Whitman students learn self-sufficiency through part-time jobs


Senior Alex Aronie (second to right) posing with fellow employees at the Spiral Path Farm stand at Bethesda Farmers Market.

By Kiara Pearce

Senior Jaymie Beers takes a seat behind her produce stand at the Potomac Farmers Market, surrounded by a colorful array of pumpkins, apples, jams, honey and other seasonal products. It’s nearly 2:30 p.m. — time for the afternoon rush. Beers checks to make sure the display is organized and the produce is ready for selection as she awaits the swarm of customers about to arrive.

Beers is among several Whitman students who work a part-time job during the school year. Beers’ duties as an employee at her produce stand at the Potomac Farmers Market include selling produce, answering customers’ questions, transporting goods to her stand and checking out items at the cash register.

“I really like my job,” Beers said. “It gives me opportunities to have interpersonal communications with different customers and build those communication skills. I also like selling produce, as weird as that sounds. It’s fun.”

Beers works at her stand between five and seven days each week to earn money to help her pay for college. Beers said that her mother, who had to support herself financially, taught her the significance of self-sufficiency.

“She believes it’s important for me to have my own autonomy and skills that will benefit me when I go to college and cannot rely on my parents’ income,” Beers said.

Similarly to Beers, senior Alex Aronie works at a farmers market, albeit for fewer hours each week. Every Sunday morning, Aronie takes her place behind the counter at the Spiral Path Farm stand at Bethesda Farmers Market, which operates from the early hours of the morning until the afternoon.

The Spiral Path Farm stand sells organic produce. Aronie said that the informal conversations she’s had with customers have inspired her to cook meals with ingredients she normally wouldn’t think of using, including dandelions and collard greens.

Aronie appreciates how her stand donates some of its products to Manna, a local food center that hosts drives to help feed community members in need.

“It’s really cool to see how a small farm can make such a significant impact on the community,” Aronie said.

Junior Mallory Forbes’ duties at her part-time job at the Regal Rockville Center movie theater are slightly different from Aronie’s cashier services and stocking. Forbes’ tasks include preparing popcorn for customers and checking tickets at the door as an usher.

“You get to interact with different kinds of people,” she said. “Having a job as a student allows you to work with people who aren’t part of your school environment.”

Forbes said she relishes the perks of working at a movie theater; she gets a 50% discount off concessions, free movie tickets every month, and, of course, an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes at the cinema.

It’s preparing the cinema-ready popcorn, though, that’s Forbes’ favorite part of her job, she said. The ever-reliable process — pouring kernels into a measuring cup, adding salt, heating the kernels in a machine and finishing the final product off with the oil — reminds her of fond times when the popcorn machines fascinated her as a child, she said.

Although Forbes’ employment at the Regal Rockville Center offers nostalgic moments and the benefit of a paycheck, she also must deal with the inevitable rude customer.

“I feel like two out of 10 interactions on a given shift are with annoyed customers,” Forbes said. “I’ve been snapped at before for just doing my job.”

Beers said she’s had similar experiences. One time, a customer came up to her and asked for the price of sweet corn. After she told him the corn cost .75 cents an ear, he became enraged and threw the corn at her before driving away, Beers said.

The interaction initially shocked Beers, she said, but she tried to remember the well-known employee rule that Forbes also follows.

“You have to take rude customers with a grain of salt,” Forbes said. “You don’t know the details of what might have happened to them during the day and you have to be understanding. The customers are always right, and I try to remember that.”

Despite the occasional challenges that come with her job, Beers appreciates the interactions she gets to have with higher-ups, she said. The Potomac Farmers Market only needs one person to work the stand most of the time, so Beers’ only main co-workers are her two managers and her boss. The four-person team gets along well, Beers said.

Camila Mejia, a junior who works as a hostess at Gregorio’s Trattoria — an Italian restaurant — shares that same favorite part of her job. The exchanges she has with fellow employees make her excited to go to work, she said.

“The environment that is created by the other students I work with and my manager, who prioritizes my school and health, helps me enjoy my job and not completely dread it,” Mejia said. “If it wasn’t for that, I’d like it less for the stress it can give me if I have a ton of homework.”

Juggling a part-time job with schoolwork might pose challenges for some students, but for Aronie, her added responsibility serves as a benefit rather than a drawback. Aronie wakes up at 6 a.m. and gets back home at 2 pm every Sunday, meaning that her job takes up most of her day. Her long Sundays encourage her to get a majority of her work done during the week rather than wait until the last minute, she said.

“It took me a while,” Aronie said. “But with my job forcing me to be more time-efficient, I found that it’s nice to be on a schedule.”

Forbes is also grateful that she’s learned how to balance her job, her schoolwork and her personal life.

“Having a job at this age helps enforce good practices especially when done early in life,” she said. “It’s important to learn the value of work and implement good habits now.”