Why Should Teenagers Work?

four middle schoolers digging mulch

Its a beautiful spring day and several young teenagers are helping me deconstruct a garden bed.  Carmella, an eighth grader, is shoveling mulch into a wheelbarrow that her classmate, Silas, then carries to a new plot.  On a nearby hillside,  a seventh grader and eighth grader are transplanting bushes from one side of a garden to the other This might not be their first choice on how they want to spend a Saturday, but all four middle schoolers are smiling and having a good time. It’s not the jokes they keep telling each other either. It’s because in this moment they know the work they are doing matters.

Teenagers want their work to matter.  As their bodies grow and change, they recognize their potential to contribute in meaningful ways.  They want to test their abilities and be part of something bigger than themselves.  Giving them opportunities to meaningfully contribute helps them understand what they have to offer others.  It helps guide them on their path to adulthood by showing them how they can make a difference.

Work that Makes a Difference

teenagers doing work on hillsideAt Arthur Morgan School, on average over 80% of of our students are on scholarship. That scholarship is made possible by the school’s strong endowment and the generous contributions of donors, but it is also increased each year by the hard work of our students. For almost 10 years now, students have been auctioning themselves off as work crews to help the school’s scholarship fund.

At our annual Scholarship Benefit in November, local residents of Celo, Burnsville, and Spruce Pine bid to win crews of 5-6 students and staff who then come to their homes in spring ready to work. In past years, the groups have painted fences, chopped wood, moved brush, or prepped gardens.  They bring their own tools and can do almost any work asked of them. Theresa Anderson, a Celo resident, who won one of the crews last year had this to say about the work they accomplished, “I am so grateful to have won an AMS crew.  The crew was amazing, organized, hard working, fun to be with and reliable.  They completed so much work!”

Paying it Forward

Being paid is one way for teenagers to receive feedback on the value of their efforts. Hearing gratitude and how the work they did was important is another. It inspires them to keep finding ways to get involved and make a difference in their communities. In the case of the the work crews, the results are also tangible. They know they are making a difference, not just for themselves or they people they work for, but to the whole AMS family. Because of their efforts, a student who might not have been able to come to AMS can now attend. They are paying it forward through hard work and it feels good.

-by Nicholas Maldonado