Working hard for an easy future


Like many students at Eastern, I aspire to go to college. I plan to go to a state school, somewhere like Rowan or Rutgers. I would love to get a bachelors in nursing or in animal science depending on where I end up. I have good grades. I take honors classes. I am involved in many clubs and activities, and my SAT scores are pretty good.

  With all this, it almost seems like I’m locked into place.

  There is, however, one thing that haunts me: financing this pathway.

 The whole idea of drowning in student debt makes me sick to my stomach. We have all heard the horror stories about people who pass on their debt to their children, who have debt of their own to begin with.

   I am paying for college with my own money, which means I have roughly 18 months to get enough money and scholarships and do everything possible to avoid copious amounts of loans for college. To make this easier, I plan on commuting.

  This is not a unique situation, nor am I unlucky to be here. However, this goal of mine requires me to work as much as possible. As of right now, I have two jobs that pay a bit more than minimum-wage, and two that pay upwards of $10 an hour. I have made a decent improvement in my savings account, and I’m currently working 20-30 hours a week.. My friends think it’s crazy that I have four jobs and that I plan on increasing my work life with more hours and new jobs.

      Right now, my day starts at five twenty-five. I get up and dressed, then get my work clothes and bag ready. Next is packing my backpack, then doing makeup, then going to school. After seven hours there, I rush up to my room, throw on my uniform, exchange my backpack for a work bag, and head to work. This is followed by a cup of coffee from the break room, a bite of fast food, a shower, an hour or so of homework, and then collapsing into bed after eleven.

   A lot of Eastern student get financial help from their parents or family members. Most of them are able to get into good schools and afford it with the help of family. Sometimes, their parents even take the loans for them.

  One Eastern sophomore, Darren Frankel, doesn’t have a job. “Between debate, crew, and other extracurricular activities, I don’t have that kind of time. My parents are going to help me pay for college,” Frankel explains. It’s a common tale for Eastern students, getting their school paid off partially or entirely by parents.

  On the other hand, students from Sterling high school in Summerdale can relate more to my situation. They are from a less wealthy community and are generally more work-oriented than school-oriented.

  A senior at Sterling, working in fast food, commented on the difference. He said, “ I absolutely don’t plan on going to college. I don’t have the funds. I like where I work and if I get up to a management position, I would be completely happy. I know that people at my school, even teachers, are supportive of this because they understand that everyone has a different financial situation.”

  It is completely fair to say Eastern doesn’t prioritize working students. While others schools understand the importance of gaining work experience, it’s barely talked about here. Getting a taste of the workforce, financial independence, and not just relying on the system that teaches spoon-fed garbage that students will rarely ever use, is the positive that comes from getting a job.

  While a lot of students at Eastern do have jobs, not all of them rely on having those jobs. Most of the students here work around minimum-wage and just a few hours a week to get work experience. They have parents to support them. The teachers are aware of this, as well as administrators, and this is reflected in their actions and in their assignments, as many assume school is the priority and that they have the time for a heavy workload. Since 1993, the amount of high school students with a job has dropped from 30.5 percent, to a tiny 19.5 percent. That’s about one in five.

   Now, I don’t expect my honors and AP teachers to reduce homework just because I work a lot, nor do I expect any accommodation to be made. It would just be nice to make it clear that just because I’m an honors students doesn’t mean I’m living large and have as much time or money to commit to a class.

  “I have schoolwork and swim, so I don’t really have enough time to work during the school year,” said Celeste Lebold, an Eastern sophomore. She works as a lifeguard at a Cherry Hill swim club during the summers, but her busy schedule makes it difficult to work during the school year.

  I used to cringe in elementary school when they required us to bring a poster board because that meant having to go to the store and finding someone to buy me one. It got to the point where the librarian would buy me what I needed.

   More Eastern students should consider getting a job, and the school should support and accommodate to students with a heavy workload.

   “I can’t count how many assignments I have missed due to long shifts, but I don’t feel bad about it. I’d rather do a job that makes me money over schoolwork that doesn’t provide any benefits,” stated Michael Bellocchio, a working Eastern junior.

   So if I struggle to make it to a school event that takes place after hours, or if I don’t get around to an extra credit assignment, that shouldn’t change what kind of student I am thought of as, permitting I still get adequate grades. Please remember that for myself and other working students at Eastern, work is an equal or higher priority than school.