Marcia and Wally Nelson are parents of the third set of twins I encountered at the soccer game. When their boys—high-school seniors at CVHS—became injured and quit club soccer, the Nelsons told them it was time to get a job. “Too much time on their hands is not good,” Marcia Nelson said. The Nelsons began with some coaching: Visit local businesses, follow their instructions to apply online, then make follow-up calls and request an interview.
One of their sons got a job at a local movie theater, but the other one struggled. “He was obstinate, and just did not want to call. He said, ‘If they want me, they’ll call me,’” Wally Nelson explained, noting his boys’ “cringe-worthy” phone skills and the necessity of talking them through each conversation.
His son Lukas eventually made some calls and got a lead at a local fast-food restaurant. The manager asked if he could alter his hours of availability, so he changed his application. This is when the real battle of wills began between father and son: Nelson insisted on a follow-up call, but Lukas was sure that one call was enough. He eventually agreed to call again and reported the results to his parents. But his mom was suspicious.
“My wife said he didn’t call. This is right in front of us. I check his phone, and he didn’t dial at all,” Wally Nelson said with a chuckle. “He was scared. Just plain scared.”
The parents persisted, verified that Lukas was on the phone with a real person, and listened as a manager granted their son an interview. Eventually, he got the job. The boys are now paying for their own gas, competing to see who saves the most money, and planning for a trip together after graduation. They enjoy their jobs and are working on the weekends during the school year. The nagging, these parents said, was worth it.
BUT NOT ALL TEENAGERS are looking for jobs. Many of the soccer players told me they were too busy with club sports, vacations, camps, church activities, and the hysteria surrounding college acceptance. According to team data from April, at least 13 of the CVHS summer varsity soccer players had above a 4.0 GPA for excelling in advanced placement classes, and one incoming senior took an architecture class over the summer at a community college. At least six were enrolled in SAT boot camps or tutoring, and many of the seniors were finishing up their recommended 40 hours of volunteer work.
Are teens missing out on the character-boosting benefits of work when they spend all their time creating flashy college applications? Karen Lee, a college prep adviser at College Conquest, thinks so. “When it comes to really humbling them and having different layers in their personality, I think work speaks to a different experience. You’re being paid for this, and you have that expected responsibility put on you by the employer. So you have to do the things they are asking.”