Teens learn balance

January 21, 2003|by MEG H. PARTINGTON

Juggling school, social and extracurricular activities is a tough enough act for most teens.

Throwing a job into the mix is a daring feat, one not meant for the faint of heart - or the disorganized.

"They really have to be structured and organized," said Steve Frame, internship coordinator at Washington County Technical High School in Hagerstown.

Frame stresses the importance of keeping an assignment book because students' thoughts are easily scattered.

In keeping with that thought, some students whose busy lives include academics and jobs say it's best to get as much done during school hours as possible.


"Use your time wisely in class," said Hope Doleman, 19, a senior at Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

The Charles Town, W.Va., resident said she takes advantage of the time her teachers give her in class to prepare for exams.

Jennifer Runkles, 17, Clear Spring, sometimes goes to school early during the week to get ahead if she doesn't get all of her assignments done at home.

Runkles said she often tackles about 45 minutes of homework after an evening shift at T.G.I. Friday's in Hagerstown, where she is a hostess.

Doleman sometimes faces up to 90 minutes of studying after working a shift as a floor attendant at Charles Town Races. Though she tends to go to bed late anyway, hitting the pillow at midnight and rising at 6:30 a.m. for school can wear on her.

"It gets tiring sometimes," Doleman said.

Roberta Johnston, cooperative education coordinator at Franklin County Career and Technology Center in Chambersburg, Pa., said students must keep their priorities straight when they enter the workforce.

"Their education is the most important thing because they'll be working the rest of their lives," Johnston said.

Frame said students who are "treading water" academically shouldn't even consider getting a job.

If you know you have a big test or project coming up, let your boss know in advance that you'll need to work fewer hours at that time, Johnston said.

"Most employers are willing to work it out" if they're given some notice, she said.

Working teens must be up-front with their employers about their time limitations, the teachers and students agreed.

Runkles advised her fellow teens to tell their bosses when they're logging too many hours.

"You know you have work to do" outside of your place of employment, said Runkles, a senior in the criminal justice program at Washington County Technical High School.

When interviewing for a job, don't be afraid to ask questions about scheduling and whether you will have the chance to do homework during breaks or down time, Frame said.

While the need to earn money for cars, entertainment or to help out their families is the force that drives most teens to find employment, Johnston emphasized that the experience young people gain from working is worth much more.

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