PRO: Summer jobs teach responsibility, goals
Kaelyn Diaz, 18, doesn't have to work. She chooses to.
Diaz recently graduated from Victoria West High School but said she's been working since she was 16 years old.
In the fall, Diaz will begin her first semester of college courses at Victoria College.
But in the meantime, she's working at Chick-fil-A to save money for the future.
"I got the job at Chick-fil-A because my job at American Eagle wasn't giving me enough hours," she said. "I want to have a job, and since getting a job, my parents have not paid for a thing."
For a graduation present and commitment to hard work, Diaz said her father gave her a 2013 Honda Civic.
She doesn't have any personal bills. She spends her money as she chooses.
"I think it's good to work because you have money to go do things," she said. "Eventually, your parents are going to get mad because you keep asking for money to buy clothes or go out with your friends."
Diaz said working during high school is teaching her important life skills that she can one day use in the future.
"I'm learning how to manage everything right now, especially money," she said. "Now that I'm 18, I definitely have to work. I'd feel like a bum if I didn't."
Diaz isn't alone in her desire to work during the summer.
Kayley Smith, 18, said she's also been working since turning 16, and she's been working through the school year to pay off her new Jeep Liberty.
She graduated from Industrial High School in recent weeks but said while she was in school, she was working 30 hours per week while maintaining high grades.
"I graduated fourth in my class," said Smith, of Edna. "I find it pretty easy to balance work with my studies."
The University of California-San Diego and CollegeBoard.com report that studies show students who work up to 30 hours a week perform as well or higher academically than unemployed students.
Working teens also report higher confidence, better time-management skills and a sense of independence.
Now that she's free for the summer, Smith said, she will continue to work at the Edna Sonic, so she can save a little more money before going to Texas State University as a pre-medicine student.
"Work is good. I've never had a summer where I didn't have to do something," she said. "Teenagers that don't work rely on their parents too much. They don't learn responsibility when they go off to college, and they're being handed everything."