A balancing act: How high schoolers walk the tightrope of employment

While it’s often thought of as a responsibility made for adulthood, many Centennial students made the decision to be employed, whether it be to save up for college or assist in supporting their families. 

In addition to the constant balancing act of homework, school, sports, and other extracurriculars, some CHS students have taken on the outside responsibility of being employed; from coaching to waiting tables, to answering phones and greeting customers, these high schoolers find ways to stay busy ‘round the clock.

Since students tend to be involved in numerous extracurricular activities, such as clubs and sports, scheduling can become quite stressful. JJ Weidemann, a junior at Centennial, coaches and refs for Howard County Recreational Volleyball and started when he was only 14.  “If I knew how much time it would have been, I would have started later instead of at that age because I just got used to it, and now with more schoolwork, it’s a lot harder,” Weidemann reflects. 

CHS senior Philip Heleba is a server at Sakura, a Japanese steakhouse, and echoes Weidemann’s reflection on time management. He has found it difficult to complete his homework, since his shifts go from 3 pm to 10 pm. When he thinks back to before he began working, he wishes he would have planned out his schedules better.

Along with schoolwork, juggling sports can be an added difficulty for students with jobs. Heleba plays baseball for Centennial, while Weidemann plays volleyball, tennis, and golf. Although it is the off season for baseball, Heleba worries about his future schedule in the spring, as his shifts are on the weekdays, and practices are after school. 

Though junior Kennedy Burke is also an athlete on the Varsity cheer team, she does not regret getting a job. “I think it’s a good benefit to have,” she said. “In a way it’s another outlet other than school just away from…everything.” While it is referred to as work, some students view it as an escape from their schoolwork, including Burke, who is a “stay and play” employee for the YMCA. Her job consists of supervising children while their parents complete their workouts. She tends to only work on the weekends, so her schoolwork and extracurriculars are not usually affected by her work. 

For some like Burke, it is the experience they value the most. “I really enjoy the interaction with the kids and having that outside interaction with people who aren’t my age,” commented Burke. “I think it’s fun.” 

But of course, money is also one of the driving factors for these high school students participating in outside work. “It’s definitely worth it,” explains Heleba. “It’s nice to be able to hang out with friends and all that and have money for gas and food when I want it.” Heleba says the reason he began working was to save up money for college. 

Having a job is important  for participating in the real world after high school, but is it a necessity for current students? While it can sometimes be stressful, many students come to the consensus that the experience of having a job is the real value in employment as a teen. 

“I think it’s a good skill to have especially before you go into college where working is almost like a necessity,” reflects Burke. “Right now it’s a little bit of extra money and a little more independence away from your parents, so you’re not used to relying on someone else.”

In 2021, due to the extent of the pandemic, about 17.5 million students between the ages of 16-24 are working for the sole purpose of providing for their families. Throughout Maryland, there’s about 54,624 families receiving welfare, and about 252,000 children who are on food stamps. Students all over the state take jobs, working close to full time job hours after school to provide help for their families, all while balancing their student responsibilities. 

Heleba reminds students that having a job is only something you should do if you have the time, since “it’s a nice way to build [a sense of] responsibility and to set yourself up for the future.”


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