Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 23, 2006

From corn tassels to mortarboard tassels

Now that summer is here, many students are working to earn cash for their future schooling or to have enough to buy CDs, DVDs and other personal items their parents insist they purchase themselves.

Daughter Mariya, almost 20, will be busy at a number of jobs. She'll assemble electronic units for her Dad, work on campus, mow our lawn and change the oil in our vehicles. Katie, 13, will clean house for us and her grandmother, trim bushes and do other odd jobs.

I had a variety of jobs when I was in high school and college. The first time I ever got paid was when I helped catalogue books in the school library. Although I loved being around books, I decided I could never be a librarian because I wanted to stop to read each one!

The next job lasted a day. A neighbor worked at a five-and-dime store in El Dorado and she knew that her boss needed help for a one-day sidewalk sale. It turned out I didn't feel well that day - and it was one of the hottest days of the summer. So I guess retail wasn't for me.

Another summer job involved de-tasseling corn. My sister, a few friends and I awoke at 4 a.m. each day for several weeks to drive to the corn fields. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants to keep the sharp corn leaves from cutting us, we worked only until early afternoon so we wouldn't get too burned. Despite growing up on a farm and doing chores, I knew I wasn't cut out to do that long-term either.

After I completed my freshman year of college, I worked as a nurse's aide in a nearby nursing home. Throughout the summer, I alternated working three shifts - 7 a.m.-3 p.m., 3-11 p.m. and 11 p.m.-7 a.m. Many days, I didn't know if I was going or coming. I became attached to Henry, Clyde, Stella, Ivah, Agnes and so many of the residents. But I often felt that we were just taking care of their physical needs and not doing anything about their emotional ones. I had dreamed of becoming a nurse from the time I was about 9, but working in the nursing home cured me of that.

After my sophomore year at K-State, I worked for my hometown newspaper. I wrote serious stories such as the one about the fire that damaged a hometown landmark and light-hearted features about people and places in the county. I also typed the multiple-page handwritten news items that came from area correspondents, sold ads, wrote headlines, took photos, pasted up pages, helped "burn" the pages onto negatives, put subscriber labels onto the finished papers and swept the office. I think I did every job except run the press.

I loved it! That was what convinced me to be a journalist. And now I'm a journalism educator, helping students learn some of those same things - but with much more advanced technology.

Husband Art's first regular-paying job ended up working out a bit differently than anyone would have guessed. When he was in the eighth grade, he began repairing electronic equipment - tape recorders, movie projectors, photoflash units and other audio and visual equipment for a camera shop in his hometown. He did the work in his parents' basement and continued with it until he started teaching during his junior year in college. But when he was away at college, he convinced his Dad to try it. His Dad learned quickly so when Art quit the job, his Dad, who had just retired, continued with the work. So while parents sometimes find work for their offspring, it's a bit unusual for a child to locate a job for a parent!

Most summer jobs aren't particularly glamorous and may not have much to do with what a person will do later on in life, but they do provide good training in organizational and financial skills and in accepting responsibility. And, who knows, one of those summer jobs may just lead to a lifetime career that a person is passionate about!

For me, it was a strange route from de-tasseling corn to helping students learn and earn the credits they need to shift their mortarboard tassels from one side to the other, but I have no idea what I might be doing today if I hadn't jumped into the summer job pool.

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