Life skills spring from summer jobs

Abigail Kestle, Sports Editor

Picture this, school is out for the summer and you’re faced with endless possibilities and plenty of free time. What do you do? Well, for quite a few of Rolla High School students, getting a summer job is the answer. Why not earn money while doing something fun like making shaved ice or lifeguarding? 

More local jobs tend to open up for high school students as the school year ends. Sure, there are year-round jobs at local businesses and restaurants, but there’s only a couple of months in the year where we need landscapers, camp counselors, and lifeguards. Plus, a full wallet isn’t the only perk of a job; practicing life skills like customer service, problem solving, and positive teamwork are also beneficial.

Kathryn Hirtz, a junior at RHS, is heading into her third year of lifeguarding at SplashZone.

“I heard about it from a few friends and went down to the City of Rolla’s office and applied and got an interview within days,” said Hirtz.

With a job like lifeguarding, there’s a certain level of physical strength and certifications from training that are necessary before you can apply for the position. There’s also a social aspect that most people don’t consider.

“I think learning all of the first aid and CPR is really useful for any situation because you can utilize those skills even outside of lifeguarding. And [lifeguarding] really helps with your one-on-one with other people skills. Kids will come up to you and have questions for you… during our fifteen-minute safety checks or whenever they need first aid, you have to talk to these people,” said Hirtz.

Hirtz reflected on one of her more intense experiences while lifeguarding and how it felt to perform her role under pressure.

“One of the kids went down the slide wrong, and their parent was there to catch him at the end,” said Hirtz. “Before we could tell them they weren’t allowed to do that he busted his mouth. And it was a little kid probably around the age of six or seven. I was one of the lifeguards that got to take him to the office and to keep them calm. We get to just talk about him and his pets… to keep them calm. I think that was like a really good experience just knowing how to keep someone else calm in a situation where they were freaking out.”

Don Luna, an RHS math teacher and A+ coordinator, runs two tropical shaved ice shacks in the area. One shack is located in St. James, and the other is here in Rolla. Luna looks forward to scouting for his employees by looking for genuine, hardworking, and respectful students at RHS. Generally, Luna skips the formal interview when hiring his employees. 

“Usually I seek out students [by] recommendations from other teachers or personally by having them in class or seeing how they act in the hallway,” said Luna. “Based off of first impressions and just how they act.”

According to Luna, shaving ice is a more technical job than it may seem at surface level.

“Well, making shaved ice sounds super easy, but [almost] anybody when I first put them on the shaved ice machine struggles just because it’s much harder than it looks,” said Luna. “Anybody could just throw it on there but it needs to be packed like a snow cone like you get from the carnival… And then also the pouring is a lot harder than it looks. [you have] to make sure you get it right. The experienced people make it look super easy, but they’re actually feeling [the syrup] hit the bottom of the cup with their pinky… They’re actually experienced enough to kind of get an idea of how it should feel and things like that. It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Luna hopes to teach his employees the importance of four lessons while working at his shaved ice business: problem solving, responsibility, teamwork, and that hard work pays off. Luna is setting up his employees to use these attributes in everyday life and in their future careers.

“There’s usually only one person working, except for at night, there’s two. But a lot of times, even with two people there, something will go wrong. [For example,] the shavers not shaving right or something. Being able to think on their feet and problem solve is huge,” said Luna.

Angie Richardson, a junior at RHS and a former Summertime Snow Shaved Ice employee, worked for Luna last summer.

“Well, I had him as a math teacher last year and he talks about [his business] a lot and I needed an easy summer job that wasn’t full time, so I just asked him very casually,” said Richardson.

Richardson supported Luna’s values while working at his shaved ice shack. While working five hour shifts, she was faced with waves of customers waiting in the heat for cold treats.

“I feel like being nice to people, like common courtesy, was really a big thing because a lot of little kids drop their snow cones and parents are like ‘I’m not going to pay for another one.’ And if we watch you spill it, we’re going to make a new one. And everyone’s always so appreciative about it,” said Richardson. “And also being non-judgmental. Everybody comes and gets snow cones because it’s hot, so you get to see a lot of interesting people… Thinking on your feet [is also important] because sometimes you have people in a big group and they order a whole bunch of stuff, and then they want to change things. So just being able to take in that information and not get things mixed up was really kind of hard to get used to.”

Richardson offered advice for students that are hoping to find a job this summer.

“Choose a job that you think you’ll be able to like, don’t just do it for the money.”