The student news site of St. Mary's Academy

High School Jobs: Gentrification and Stigmas

March 24, 2017

Many people are shocked when I tell them I go to SMA and they later find out I also work at my local Baskin Robbins. Some of those people are customers that come into Baskin Robbins, some are my peers here at school, and some are just random strangers. After I tell them I attend SMA, the assumption is that I am financially secure and the stigma is that the reason I have this job is to “get a taste of the real world and appreciate my belongings.” Unbelievably many take hold of this idea. They believe that a private school student is supposed to excel in every aspect. Jobs like working at a fast-food restaurant or in a department store might seem like a set-back to a private school student in the eyes of others.

But in reality, despite the stigma, there are many students around SMA who have jobs because they are beginning to save up for college, need some extra money in their pockets, and or simply want to elevate their communicating skills and get out of their  comfort zone. Whether a student works at a common job or is an intern at a law firm, I believe both workers should be rewarded for the same amount of effort and work. Each job comes with their individual benefits. Regardless of the school the teen attends, their work should not be undermined, nor underestimated.

All that being said, I do believe there are opportunity disadvantages present within the workforce, and we are the first ones being affected by it. Many top work forces have internships opened and first available to selective students, such as those who attend private schools. Many employers privately contact school counselors and let them know about opportunities. While all the students at SMA are great, there are also great students in public schools who should be aware of these opportunities in their community as well.

Local students at public high schools like Roosevelt, which is the most diverse school in Oregon, should be made aware of an internship opportunity as much as those in private schools. Internships look amazing in resumes when applying for college and a job in the future, and they are shown to lead a student into choosing a major before college, saving time, money, and stress.

By having these resources available to minority students and those affected by poverty, we open up their limitations and grant more hopefulness and bright futures.

I interviewed three students with jobs to help me understand what led these young women to their workplace. Two of the three students work at a law firm and heard about the opportunity from here at SMA. I also interviewed a student from Roosevelt who has a part-time job at Baskin Robbins.

They all shared common thoughts about their jobs like, “I wanted the extra money, extra curricular, and work practice.” And there were differences among their thoughts, as Shannon (BR part-time worker) described it as, “It has improved my small talk skills,” while others explained their disconnection with the clients since she was more inside her office during her work hours.

I later asked my Shannon how she felt this was being presented in her resume by others, she explained she was very proud of her job, and the hard work she dedicates to it, but is afraid as to how it might look to her dream school during the time of admissions. But my peers at SMA described their internships as the “one bright shining star” in their resume. The contrast of attitude is ultimately decided upon the decision and views of others.

Also another factor that lead my co-worker to her job was the financial security Baskin Robbins offered her. She felt pressured in a way to find a job, since she had financial difficulties at home. Instead of waiting, she felt a common job was the way to go.

This leads to the bigger issue. It is evident gentrification is affecting the workforce, especially for teens. Attending SMA has opened myself to meeting young women from different socio-economic backgrounds than the one I was previously exposed to. Many of my peers do have common jobs, and many of these jobs are located in the areas like the Pearl, Alberta, and Lake Oswego, some of the wealthiest and urban areas in Portland.

Many of these jobs are more likely to pay more than the minimum wage and give quicker raises. For example, a personal friend of mine has a job at Porque No, a locally owned restaurant on Hawthorne. His starting wage an hour was $11.25. He also happens to live three blocks away in a fairly wealthy neighborhood. Compared to my workplace, located four blocks away is a McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Fred Meyer’s, and a gas station. Also locally owned restaurants and shops near us have a work force of middle-aged workers. Since transportation plays a big part in the decision of choosing a job, many times teens settle to work at jobs located near them.

Comparing it to the jobs available to teens in low-income neighborhoods, jobs from large corporations are the only gateway with promising wages and schedules. As Shannon described it, “To me a job is a job, and as long as I use my time wisely in my perspective, it is okay.” Many are forced to settle.

Being exposed to these different perspectives on teen jobs lets us see the time and effort teens from all backgrounds put into their jobs, despite the reputation or duty of the job. All jobs that are being balanced with school and other extra-curricular’s should be equally respected. Also, we should make an effort to help those who are marginalized by offering those same same opportunities.

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