Busy But Balanced: Stuyvesant’s Student Workforce

Whether they’re working for the fun, the experience, or the money, students with jobs don’t have it easy—is it all worth it?

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Outside of school, many Stuyvesant students lead other busy lives in which they take on jobs and get a taste of adulting. Their greater responsibilities make time management a necessity, which means they have to make appropriate adjustments to their lifestyle. Buried deep in APs, extracurriculars, and on top of that, a paid job, it’s no easy feat for students to thrive in both school and work, but many are up to the challenge.

When sophomore Adeline Sauberli found the opportunity to work at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, she was hesitant at first. Though she enjoyed the summer camp she attended there and loved the museum environment, taking on a job was a major commitment to consider. “You do need to work 80 hours during the school year,” Sauberli said. “Initially, I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to go ahead with this. […] A job is not always feasible for everyone, especially if they have a lot of extracurriculars.”

However, the flexibility of her program dates made Sauberli realize that the position worked with her schedule. For instance, not all of the meetings were mandatory, so she could choose to attend events that she knew she had time for. “A lot of the after-hours meetings that we have are from 5:30 [p.m.] to 8 [p.m.] which means I can still do a club meeting at Stuy and get there on time,” she explained. She found it motivating to travel to the Intrepid after school with other Stuyvesant students who work there as well.

Sophomore Jayden Zhang is employed as a barista at Chun Yang, a bubble tea shop in Chinatown. “I feel like it’s a good change of scenery every Saturday—instead of being home, I’m out being a good person,” Zhang described. Since he takes seven to eight hours out of his weekend to work, he has to plan out his time wisely. “What I do on Fridays is that I schedule and plan ahead of time. I plan my social meets, my hobbies, [and] my sleep time all in one day so I can do [my job] during my allotted time,” he detailed.

Senior Ruby Lin, who works at Kumon for seven hours a week, notes that maximizing the use of her time is imperative to balance a job with school. “As a senior, I believe I’m good at time management, so I start my homework during my free periods and such. I used to be really committed to track, so I learned to maximize my time; I either start [AP] Calc[ulus] BC homework on the train or do my assigned reading for English class,” she said.

Sauberli has felt the taxing impacts of a heavy workload on her job. She opted out of attending an Intrepid event to go to finish her History Day project and write an essay. However, she regretted it later when she learned about the fun her co-workers had. “And I was so sad!” she reflected. “So I was thinking, ‘Addy, when you came home Tuesday, you had a lot of time to do your essay actually, and maybe it would’ve been better if you had just gone.’ Maybe I could’ve cranked it up a bit.”

Due to their unique personalities, students have different responses to adapting to their workloads. Zhang recognizes that working takes time away from his sleep. “I don’t get enough sleep because of my job; it takes away a lot of time on Saturdays which I could be spending doing homework,” he explained.

On the other hand, Sauberli had a slightly different opinion on the time being taken out of her schedule. “It’s almost easier for me to get my homework done if I do more things,” she said. Sauberli found that having a job was worth the time, especially because her workplace acknowledges that high school students have a hectic timetable. “Even if you do have work to do, if it’s a job that’s really fun, that you feel like you could get out of, do it,” she encouraged. “If the people who are organizing the job for you are mindful that you’re a student, they will make it easy for you to say yes.”

Those with flexible schedules may feel more relaxed relative to the previous accounts. After taking part in the Summer Youth Employment Program over the summer, senior Anisa Gao landed a remote part-time job at a non-profit organization called SPEAKHIRE. “I have to plan ahead of time if I want to go out with friends, or if I have any appointments. Usually my job does not have a strict schedule, […] just as long as I get the work done in a timely manner, so I usually try to make sure any plans I have are on the weekends, especially because weekdays are already full of schoolwork,” Gao said.

Gao finds her job to be a learning experience, shaping her skills for the betterment of her future. “[My boss] been helping me figure out what I want to do in the future and learn about things like professionalism, how to interact with potential customers, and how to market myself as a person. I have to contact many people during my job […] so she’s been teaching me a lot about how to interact with these people, and how to [manage my] tone of voice in general, and especially on social media,” Gao explained. After undergoing these experiences, Gao hopes to continue her passions in college.

Compared to the prior examples of relatively formal work settings, sophomore Filie Chen discovered a convenient opportunity that she could merge with her time at school. Chen works as a babysitter for two children at City Hall. “On days when the school bus arrives on time at 3 p.m., we walk for about 10 minutes to the center, and then I walk back to Stuy for clubs and school work. I’d get back in the building by 3:20 [p.m.], and still have 25 minutes left during 10th period,” Chen explained. By taking advantage of her 10th free, Chen is able to profit from her babysitting gig, and the rest of her daily schedule is similar to other students.

Junior Malcolm West works at the Starbucks in Brookfield Place. West has had various experiences with customers as a barista, infamous to those working in customer service. “I’ve had to deal with rude customers, customers trying to scam us for free drinks, and customers who ordered stuff online that we don’t have in store. Learning about human nature, seeing who says ‘Hi’ back, and [observing] how different age groups interact with workers is all very educational,” West acknowledged. Though some work environments may be harsh, these experiences may prove to be learning experiences to improve social interactions at school and in daily life.

Lin found the real-world experience she gained from teaching elementary school students to be very valuable as well. “My job showed me that there was a world that was outside of just school and learning and getting hands-on experience with little children showed me how rewarding it was to be able to assist them,” she said. Naturally, there are also financial benefits to students’ jobs. “I applied for this job despite being a busy Stuyvesant student because I wanted to earn money,” Lin said.

With his new experience working, Zhang too gained a new appreciation for financial freedom. “It’s nice to know that I have an okay income versus my outcome rates, so I’m not going to actually go into debt. It’s nice to know I can go out without burdening my parents financially,” he expressed. “I feel like it’s given me a lot of independence.”