Junior Alexas Huey is one of many employed youth. In April to July of 2016, the number of employed youth from 16 to 24 years of age increased by 1.9 million to 20.5 million. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 53.2 percent of young people were employed in July.

Grit for breakfast

The perseverance is already here

June 7, 2017

She wakes up, gets ready for school, eats breakfast and runs out the door by 7:30 a.m. The day has just begun for senior Hillary Hantz. Following six hours of sitting still in her seat at school, she rushes outside and heads straight home to work on job applications.

Because of an overstaffing issue at Smokehouse 52, she was let go. She pays for many of her own personal desires, including school activities or a night out, or products she may want, like makeup, clothing, all while saving for tuition at Lansing Community College.

She and many other boys and girls her age are told by their elders that they have no concept of the real world, they need to get some grit.

Grit is having a desire to succeed in one’s long-term goals according to Angela Duckworth, author of the best-seller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth claims that learning the skill is deliberate and anyone can be taught to face a challenge and persist through it.

While grit is not primarily taught in the classroom, it can be taught, but development does not start on the graphite covered desk with a standardized test.Emma Lockhart

Tough academic requirements can be a start to developing grit, but sports and outdoor opportunities contribute to the development more so, according to Vicki Davis, a teacher and IT integrator who writes for Edutopia.

Part of the breakfast Hantz consumed was this grit everyone has told her she does not have. The grainy texture of the oatmeal is a wake up call to employed young adults. Being pulled toward their future at such a rate calls for a balancing act of homework, a job, and a social life. Sometimes, there are weights that come to be heavier than others.

“The point of having the job is that I’m expensive,” Hantz said. “I want to save up for a new car, a laptop and my first few years of college.”

Hantz’s parents provide necessities, but some parents struggle to afford services that are deemed necessary in high school.

According to Census Reporter, 10 percent of children under the age 18 are living in poverty in Stockbridge. In America, 21 percent of children fall below the poverty line. Their families could struggle with paying for lunch, school field trips, and even advanced placement tests.

Even with free and reduced lunches, scholarships and discounts, many of these pupils are left to find employment.

“I have had a civilian job before,” junior Alexas Huey said. “I worked in grocery stores. You really have to manage your time between school and the job. You have to get your homework done, but you also have to do your job. I wanted to drive. In order to do that, I had to pay for my gas and insurance for my truck.”

Huey, 17, participates in monthly training to be in the National Guard and will be leaving for basic training in June.

Being employed at 15 to 17 years old can bring certain traits of character that contribute to adulthood, but many are left with an understanding the grit they must acquire at a young age.

Emma Lockhart
This understanding begins with the 50 percent of public school students that are eligible for free or reduced lunch in America according to National Center for Education Statistics. The eligibility gives access to food for low income families.

Huey thinks that free and reduced lunches “can help a lot of people, bills are more important than having a school lunch. Yes, you need to eat, but if you don’t pay your bills, you don’t have a home.”

Some families struggle to pay for nutrition in places of low income. The problems at home can transfer over into school programs where money is cut from places where there is not much to cut anyway.

Student-led groups like yearbook or robotics fundraise, present to different education supporting groups in the area and even start online crowd funders to get the money they need.

Senior James Fredenberg participates in the FIRST Robotics program which has recently fundraised for different robot parts by selling individualized fidget spinners to students.

“We get no funds through the school,” Fredenberg said. “It’s entirely through our fundraising efforts by writing grants and reaching out to the community. Each competition is $4,000, that just the base. That doesn’t include the parts and the tools.”

The student-led groups like the robotics program can be led to believe that because they work in a small community, they cannot win awards, place in competition or go on to be the best.

“In my perspective, because we are small rural area, small school, that ‘we don’t have the same opportunities of big school,’” Lion’s Club Member Chuck Wisman said. “I don’t think we are being held back from anything. Our students excel at everything.”

Even with this, the programs like robotics, yearbook, and Science Olympiad can persevere to still win at competitions, games and activities just like big schools across the country.

“It would be nice to have the resources of the Chelsea or Ann Arbor,” Wisman said. “But I wouldn’t trade the intimacy or the camaraderie we’ve had with Stockbridge for anything.”

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