Working 8 to midnight, trying to make a living

Jessica Gray prepares for a recent shift at IHOP in the high school girls’ restroom. Occasionally Jessica has to be at work immediately after school and is forced to put on her work clothes before the school day is over in order to be at work on time.

KAYLA STACY – Hoof Prints Staff

She wakes up at 6. She attends school until 3:15. She drives home to change only to leave again. She hesitantly heads to work. If she’s lucky she’ll get off between 11 p.m. and midnight. Afterwards, she heads home to clean. She will get in bed anywhere between 1 and 3 a.m. For Jessica Gray, this routine seems like it may never end.

Jessica has been working at IHOP for a few weeks. Unlike most high school students, Jessica has to work in order to live.

“I’m a little more mature than what I should be,” Jessica said. “What I mean is I have a lot more bills to pay than other people.”

Jessica’s mother had passed away when Jessica was in middle school. She never lived with her dad. She was always at her grandma’s. At first Jessica didn’t have to worry about bills, but since she is almost 18 she has to worry about paying her car payment, car insurance, phone bill and this is only the beginning.

Although the Arkansas child labor law states that underage teens can’t work past 11 p.m. while school is in session, this doesn’t stop Jessica.

“I don’t know if IHOP actually pays attention to the worker’s ages,” Jessica said. “I guess it doesn’t really matter because we have to wait tables until our tables are completely done. We don’t get to go home early.”

Working late can cause major problems with school, but with Jessica it isn’t much of a problem.

“I am extremely tired a lot because sometimes I only get an average of five hours of sleep,” Jessica said. “Of course this means I don’t get to study as much, but I still make good grades.”

Jessica is only one of the many BIC students that have a job. Kalee James had moved from Monette to Jonesboro. She needed to get a job because she pays to put gas in her car to drive back and forth to school every day. Sometimes she regrets moving to Jonesboro and having to get a job.

“You have to make sacrifices for your family,” Kalee said.

She has been working at Chick-fil-A since July 26.  She works on Tuesdays from 4 to 9 p.m. and every Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m.  Sometimes it varies.

Kalee feels that even though it is tough, it is a really good experience.

“I am way prepared for the real world,” Kalee said. “Working at Chik-fil-A has given me job experience which means I will most likely be able to get a better job in the future.”

Although Kalee doesn’t work past 11 p.m. during school nights, it’s still hard on her.

“It’s outrageous because I have to get up every morning at 5:30 and I have ball practice at 7,” Kalee said. “I don’t go to bed until around 12. Just balancing basketball, school and work is really tough.”