College & Career

It’s not too early to line up your summer job. (Mash illustration)

By Laura Bartusiak, Woodlands Academy
and Andrea Limon, Kenwood

It’s April, which means your parents probably have started nagging you about getting a summer job. If you’re already tired of hearing your mom ask, “Have you picked up an application yet?” you’re in luck. We talked with eight Chicago-area teens about their summer jobs. They dished about the highs, the lows and even how they scored the gig.

Whether you want to help cure cancer or just make some extra cash and get a nice tan, we’ve got you covered.


If you loved “Night at the Museum” …
Jonatan Torres
Senior, Curie
Job: Summer intern for Museum of Science and Industry
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Pay: $8.25 per hour
Scoring the gig: “I found out about my internship through volunteering at the museum.”
Perks: “One good thing about my job is that although it may be work, it doesn’t feel like it because every day is fun and has a sort of relaxed feel to it. Even though you know you are doing work, you enjoy it a lot.”
Pains: “The only bad thing about my job is that you might not get along with every single person, but that comes with almost any job or internship.”

If you want to work in food service …
Diego Gomez
Senior, Lindblom Math and Science Academy
Job: Cashier at McDonald’s
Hours: 5-11 p.m. on Fridays, 2-9 p.m. on weekends
Pay: $8.25 per hour
Scoring the gig: “I had an advantage because my sister got me the job, but they usually hire anyone if they have the space.”
Perks: “A few benefits about my job are I get paid physically and with valuable experience.”
Pains: “It is extremely stressful. You are always being timed and you always have to get the order right. Sometimes you have to run around the building to finish one order. I remember when I started working there, I dropped ice cream mix on myself. Sometimes you feel especially stressed out because having a job takes out about 21 hours of the week.”

If you’re a concert junkie …
Grace Joseph
Senior, Deerfield
Job: Usher at Ravinia
Hours: Three hours at a time, Friday and/or Saturday
Pay:  $8.25 per hour
Scoring the gig: “I found out about the job at a job fair that Ravinia had offered.  They also have information on their website.”
Perks: “I checked tickets at the gates to the pavilion and then I ushered the patrons to their seats. My favorite part was getting to usher for the popular bands! I got to usher for Maroon 5 and Train. I got to experience a lot of great music that I had never heard before.”
Pains: “I’m not a big fan of classical music, so sometimes it was hard to usher for those (concerts).”

If you want something close to home … 
Najah Binbek
Junior, Kenwood
Job: Grocery bagger at Treasure Island Foods
Hours: 16 hours per week
Pay: $8.25 per hour
Scoring the gig: “My job is local, so I found out about it when I went shopping there with my mom back in the summer.”
Perks: “The best part about my job is that I get paid every Thursday. It’s right before the weekend, so I know that I always have money to spend when I am out with my friends.”
Pains: “A bad part about my job is all the employee drama that goes on. People can be catty, especially when they are trying to get a raise or promotion.”

If you love kids …
Elliot Lohr
Sophomore, Deerfield
Job: Swim instructor and lifeguard at Mitchell Pool
Hours: 9 a.m.-noon on weekdays, 9-10 a.m. on Saturdays
Pay: $7.75 per hour
Scoring the gig: “I found out about the job (because) I was on the swim team and a couple of people told me about it.”
Perks: “Being a swim instructor teaches you how to work with children. It opens up other opportunities for working with children like tutoring or babysitting. I got to meet new people and (it) taught me how to be responsible by showing up on time and giving 100 percent effort.”
Pains: “It was hard working two jobs only when I had to lifeguard after lessons and had to dry off and get in the (guard) chair right away. The only bad part was sometimes the water was cold.”

If you want to make a difference …
Eva Mergner
Senior, Woodlands Academy
Job: High school cancer researcher for American Cancer Society
Hours: Varied hours and an eight-week project
Pay: A one-time stipend at the end of the summer
Scoring the gig: “I found out about it through my biology class. My teacher made an announcement in class so I grabbed an application and applied.”
Perks: “I worked with a doctor who was studying the hepatitis C virus. … I eventually wrote a paper and gave it to the American Cancer Society. I hadn’t had a lot of experience in lab research. It was a good chance for me to get exposure, shadow in a lab and then talk to people who did this for a living and learn how they got involved. This (job) gave me a clear idea about lab research. It gave me experience, and it pushed me in the right direction that I wanted to go in my life.”
Pains: “It was really challenging and some of the material was way over my head. I had to catch up on a lot of work to understand. I am a people person and a lot of the work was by yourself, so it could be long sometimes.”

If you’re a people person …
Richie Coleman
Sophomore, Glenbrook South
Job: Cashier at Glenview Dairy Bar
Hours: At least 20 hours per week
Pay: $7.75 per hour
Scoring the gig: “I found out about it because my sister worked there in high school, so I knew the owner. So I went in and asked if they were hiring, and they were. A couple days later I got a call saying that I got the job.”
Perks: “I really liked the people I was working with, I was getting paid and it was something to do. My boss is awesome. It was really great because as a kid who doesn’t have to pay bills, you could just blow your money on stuff.”
Pains: “Sometimes I had to deal with annoying people and they would just throw money at you because they thought they were above you. Also, people wouldn’t always tip when they order, like, 36 items.”

If you want to be outside …  
Jorge Luis Costellanos
Sophomore, Highland Park
Job: Golf caddy at Bob O’Link Golf Club
Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday
Pay: About $125 per day (all tips)
Scoring the gig: “I found about it through my dad, who had a friend who knew about it, and he recommended that I try it.”
Perks: “There were three main (benefits): meeting the different kinds of people that I worked for, learning from them and the two scholarships that I will qualify for.”
Pains: “It was a lot of time in the hot weather. I had to carry golf bags, give tips to golfers and help them make decisions.”


Want more help?

Get more tips and personalized help at the Harold Washington Library on April 24, when On the Money Magazine presents a career panel especially for teens. Learn about career paths, networking, resumes, interviewing & summer job opportunities in Chicago.

Wed., April 24
5:30-7 p.m.
Chicago Public Library
Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State St.
Lower Level Multipurpose Rooms A & B

Reservations are required to attend this event. RSVP by April 19 to 312-747-4780 or

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About The Mash

The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free every other Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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