The Value of a Part-Time Job for Teens
An after-school job can be character-building for teens. Nobody understands this better than Christopher Shepherd and his father, John Wayne, owners of the Rocky Creek Catfish Cottage in Lucedale. The restaurant employs 11 teen workers.
Christopher Shepherd — who had worked himself as a teenager as a hay and watermelon hauler, a sawmill employee, a dishwasher, and busboy — currently employs teen dishwashers, busboys, and a line worker.
“The benefits of hiring teenagers are that it’s probably their first or second job, and most are having to work to save up for a vehicle or money for college,” Shepherd said. He finds the majority of teenagers are willing to work hard because they’re getting the reward of having their own money.
“The ones who are working because they want to seem to work a lot harder and are more dedicated,” he said. Since they haven’t been in the workforce for long, he can teach them to do the job the way he likes it done.
His own children — Aubrynn, Addy and Cayne — are all members of the staff.
Aubrynn is 17 years old, and a Greene County High School senior. She is captain of the Lady Wildcat soccer team. Aubrynn has worked at the restaurant for one year. Her first position was as a dishwasher, and she works on the line now.
“The waitresses bring in the order whether it is dine-in or carry-out, and we fix the plates,” Aubrynn said.
When asked what it’s like working in a family business, Aubrynn mentioned nice benefits.
“I like it when I go on break, I get to spend time with Paw Paw John Wayne and Dad,” she said. She gets the extra bonus of being there for family when they need her. When taking a breather, Aubrynn likes to eat grilled shrimp and a baked potato.
The benefits of working as a teen are clear when she explains them.
“My communication and social skills have improved,” Aubrynn said, “and I am able to work under pressure.” Getting paid also helps with gasoline and soccer essentials.
Her sister Addy is 14 years old. She’s a freshman at Greene County High School. Addy is a high school cheerleader and a dancer at Rhythm Dance Studio in Hurley. She’s an “as needed” worker at the restaurant and only works when they need extra help. Addy washes dishes, prepares silverware and fixes baskets for hush puppies. She likes getting paid and working with family. Her go-to downtime foods are fish, fries and salad.
Cayne is 10 years old. He is a fifth grader at Leakesville Junior High. Cayne puts on his restaurant polo shirt and goes to work.
“I open the door for old people,” he said. Even at his young age, he does his part by wishing the customers a good morning.
“It’s great working with my own children,” Shepherd said. “Watching them learn the business and how hard they work really makes me smile.”
His own parents — who he said are the hardest working people he knows — taught him and his sister to be the same way. The benefits of teaching kids a work ethic through example and experiences are clear.
“I have tried to pass that on to my kids,” he said. “You might not be smarter or have the abilities other people have, but working harder and going out of your way to be nice and courteous to people will make up for a lot. Seeing my kids learn that and put that to use makes me one proud daddy.”
“I do catch myself being tougher on my own kids at work,” he admitted. “I expect more out of them, so sometimes I have to apologize and tell myself they are kids like everyone else.”
His wife, Katie Shepherd, commented on what her kids get out of working hard in their part-time jobs.
“It has shown them how to make their own money, buy their own things, and gives them something to do,” she said. “They are learning how to be dependable, be at work on time, and it builds their confidence.”
Timothy Weah, an American professional soccer player once said: “With hard work and determination anything is possible.”
Instill that confidence and responsibility in your teen by encouraging him or her to tackle a part-time job. They’ll never look back and regret learning at a young age the life lessons that come with work.
Freelance writer Mary C. Fairley lives in Lucedale with her husband, Buddy. She’s a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. In addition to Aubrynn, Addy & Cayne, she’s also the grandmother of Grace, Emma & Cadence. Mary’s work has been featured in Country Woman, De Soto Magazine|Exploring the South, and more.