Local teens no longer live a ‘life of luxury’ due to failing economy
April 28, 2009 by Staff
ATHENS, Ga. — Imagine being the first high school senior class to go without a senior trip, because of a lack of money in the budget. Or imagine wanting to go to a university in a different state to get a whole new experience, but having to stay close to home due to the economy. These are the tough issues Mario Sheats, a senior at Clarke Central High School in Athens, is grappling with, like many other teens across the nation.
The current economic recession is the worst the U.S. has seen in almost 30 years, according to recession.org. This recession is affecting people of all ages, and teens are no exception.
One of the biggest issues teens face, just like adults, is unemployment. In fact, unemployment rates are up to 8.1 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
“You get discriminated against if you lack working experience,” said Josh Isaacson, a senior at George Walton High School in Atlanta. “But if they don’t hire us, there’s no way for us to get experience.” Isaacson said that teens have a harder time finding a job than adults, because of this lack of experience.
Amber Thomas, a senior at Clarke Central High School in Athens, feels lucky to have a job. She has worked at CiCi’s Pizza for about three years. She only gets to work around four hours a week and is getting paid close to minimum wage, which happens to be $6.55 per hour with a few exceptions (like tipped labor, which is $2.13 per hour).
“There are definitely a lot more adults that work there,” Thomas said. “There are only like four or five teens.”
Sheats said his job at Rita’s is similar, with only getting the opportunity to work for around eight hours per week and making minimum wage as well.
Some teens are having a hard time finding a job at all.
Sophie Witts, a sophomore at Brunswick High School in Brunswick, has been searching for a job for over five months. She just turned 16 and was planning on getting a car for her birthday. However, the bad economy made this impossible for her family to invest in another car. She is now looking for a job to save money for the car. She thinks she knows why she cannot get a job though.
“I am still young and trying to get a job is difficult,” she said. “First, people do not take me seriously because of my age. Second, it is hard to work around my school and studying schedule,” she said. Witts spends two hours each night trying to keep up with her schoolwork.
Although none of families of the teens interviewed have had to deal with this yet, many teens are working a job to support their families. According to Sheats, a large number of his high school classmates have had to do this.
“A lot of people at Clarke Central have to work night shifts for their families,” he said. “When they are working close to eight hours a day on top of school, you know it’s not for themselves.”
Although there is a need for some teens to work long hours to support their families, the U.S Department of Labor has strict laws when it comes to working as a minor. Although the Department of Labor is the national agency that deals with these child labor laws, individuals states have their own laws. In the state of Georgia, there are laws for teens that are under 16 years old. They cannot work after 9 p.m. or work more than four hours a day while school is in session. On the weekends and during summer vacation, however, teens are able to work up to eight hours per day, like the average adult.
Teens say they are also doing less leisure activities because of the poor economy.
For the last eight years, Shayna Brandi, 16, has attended Camp Barney, a monthlong summer camp for Jewish youth. The junior at Pope High School in Atlanta would like to attend the camp, but must choose between it or playing soccer in the Jewish Teen Olympics. Her father’s trucking company has been hurt by the sagging economy forcing Brandi to make a tough decision.
Brandi is not the only teen who will have to do without this year.
Some activites are even being canceled. Clarke Central seniors will forgo their senior trip, typically a daylong picnic away from school, this year.
Both Sheats and Thomas are disappointed but said they understand.
“Although we are upset, we understand that this is due to budget cuts that our school has to deal with,” Sheats said.
Clarke Central also had a smaller budget for its prom, which took place April 17. Quite a few prom-goers had to settle for more affordable dresses and shoes, Thomas said.
With their high school days drawing to a close, college is a major focus for high school seniors. While Sheats and Thomas are going to in-state schools (Georgia College and State University and the University of Georgia, respectively), a lot of their friends have altered their collegiate plans.
“A lot of my close friends have to go to junior colleges now and plan on transferring later,” Sheats said. “I really think this is because of the economy, because me and my friends always talked about going to school far away after we graduate.”
Although the economy may force teens to go to junior colleges or in-state schools, “overall more teens are going to college” because everyone is terrified of the job market right now, said Itzhak Kadosh, a Washington,D.C.-based financial planner. “In this economy, only the most qualified are getting jobs, so teens understand they must get an education higher than a high school diploma.”
Despite all the economic woes, teens are trying to stay upbeat and make the best in a bad economy.
“Although I may not be able to go shopping like I used to and although my school may have to cut out some of the activities like the senior trip, I am going to continue to live up my senior year,” Thomas said.