Stress and struggle

Balancing school and work is hard, but students make it work

By Emily Diaz Reyes and Giovanni Varela-Benitez

Forms response chart. Question title: Do your students' jobs affect their grades?. Number of responses: 18 responses.

Source: The Pirates’ Hook survey

After a full day at school, junior Jaiden Cooper drives straight to work at a local Walgreens until 9 in the evening.

“School is tiring,” said Cooper. “And then I work (full time) weekends, too. I don’t really relax.”

Cooper is just one of many students who work while in school at Riverside. Sometimes it’s because they need to support their families, themselves, or to be financially independent.

In a survey of 48 students at Riverside, seven of them said they work after school. But according to Sheena Brooks, a career development counselor at Riverside, the majority of Riverside’s students balance school and a job.

Working and attending school can be challenging and stressful, which can impact a student’s ability to have a successful high school career. But if they need the money, they have to find a way to make it work. 

When asked about getting used to having to balance school and a job at the same time, most students surveyed agreed they had a hard time adjusting, but found a way to make it work in the end.

“Difficult, but it worked out,” answered a freshman who called themself“Kiana,”.

A few of the students responded that it is not overwhelming to balance both work and school at the same time. But others think otherwise. 

“I still haven’t done the best job at it. It was new and frustrating,” said junior Nadia Molina.

Overall, most students that work and go to school at the same time say they barely have enough free time to do the things they want to do.

“Not a lot of time,” sophomore Kemora Dupree wrote in response to a question in the survey asking about free time.

On the other hand, some students create some free time to do things they want to do by finishing their homework ahead of time while in class.

“Let’s just say I have more than four to five hours of free time since I do the (home)work on campus,” answered one junior who didn’t provide their name.

Cooper says he finds time to do his schoolwork when he can in class, so he doesn’t have to worry about it when he gets home from work.

“I do it at school,” he said.

A few students do find time to do their school work after they are done with their shift at work. 

Most of the students surveyed that have work and school said they get between six to eight hours of rest. Sometimes it’s even less than 6 hours. It mostly depends on how much work they have in the place they work in. 

“I get one hour to three hours of sleep per day,” says Esau Cunningham.


Emily Ericson teaches creative writing and English at Riverside High School. She says she’s torn on the issue.

“Overall I think it is a net good for students to work (or be in an extracurricular, even) in addition to being in school, in that it does develop time management skills,” Ericson said. 

She also talked about how educators should take the time to get to know their own students so they understand every aspect of their lives, inside and outside school.

“I think it’s educators’ responsibility to get to know students and work with them in an understanding way, so that young people learn the management skills they need to be successful,” she said.

“Students who work a job outside of the school tend to have less time to work on their schooling at home,” said chemistry teacher McKenzee Chestnut. “This can lead to assignments turned in late or not at all and fatigue in class affecting their understanding of new material.” 

Chestnut worries that the fatigue impacts both their learning and overall health, and that students who work often don’t get involved in extracurriculars at school like clubs and sports. The free time they have, even during lunch, is often spent finishing homework. 

“Students who have very little down time or de-stressing opportunities tend to get anxious and overwhelmed quicker than those who have hobbies they can enjoy outside of required time,” she said. 

Alex Ramirez teaches ESL classes at Riverside. He says that he can see the impact of balancing school and work..

“Sometimes they are unable to complete their homework because they work at night and do not get off work until very late,” said Ramirez. “Then the next day in class they are too tired to focus on their work or the lesson.”

Ramirez also thinks students should know their limits when it comes to balancing school and work.

“I think it is incredibly valuable to work in high school,” he said. “Students just need to practice better life balance and recognize when a job is harming their schooling. The most important thing is their classwork and they should try to find a job that fits in with their life as a student.”

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you notice any non-academic impact students experience because of working part or full time while attending school? For example behavior, attitude, attendance, etc.. Number of responses: 18 responses.

Source: The Pirates’ Hook survey


Walden University recently published a study that suggests that working while in school can benefit the students but it also talks about how working while in highschool can cause a behavior issue depending on how intense it is, and that mostly seniors in school that balance both school and work at the same time. 

Governor Roy Cooper will be helping the students who have “lost their ground” during the pandemic so that the students could focus on their mental health and studies as well so that they don’t worry about the money.

Tevin Jones, Riverside’s Durham Tech College Liaison, believes working part time while a full-time student helps kids learn skills that will help them later in life.

 “It may help them develop responsibility and time management skills,” said Jones.

Jones also says that balancing school and work will help the students help them learn displispline and hard work, but he understands that students should know their limits and not burn themselves out. 

“So as long as they kind of know themselves and know what they feel like they can handle with it, that can prevent them from burning out,” he said.

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