My new appreciation “adulting”: The benefits of teenagers working

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by Sophia Hopkins, Reporter

As of 2019 only 19.2 percent of teenagers are working. With a steep decline in the number of teens working, is school enough to teach students the skills of the “real” world? 

With part-time jobs throughout the year, or summer jobs, teens can learn a multitude of skills that are not taught in school: money management, filing taxes, and working with others, especially a supervisor, under a different atmosphere.  

With first jobs comes a first bank account that students have sole control over (mostly). This is vital for teens to learn how to manage their money. Many teens, including me, finally set up a proper savings account and have a debit card. 

If jobs are so important for developing real world skills, why do so many teens seem to not be working? They say juggling both work and school is too hard to manage.

Some say that the increase of harder courses (AP and dual enrollment), added pressure to go to a four year college, and extracurriculars to help with those college applications, can squeeze out time for anything other than school. 

This is limiting options.  It’s not just what happens in school that “counts.”

I started working at 16, and I have garnered so much knowledge. I never knew how taxes worked until April 2021. I had a quick crash course of how a W-2 works in middle school, but it did not do it justice. When I started working, my manager handed me an unfamiliar form, and I was on my own. I almost forgot the W-2 in my locker. Of course, I was lucky to have my dad’s help filing my taxes, but it was a good first experience that will help me every year of my working life. 

On the other hand, work can cause more stress, and school is my priority. I have managed to combine my schedule with school and still leave enough time to do homework. I work fewer hours during the school year (14 hrs. = two school nights and one weekend day). It’s a balancing act.

Even working a little has taught me a lot of responsibilities. I have learned how to communicate with a diverse group of people. It forced me to step out of my comfortable social circle and communicate with people of different races, sexuality, and religions. This goes for the co-workers and the customers.

“Having a job has taught me time management, organization, dealing with stupid people, and respect for working, and earning money,” said co-worker senior Taylor Carroll.

And I’m tired of people complaining about their work as a hassle. My experiences at Walmart haven’t been all good, but what job is “all good?” One adult lesson everyone needs to learn is that there are days that work isn’t fun–that’s true for every job.

I have learned through trial and error, not everything will be done perfectly the first time. Walmart has pushed me to think outside of the box because work doesn’t always have a right and wrong answer, like a textbook or a worksheet have. I have to make decisions about what is right in the moment.

“Working has taught me how to push through struggles. I wasn’t a very good worker at the start, but at a point I saw it was a great opportunity to learn how to work hard. I now see that I shouldn’t look down any one job because even in a retail job you should give it your best. Plus working retail has taught me how to deal with people I don’t like,”  said Brody Thompson who started working at 15.

Walmart has really taught me that there is a life outside of school. I think a lot of students need that reality check.

My life used to revolve around going to school and doing homework. With work thrown into the mix, I relaxed about the world that surrounds me. OK. I don’t get to go to the Friday football games, but I realized that Friday football is not my whole world.

I started working at 15. I’m happy I started working that early because I wouldn’t have learned how to manage my money or how to interact with people if not.”

— Kaitlin Howell

You may not get the amazing college opportunities that school provides, but some jobs do offer educational programs. Walmart has the Live Better U, and Amazon has the Amazon Career Choice. Corporations like Pepsi are handing out scholarships to students, too.

It’s reassuring to know that there are options outside of school, and that efforts outside of school can help provide a better future for me.