Planning for Summer Months by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
Each year, usually sometime in late summer, Nobles' most recent graduates inevitably stop by to say, ‘Hello, goodbye and thank you,’ one last time before heading off to college. Last August, a recent grad who had just completed his first summer job working retail at a local mall stopped by. Over the past couple of years I had pushed him to get a summer job—but there were always more attractive options available—a trip to Europe, time at the Cape, an open enrollment course in an interesting locale, some tutoring, etc.
As he prepared to graduate from Nobles, his parents insisted—somewhat to his dismay—that the time had come to get some real employment on his resume, and he arrived in my office without any idea about how to search for work. So we sat down, brainstormed some options, hopped online, and he dove in—eventually landing about 30 to 40 hours per week on the front lines of the summer retail business in the mall.
When he plopped down in my office in late August, he could not have felt more pleased with how his summer had gone. “I met such interesting people,” he said. As we talked, he shared how impressed he was with his colleagues—ranging in age from 17 to 30—who were working simply to pay the bills for school and were taking extra hours of work to try to accelerate their college educations. He was particularly impressed by the manager: a young woman in her early 20s who held everyone accountable with a firm hand and a warm heart. He was also so proud of not having to rely on his parents for his day-to-day pocket money and thankful for the independence he gained from this summer job.
Now, this was not a brutally punishing job in any way—but it gave this young man a real sense of responsibility and helped him gain an awareness of the connection between work and financial reward.
It seems like every year around this time I write about the importance of thinking about using the summer as an opportunity for substantive growth. There is no question that there are formal summer programs that really challenge young people in the right ways—through physically challenging programs, like Outward Bound or NOLS, through substantive service or travel programs that fully immerse adolescents in hard work and cultural unfamiliarity, or academic and leadership programs, such as the African Leadership Academy’s Global Scholars Program (http://www.alasummer.org/).
In response to a piece I wrote last year about the importance of summer work, I received this thoughtful reply from a Nobles parent who is a partner at a major Boston law firm:
"I do a lot of interviewing for the firm, and I always ask about what jobs the candidate had in high school or college. I have learned that the people that had tough, responsible jobs (waiting tables is my favorite) early on almost always know what it means to get a job done; while those who have never really worked before law school can be clueless about expectations in the workplace."
As you begin to think about summer with your child, I really hope summer work will enter the conversation.