Teens question if there is more to life than “The Grind”


Photo by Effie Giannoudakos

Former student Mykayla Snodgrass works at the North Avenue Pub & Grill, as well as Dunkin’ Donuts.

By Effie Giannoudakos, Reporter

Students today at West Chicago Community High School claim they are being overworked and not getting enough sleep.

Working has its advantages, but some question if part-time jobs are causing sleep deprivation and absenteeism. According to the sources interviewed, yes.

“Ever since I started working, I’ve been more tired than usual. I have little-to-no time for myself, and that led to a drop in motivation for me,” senior Dayanna Sanchez said.

Many students at West Chicago Community High School work, whether to pay bills, for extra cash or to save for college. The reason students work varies, but the big picture is that students who work part-time, along with attending high school, say they end up sleeping less, and it takes a toll on their mental health.

The Center for Disease Control says that the average high school student should be getting eight to ten hours of sleep at a minimum of eight hours.

“Probably half, if not the majority of our students, aren’t even getting eight hours [of sleep],” West Chicago Community High School counselor Gavin Engel said. 

If teens are not sleeping even the minimum hours they should be sleeping, one must question the effects lack of sleep, and therefore part-time jobs, have on students’ mental and physical well-being.

“You have so many responsibilities that you brush off, [like] sleep. [People say] ‘Oh, I’ll do homework, or I’ll work that extra shift… I feel like nowadays, students focus more on their academics and financials instead of their healthy being, and it really can impact your mental health,” Sanchez said.

The job board features a variety of part-time opportunities for students, but some question whether students should work while attending school. (Photo by Effie Giannoudakos)

Working part-time can also impact attendance. 

“I mean, me personally, I was absent a lot, so I think that that’s pretty true [that people who work are absent more often] because I know people who work who just be working and they put work before they put school,” former WEGO student Mykayla Snodgrass said. Snodgrass works part-time at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Students who work may miss out on sleep, but also typical high school experiences. 

“Your life, especially your high school experience, should be so much more than just ‘The Grind’,” Engel said. 

When students are mentally and emotionally struggling because of all of the activities, including extracurriculars, part-time jobs, and family responsibilities, that they are involved in, it leaves room for more absenteeism in school and being ‘down in the dumps’ emotionally.

“I think that sometimes it can become overwhelming and become too much and I think it builds inside of you so obviously… [students are] suffering socially, emotionally, mentally, you know [their] spirit is down in the dumps,” Engel said.

The CDC estimates that seven out of ten teenagers do not get enough sleep on school nights. As young adults pursue higher education, work/life balance may be even more difficult to achieve. Experts estimate 43% of full time college students work part-time; Ohio State University’s Office of Student Life claims that the average college student gets just six hours of sleep per night, even though the recommended is eight to ten.

“I was not sleeping properly. Sometimes I was closing at nine [p.m.], and then having to open at three-thirty [a.m.] and that was really rough. It was not good for my head and not good for my sleep, and it was rough,” Snodgrass said. 

Part-time students are likely not getting enough sleep, and the lack thereof may seriously affect their mental and physical health. 

When these same two WEGO students and a school counselor were asked if they thought corporations take advantage of their high school students, all three responded with an overwhelming ‘yes’.

“Oh, for sure, one-thousand percent, I know they take advantage of their high school students because high school students are too afraid to speak up, and they don’t want to get fired, and they need that job,” Snodgrass said.

However, Alina Minkova of Bentley University’s CareerEdge center agrees there are advantages that come from part-time work in high school, such as time management skills, communication skills, along with learning how to handle money. 

With all these advantages, the ability to advocate for oneself is a skill that may benefit part-time workers.

“Asserting yourself and advocating for yourself is extremely important and I think sometimes not just employers, but people in general, if they see that someone is easily manipulated or doesn’t advocate or assert themselves, they’ll sometimes take advantage of that because they know they can” Engel said.

“Mindfulness for Teens” is just one of the many self-help selections available in the counseling center. (Photo by Effie Gianoudakos)

Engel recommends that students “scale back” if they find that their mental health is impacted by taking on too many responsibilities. 

“That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. You can’t do it all, and you can’t please everyone, and you gotta look out for yourself,” Engel said.

Those thinking about picking up an extra shift or blowing off going to bed early to study may need to think about how lack of sleep will affect them the next day, or in the long run. Sleep is important, and may be necessary to be in a healthy head space. 

“You’re not focusing on what you really need, but what you think you need,” Sanchez said.