Working Teens Are a Dying Breed Commentator Angela Nissel recalls her summer and after-school jobs. She examines how teenagers who once would have spent their summers working at McDonalds or life-guarding are now spend their time at cello camp or internships.
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Working Teens Are a Dying Breed

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Working Teens Are a Dying Breed

Working Teens Are a Dying Breed

Working Teens Are a Dying Breed

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Commentator Angela Nissel recalls her summer and after-school jobs. She examines how teenagers who once would have spent their summers working at McDonalds or life-guarding are now spend their time at cello camp or internships.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Okay, so maybe rifling through your boss' desk for trade secrets is not the best way to get ahead on the job. Keep that in mind. Commentator Angela Nissel picked up a few other tips working summer and after school jobs.

Ms. ANGELA NISSEL (Commentator; Television Producer and Writer): When I turned 14, I dragged my mother to the mall and begged her to buy me a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. Once my mother saw the price on the sneaker box, she dropped it like it was burning her hand.

Sixty dollars for sneakers! For that price, Michael Jordan better be in this box, too!

After embarrassing me by pretending to look for a mini-Michael Jordan in the box, she asked the salesman for a job application. Instead of sneakers, my mother had decided my birthday gift should be learning the value of a dollar.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mothers like mine are a dying breed. Fewer teens work after school now, and many don't even attempt to find summer employment. On Internet message boards, parents argue that competition for college is intense, and students have too many extracurricular activities to take on a job. Some claim that tuba or soccer camp can provide the same life lessons.

I beg to differ. My minimum wage after school jobs taught me as much as those activities designed to pad my college resume. After school telemarketing taught me the value of persistence. House after house, people called me names like phone Nazi, or placed their phones next to a blasting stereo speaker. The pain from my eardrum quickly dissolved when I reached my goal - the one person that understood that three months of free accidental death insurance is an incredible deal.

Basketball camp claimed to teach me that tenacity, but all I learned was that short, flat-footed players like me are great at keeping benches warm. In high school, there's so much pressure to fit in, whether it's through cutting classes, drinking or having sex. One of the most important lessons a teenager can learn is how to say no to her peers. After working at a dress store and refusing to return prom dresses for hundreds of girls who cried and swore they didn't wear them - even the ones with the corsages still attached - I found that saying no to drugs was a cinch.

I learned to be a concerned student not in history class, but when I saw the amount of taxes deducted from my paycheck. When I cleaned the bathrooms, I learned that my colleagues weren't always going to be my age, from my neighborhood, or even speak my language. In fast food, I learned that people like their lettuce washed before they eat it. Being a child raised on microwave cooking, I don't know where else I could have learned this lesson.

While I'm sure college admissions officers will be impressed that your daughter has mastered the upright bass, they might be more impressed with the personality that emerges after a summer of old-fashioned hard work. And even if your daughter doesn't get early admission into Stanford, at least next summer she'll be able to pay for her own music lessons.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Commentator Angela Nissel is consulting producer and writer for the television show Scrubs.

Our summer job is working for MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LYNN NEARY, host:

And I'm Lynn Neary.

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