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Bling! Bling!
High School Students Face a Battle Between Paid Work, School Work
Author: Juan Gallegos, Christian Placencia





Everybody is talking about “Bling! Bling!” It’s 
everywhere you look: Nike, GAP,  and J-Lo are trying 
to sell you something. Some students are paying for it 
with their grades. Whether it’s to pay for cars, 
clothing, and jewelry, or to help out at home, the 
reality is that some teens have to work. We talked to 
100 Watsonville High students and found that 30% work. 
That’s a lot of students working—but what’s the price 
that they are really paying for looking good? Does 
schoolwork suffer because of employment? 

“It really depends on the student,” Ms.Viotti, a 
counselor at Watsonville High, said. “To have a work 
permit, there are certain criteria. You need to have 
certain grades, no cuts, and not be behind in 
credits.” But that doesn’t mean you have to be a good 
student to get a permit. A 2.0 makes you eligible for 
a work permit, and besides, you don’t need to maintain 
a 2.0 to keep your permit, just have a 2.0 when you 
apply for a permit. 

“[Working] makes some students more disciplined about 
doing school work,” a chemistry teacher at Watsonville 
High, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “It teaches 
them to budget their time. It might be hard but they 
have no choice.” Yet this is the problem, some 
students have no choice! They have to work to help 
their family in times of need. According to the Census 
Bureau, Watsonville has historically had the largest 
number of low-income people in Santa Cruz County. More 
people in Watsonville live below the federal poverty 
line than anywhere else in the county. 

According to our poll, students reported working an 
average of 25 hours a week! Now, working this much 
does have its advantages. Students get to learn time 
management and get work experience, which will help 
them out in their future workplace. The most tempting 
reason why students have a job is financial 
independence. Students get to buy all the things they 
want without having their parents pay for them. 

Yet having a job isn’t as much freedom as it sounds. 
You have to listen to somebody all day and get paid 
minimum wage! Is the financial independence you’re 
getting worth your grades suffering and getting a job 
nobody wants? Another thing is that students go to 
school for seven hours. And still work an average of 
four hours a day? That’s an 11 hour work day, and it 
doesn’t even include homework! 

Also take into account that Watsonville High has the 
lowest SAT scores in Santa Cruz County (as shown by 
the Santa Cruz Community Assessment Project). We also 
know that Watsonville High has a very high drop-out 
rate. Thanks to the Economic Return from Education in 
Texas, we found out that students with a college 
diploma make 75% more than students with only a high 
school diploma. Imagine if you don’t even graduate 
from high school. Your future salary could really 
suffer. That’s why education is so important. 

There are millions of teens working around the Unites 
States—most of whom don’t know the price that they are 
paying: their education. There are the teens that are 
forced to work to help out at home. There is also a 
lot of pressure on students to have the newest in 
clothing and look very cool. That might be why many 
teens want to work. Any way you look at it, students 
shouldn’t be encouraged to miss out on their 
education, especially in today’s world.