South Orange – Maplewood Teens Earn and Learn at Summer Jobs

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South Orange teen Matthew DiScala works three summer jobs

South Orange teen Matthew DiScala works three summer jobs

Matthew DiScala has his hands full – literally. He’s spreading mulch for a neighbor after a morning spent caring for children at the South Orange Baird Center and before his evening shift at Roman Gourmet in Maplewood.  The South Orange eighteen-year-old holds two jobs this summer and picks up work doing landscaping when he can.

Why? “College,” answers DiScala, as he rakes mulch into place. He will be a freshman at Susquehanna University later this month.

DiScala is one of the many teens who work during the summer. He works at a pizza place and as a camp counselor, both typical teen jobs. Countless other teens work odd jobs and babysit, generally working for cash, rather than a paycheck.

However, local teens acknowledge that it’s possible to earn more than money at a summer job.

“I realized at the restaurant that it’s important to be a people person, to be efficient, patient and a good listener,” explains DiScala. “Working with four-year-olds has taught me patience.”

Abby Baker, who has worked at the South Orange Public Library since 2012, and is a rising Columbia High School senior, concurs.

“I’ve learned how to be a coworker and to work with lots of different people,” says Baker. “It’s also important in the Children’s Room that you come on time or find someone to cover your shift. It can be really busy there, and it’s important to serve the public.”

Her sophomore brother, James, worked as a “yellow shirt,” a counselor in the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School summer program.  He plans to use his earnings for “something exciting,” but also acknowledges other benefits.

“I was really, really tired at the beginning,” said Baker. “But my one boss talked about the ‘Baker kids’ work ethic’ so I knew that I had to motivate myself to work hard even when I was tired.” He sees another reward. “The kids were pretty adorable,” says Baker. “It was cool to see them outside of camp, too. They got excited to see their yellow shirts.”

Aaliyah Raghnal and fellow rising senior Iliana Mirabal agree that, “It’s good to have work experience.” They both note that jobs can be difficult to find for teens. Raghnal is a babysitter and Mirabal will work as an actor.

The teens behind the counter at local restaurants, or minding children at the town playground are learning as they earn.

“I’m planning to save some of this money,” says DiScala, “since I want to put off going into college debt as long as possible.” He grins. “And some I’m going to squander. That’s fun money.”

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