The Value of Summer Jobs

Emma Swanson, Arts and Entertainment Editor

In New Jersey, the working age is 14 years old, but I started working when I was 13. For every summer since I can remember, my family has been going to the very bottom of New Jersey, to an island called Cape May. This island has plenty of stores and restaurants, mostly run by the teenagers in the area. I watched my oldest sister get her first job, and then my other sister started working too. I was too young for so long, but I dreamed of biking to work in the morning like a little adult just like them.

When I was 13 years old, the owner of the store my sister worked at offered me an under the counter job. Since it technically was not legal for me to be working, he paid me in cash. All I had to do was fold shirts, and I got eight dollars an hour–in cash. It was a dream come true. I bought a lunch box to pack my meals in; I biked there as fast as I could every day that I was working, so I would be the first one there. I would strut around the walking mall in my uniform and spend the money I had just made with the tiny discount they gave local workers. I loved it. I felt so important clocking into my shift.

The next summer, I tackled three jobs. In the morning I worked at a pancake restaurant with both of my sisters. ¬†At night I worked at my friends’ jewelry store, and during the weekends, I helped out at a smoothie stand. I was an experienced worker by then, so I juggled the three jobs gracefully, of course. For the next three years, I worked at that pancake house. I formed strong relationships with the owners, my managers, and the waitresses. I worked hard five to six days a week and loved every second of it. I felt like I was doing something with my time.

Not only did spending my own money feel awesome, but saving money felt awesome. Summer jobs can teach us how to responsibly handle money. After a couple months of just spending every single paycheck I received, I realized that saving my money felt so much more rewarding than wasting it on some jewelry or bathing suit that I would not even wear. My experience with summer jobs taught me how to work hard, form relationships with those around me, and it prepared me for life in the future. Embracing summer jobs can make us feel independent-something a 13-year-old does not usually feel.