While some Montclair students jet off for beach vacations or participate in youth travel/volunteer programs abroad, adults can rest assured that a hard-working teen group is staying local to work the traditional student jobs that keep Montclair’s businesses running smoothly. From scooping ice cream to lifeguarding at the town pools, these teens are gaining great work experience, learning a lot about customer service, and earning some cash of their own.
For my third year, I am also a part of the summer workforce at St. James Preschool Summer Camp so I can relate to my peers’ experiences on the jobs. Working at the camp with 30 pre-schoolers can be frustrating and difficult, but it is a job that I really enjoy because of the great interactions I get to have with the kids. Simple joys that I have forgotten in a whirlwind of junior-year madness, like running in a sprinkler and playing catch, are rekindled every year I go back to work at St. James. Olivia DeFranco, a rising senior who works at Twist Frozen Yogurt, took my sentiment to a surprising level when she told me that, “My favorite part is actually washing dishes.”
Not surprisingly, working during the summer isn’t all peaches and cream. Gabi Teitelbaum, an Urban Chicken employee, told me “I answer phones, take orders and assemble boxes that orders are served in. Making what seems like a trillion boxes has to be my least favorite part – cardboard cuts are the worst! Taking phone orders from kids I know at school is both frustrating and entertaining, because I know that the ridiculous names they give me are fake.” Many students cite long shifts and being pulled in multiple directions at the same time as something they’ve had to get used to. Ariel Rubin of Nauna’s Bella Casa answers phones, helps to prepare desserts, takes orders, assists servers, seats customers and fills in the odds and ends for her typical 5-6 hour shift. Francesca Pagnotta, who works at Applegate’s said, “My least favorite part of the job is probably dealing with huge crowds on a hot summer day and running around trying to get everything done as fast as I can. When it’s crazy crowded and there’s a lot of people working in a small space and we are all bumping into each other trying to serve the customers, the hardest thing to do is satisfy the customers.” Lines at Applegate’s can become lengthy, so employees work as quickly as possible to shorten the line in between wiping away ice cream drips for a clean prep area. Olivia of Twist agreed, “Some people can be really rude and you just have to take it because the costumer is always right. I’ve learned that working with people can be hard.” (Plea from teen employees everywhere: Patience please!)
One of the best parts of the job for many new workers isn’t the money or time spent away from pesky chores waiting at home, but the satisfaction that comes with a hard day’s work. Among walking in the 4th of July parade handing out coupons and serving doctors and nurses at Mountainside Hospital, Francesca’s favorite Applegate’s memory was, “When I was serving a uniformed soldier and a woman he didn’t know came up to the register and handed me $5 insisting that she pay for whatever he got; it was very touching. In general I’ve learned how to interact with people because of the job.” She’s not the only one who has learned something away from school this summer: every student I interviewed cited some really great learning experiences. MHS ’13 graduate Savannah Bigelow said that babysitting has been both enjoyable and rewarding, but also, “It definitely has taught me that kids are a lot of work and that you should be 110% positive you want them before you have them.” All of the MHS summer workers also mentioned that friendly co-workers have made for an enjoyable experience. Teddi Mattox, a town pool lifeguard said, “I really, really like the job because of how friendly the other lifeguards are and how relaxing it is to just be by the pool during the day. The lifeguards are kinda like a family, so it’s a great atmosphere to work in.”
So even though some Montclair teens are taking advantage of select opportunities to build houses for the needy or vacation on some beautiful distant land, many are still here in Montclair having a great time working and learning life-long skills. Gabi would agree: “Even though I go home smelling like fried chicken, work is kind of fun and I think it has been good for me to earn and manage my own money.”
Lauren Glasse, a MHS student and founder and editor of The Bull, an online news site covering issues at Montclair High School, is our new intern.