Student Work Program Provides for New Experience

Ashley Wolfe, Editor-in-Chief

This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to become part of a state-sponsored youth work program here at MHS. During the week–from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.–I worked with 11 other MHS students performing light maintenance and janitorial duties.

I learned about this program from Mundelein RTI teaching assistant Stephen Douglas, a short time after he was informed of it. After speaking with former Assistant Principal James Ongtengco and filling out an interest sheet, I met with other students interested in the job and soon learned that we would be working together that summer.

While many would much rather spend their vacation in the unscheduled comfort of their homes or surfing the waves in a foreign country, I found myself exhilarated and greatly inspired by my choice of pastime this summer.

From this experience, I gained valuable knowledge about becoming part of the workforce and picked up on two amazingly simple, but very important lessons.

  1. Everyone has their own story.

Although it’s been said many times not to judge a book by its cover–in relation to both literal books and also to individuals–this summer I saw firsthand the meaning behind those words. Many of the other students weren’t people I had associated with before then or would have had reason to. During this program, I was able to learn more about other cultures present in our school and the variety of perspectives. Some of the student workers happened to be recent graduates. As a result, they had more than a few useful pieces of advice for getting through high school and even planning for college.

  1.   Everyone has a little bit of kindness in them somewhere.

In the program, some students drove to the workplace, some were dropped off and others walked from home. Early on, multiple students– myself included– stepped up to offer rides to those without, despite not being familiar with them. Eventually, this caused students to become more familiar and open to one another, making the time spent working together much less awkward.

Another individual who shared a similar view was Junior Rasec Chavez. In the beginning, Chavez said she thought the program would be “pointless.” But by the last day, she realized that maintaining a school is no easy task. Besides getting to meet new people, Chavez discovered the important role that MHS staff and faculty play in the upkeep of our school.

But her favorite part, like mine, was the socializing.

“I liked working with people my age,” she said. “[The best part was] getting to know everyone [and] making new friends.”

In addition, Senior Arturo Caballero was another of the work program’s employees. He described the experience as fun, saying he, too, enjoyed the people and the environment.

“It’s a good experience for first-time workers,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more. Taking part in this work program allowed me to truly experience what it’s like to have a real, scheduled job. I learned that even as a student, in the workforce I am viewed as a regular employee and held to such standards. I learned that there’s something called “taxes,” which is taken out of every paycheck, and does not exclude us young workers. But most of all, I learned how to engage with new people who are in many ways unlike me, but just as unique.

In short, my summer vacation was definitely different from what I imagined it would be, but I learned far more than if I were to have spent it elsewhere. Although I don’t expect everyone to agree or be able to relate, my hope is that this inspires a similar thought in your mind. You’d be amazed at the amount of interesting people waiting to meet you. You just have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone.