Roving Teen Reporter: Learning on the Job

Jerry Wu

Identified by its trademarked green mermaid and perfume of freshly brewed coffee, the Starbucks drive-thru is where Karina Levinson greets her everyday customers. The Del Norte High School senior pulls aside the slide-open window, fogged from condensation, and hands over the drink. A seemingly simple task Karina repeats is always decorated by her colorful side-chatting with newcomers or regulars to the store.


“I love that position because all you do is talk to people and learn about their days. You get a window into their lives that you would not if you had not worked there,” she said.


Karina, like many other high schoolers, has a part-time job. She has worked at Starbucks as a barista for the last year and a half. Having first applied for the job as a cashier, she later worked in drive-thrus, seeing her “improved communication skills” with coworkers and customers.


In Karina’s eyes, high schoolers should strive to experience the roles of responsibility and leadership in the workplace. But she underlines that finding a suitable work environment enables the students to take the most value from that job.


“Being in an environment you do not enjoy will only make you dislike working more. What says that these students will like their second job?” she said. “I think that someone who works should be aware of what they are putting themselves through.”


Arman Dahli, a Canyon Crest Academy senior working three days a week at the Team Touché Fencing Center, wonders if he had not pushed himself to seek a job in high school, he would have overcome his social anxiety.


For the last two years, leading children in group lessons while teaching them new fencing skills has honed his confidence and persistence as a mentor and club employee.


“I was nervous at the start having to work with parents. I have always suffered from social anxiety. So having to deal with parents was a good way for me to get over that with this job,” Arman said.


What has allowed Arman to continue his part-time job for so long is the time management of his academic schedule, knowing his responsibilities also lie at the club.


High schoolers like Arman and Karina share an aspect of human connection—others find solace in jobs that pertain to their academic interests and future careers.


Starting as a high school intern at a university-based biotech company, Will Kwon, a Torrey Pines High School senior, is employed as a software developer and most recently coded an IOS app for a medical device. Early entrance into the biotechnology field has offered him important insight: into operating novel machine-learning algorithms and seeking mentorships with other employees at the company. In Will’s case, he hopes to spearhead his entrepreneurship by starting his own software business.


“When you have a new research paper, you might not see the finished product in the market five or ten years later. A lot of it is due to underdeveloped software, so I am working to make it more accessible and speed the process for companies to create software for the devices so they can get to the market in one or two years,” he said.


For students, their constant fixation with high school as a prime pathway of self-discovery, calling for further exploration and commitment to a part-time job that bears unique merits of its own.