibilities done as well. It may not be when you graduate that those responsibilities come because it came really early for me.”
Since Watson’s work requires daily transportation, she currently relies on her coworkers or grandmother for rides. Yet, Watson is working on obtaining her license to ease the stress of driving to work every day with help from her DECA teacher, Mrs. Pam Hamilton.
“I didn’t have anyone to influence me to get a license or find out how to get it, so I feel like Mrs. Hamilton has really helped me out not only within school, but within my personal life,” Watson said. “She’s trying to help me get my license, and I really appreciate her for that. That’s my main goal for this year.”
As the youngest of the family, Watson wasn’t prepared for the weight and responsibility of taking care of herself. However, her employers aid with any problems that arise and give her advice about work and her personal life.
“I’m really glad that I did get the job because it has taught me to work with other people and ask for help. It’s not like bosses or excessively strict or anything,” Watson said. “They won’t hold it against you because you do have problems of your own at home. They don’t fire you because of personal problems because they’re understanding people.”
In addition to working and attending school, Watson pays her own bills in the apartment she owns on her own. The plan to move out of her house was unexpected, but the influence of DECA helped align her responsibilities.
“I have my own apartment so getting a chance to leave school early to get accommodate more hours at my job has helped align with personal responsibilities in my life. I moved out for personal reasons that early at a young age. Having an apartment and taking care of yourself is difficult and stressful, but I’m just making sure that I’m focusing on not just work but the responsibilities at school.”
Growing up with her parents who were both entrepreneurs, Watson is familiar with the mechanics of handling a business as her mother was owner of a clothing store and aspires to work in business as well.
“My family were all about business management and getting your business license. They want to have something of their own and bring a new product to the world. I feel like I’ll probably be managing my own business or something similar. I’d most likely go into women’s apparel or the makeup industry.”
Watson’s relationship with her mother has sustained through tough obstacles in life, and Watson has learned vital life lessons about vulnerability and remembering to be thankful for her blessings even if a situation seems stressful.
“My mom is often stressed and so a lot of pressure has been placed on me because I have to fend for myself now,” Watson said. “With taking care of that, I’m not worried about if I’m good— if I’m really okay. I break down sometimes because it really is hard. I remind myself that even if stuff is going on bad at your house, just make sure you respect your parents.”
Watson’s experience as a worker and maturing at an early age have manifested into learning more about herself and the path she desires to go down in order to succeed in life after high school. “Do not just try to wait for someone to tell you to go and be successful. Be successful because you want to be successful and when you turn the right age to start planning for jobs, go apply. It’s about trying to become a young adult and it’ll help a lot in the future.”
Photo by Holland Rainwater
Handling the heat
Senior find purpose in providing for family and actively working
He watches the steam rise from the crisply charred ribeye steak as he stirs the pot of bright orange rice next to it. He’s physically there, quickly moving to make their meals perfection, but his mind is somewhere else. Images of his hometown fog his concentration — images of his sister, still in Mexico. Images of his father’s struggles. The flashbacks remind him of his difficult childhood full of labor. That’s all he’s ever known and the only thing that’s gotten him and his family through the hardships.
Senior Eduardo Garcia moved to the United States at the age of 13, immediately working, whether it was mowing lawns or carpentry. He currently works at On The Border in order to support his family.
“I’m a cook at On the Border because four years ago my dad had an incident where half his body became paralyzed, and so he isn’t able to work like he used to,” Garcia said. “The primary reason for my job is to help my parents out.”
When Garcia first received the news, it wasn’t an instant shock because he didn’t comprehend the severity of his dad’s condition. Over time, Garcia began to realize the changing roles in his family and has been working to provide an adequate life for not only himself, but for his father as well.
“Around the time it happened, I didn’t really understand the condition my dad had. I only understood that my mother told me he was sick, but she didn’t specifically give me a motive, a reason as to why he was sick. I really started to understand his condition about two years ago,” Garcia said. “My dad is important to me. Sometimes I may not show it, but he’s very important to me. No matter how mad he gets at me, I will continue loving him.”
Yet, Garcia’s determination is a quality that he developed when he was young. Unlike most teenagers, he has spent most of his life working, which has affected his feelings toward school.
“If it was up to me, I would only work, because honestly, school has never been for me,” Garcia said. “For as long as I can remember, I have always worked. In Mexico, they had me working in the cornfield, and to be completely sincere, I wake up happier going to work than going to school.”
Despite the fact that he doesn’t have a passion for school, Garcia still places equal emphasis on his job and the completion of his schoolwork. Though at times, it can be challenging due to the restrictions that his schedule places on him.
“Balancing school and work is difficult because I have pressure from work, and then I have homework. I sometimes close the restaurant, and we usually don’t leave until 12 a.m.,” Garcia said. “I leave work tired and don’t have time to do my homework. I get to school late at times, or to work late because I try to do the both.”
Even with Garcia’s busy schedule and his dad’s condition, they still manage to find time to spend together even if that only means a few hours. Garcia also spends his time trying to fix the situation involving his sister.
“If I get home early from work, I’ll cook food, so my dad can eat when he comes home from working. Right now, I can adjust my schedule how I would like, so I have three days off,” Garcia said. “I use these days to do personal things for my dad or to work on helping my sister, since she wants to come to the United States. My sister is still in Mexico because when we all got our papers fixed, she was overage and didn’t have the same benefits we did.”
Garcia’s decision about his postsecondary education is unclear at the moment. Garcia would rather work and earn money than spend his time doing something he doesn’t feel as passionate about after he graduates.
“I don’t think I want to go to college. I’m hoping that I can work two jobs like I did over the summer, which was construction and at the restaurant,” Garcia said. “I would go to my construction job at 5:30 a.m., and I would go to work at the restaurant until 12 a.m.”
Although Garcia is paid more than the average minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, he still has to work around 165 hours a month to make a sufficient amount of money to take care of the house and to fend for himself and his siblings when his parents are away.
“The amount I get paid really depends on the days I work, but I get paid $12 an hour. I help my family take care of the bills. At the moment, my mom and dad are in Mexico, so all of the bills that are coming in, I pay for. I pay for my phone, car and everything else,” Garcia said. “I’m not gonna lie, every month I have to earn at least $2,000 to pay for all my utilities and such, and it becomes difficult.”
Even though Garcia has chosen a different path, he’s doing it because it feels fitting for him. He doesn’t want to encourage anyone to leave school solely because of a desire for money. His plans do include finishing high school and working hard for the things he needs in life while also providing a better life for his family.
“It seems easier for teens nowadays to say that they don’t want to go to school anymore and that they would rather work because they like money. But that’s not a motive to leave school,” Garcia said. “What I would suggest, is to graduate from high school because once you have that diploma, you have more open doors. My mom and dad always tell me to finish high school because I’ll regret it later in life if I don’t.”