Daniel Johnson, a Davis High School junior, helps Jessica Williams and her kids, Mia, 9, Kiera, 7, and Anna, 2, to the car after bagging their groceries. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

Local News

Summer jobs aren’t always in the bag

By From page A1 | August 20, 2014

How did you spend your summer? In Davis, plenty of teenagers spent theirs earning their first paychecks.

The sheer number of students in Davis looking for jobs as the final school bell approaches can make finding, and securing, such a job very difficult. Fortunately, however, there are a lot of job opportunities for high schoolers looking to bankroll his or her summer exploits.

The No. 1 employer of teens? The city of Davis.

Often, students who work for the city experience déjà vu — returning to camps they attended as elementary students, only this time they’re running the sessions as counselors.

“Ever since I was a kid, and attended the same camps I work at now, I wanted to become just like my leaders,” soon-to-be Davis High senior Ben Heeren said. “It was just a matter of time before I reached the age to begin the volunteering program.”

Heeren, and his co-worker Daniel Pardee, are camp counselors at Voyagers, a summer camp attended by children ages 10-12. Both did their time, as each volunteered for the city for a couple of years before obtaining paid positions. Pardee, a DHS graduate, got the paying job as a sophomore as a way to support himself throughout the rest of the year, but his motivations were different this year.

“I’m trying to help my parents pay for college next year,” said Pardee, who heads off to Oberlin College (Ohio) in the fall.

Heeren and Pardee’s experiences may come in handy in future summers, as it has for their supervisor, Julia Hills, who is the senior recreation leader for the Voyagers camp.

“I was a volunteer camp counselor at Camp Putah during the summers of 2009 and 2010, which gave me a leg up during the recreation leader interview process in 2013,” Hills said. “It was extremely helpful that I volunteered for two summers and that I had a summer as a recreation leader when applying for (the senior position).”

Camp counselor isn’t the only job the city has to offer.

Many of the pools in Davis hire teenagers to work as lifeguards, cashiers, snack bar attendants and swim instructors.

“I’ve worked as a swim instructor at Arroyo Pool for three years,” DHS junior Thomas McTygue said. “This is my first year working in the snack bar.”

Working at the pool has been beneficial for McTygue. He says he earns enough money to eat out every day of the school year — and he sees the job as something to do during the doldrums of summer.

“(Without the job) I’d just eat and watch TV,” McTygue said. “So it’s been nice to have the job.”

In an aquatic-minded town like Davis, the swim teaching opportunities don’t end with the city of Davis. Summerdarts, the summer swimming program offered by the Aquadarts swim program, is another popular option.

According to Carolee Gregg, the Summerdarts head coach, about 90 teenagers apply to work as swim coaches for the program. Unfortunately, she can only take about 75. Aquadarts team policy dictates that Gregg has to focus on hiring former and current Aquadarts swimmers, but she also looks at Summerdarts.

Of course, a job interacting with younger kids every day isn’t for everyone. But there are plenty of other jobs available for high schoolers looking to avoid the responsibility of looking out for elementary kids.

Nugget Markets, Regal Theatres and restaurants like In-N-Out provide avenues for young job-seekers.

Nugget, especially, employs many teenagers, with a company countywide total of about 30. At the East Covell location, there are typically seven to 10 teenaged employees, according to Kate Stille, director of marketing.

One of those employees is Daniel Johnson, a junior at DHS.

Johnson, like most teens who work at Nugget, is a courtesy clerk, bagging groceries and walking them out to a customer’s car. He’s also learning other store tasks and uses his hard-earned money to finance his passion.

“I love filmmaking,” Johnson says. “And if I could, it would be all I would ever do. … But it’s a pricey hobby, and the money I make filming for other people does not cover all my expenses.”

Even with the number of jobs available during the summer, some students are still left out when it comes to employment. And while some parents give their kids a helping hand, not having a job can leave a high schooler in dire straits.

“The main problem of not having a job is obviously money,” said William Bodendorfer, a junior at DHS. “I’m running out of money to get gas and go out to eat because I’m basically just using leftover birthday money.”

The idea of high school students competing for jobs is a new experience for most, but it is the status quo in Davis. Complicating matters for the high schoolers are college students, either UC Davis summer school enrollees or college kids coming home for the summer.

“I don’t really have anything on my résumé,” Bodendorfer said. “Whereas you’ve got college kids that are overqualified for the jobs that they’re applying for.”

In all, Bodendorfer applied for six jobs, but was not hired at any. His situation is hardly unique, as Mitchell Williams, another junior at the high school, will attest.

“I applied for three or four jobs,” Williams explained. “They just told me ‘Sorry, we can’t give you a job at this time.’ ”

While there are a lot of kids that find themselves without a job come summer, there seem to be more with jobs. Contrary to the lazy teenager stereotype, these Davis kids work hard.

Unfortunately for their employers, summer is only three months long.

How to stand out

According to Kate Stille of Nugget Markets, several characteristics make a prospective employee stand out. An applicant who showcases the following stands a good chance of getting a job:

* Positive attitude
* Enthusiasm
* Ability to carry on a fluid conversation
* Team player
* Wide variety of interests
* Sincere interest in working
* Cares about serving guests

— Reach Spencer Ault at [email protected]

Spencer Ault

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