Minimum wage jobs show students that prioritizing jobs is as legitimate as other extracurriculars


Shriya Deshpande

At age 15, most teenagers worry about an upcoming biology test or the next extracurricular competition. But at age 15, senior Maryam Karaborni landed her first job at Pizza My Heart as an effort to earn extra spending money. Over the next two years, the job would become a large part of Karaborni’s life, affecting her perception of jobs in relation to academics and extracurricular activities.

After a year of working at Pizza My Heart, she received her first promotion, a managerial role, and subsequently, a pay raise from her starting wage.

“I think [getting a job] had a lot to do with independence. I never played a sport so this was kind of my extracurricular activity,” Karaborni said. “And I just wanted something to kind of fill my schedule but still be productive. So the money was, of course, a nice benefit.”

But for Karaborni, this perspective of money being a benefit has changed, especially after seeing her coworkers depend on the $12.00 minimum wage in Cupertino to support both themselves and their family members. They need the money to pay for utilities, housing, food and other basic needs. Even so, the amount of time it takes to manage both her own schedules and those of her coworkers, as a manager, takes up an enormous amount of time and effort.

“I’m working 20 hours a week and a lot of people don’t understand why I might be behind on my schoolwork. But it’s because I still have [my job] as a priority and that’s a huge chunk of time,” Karaborni said. “And a lot of people don’t respect that, I feel like, in our area because their parents give them money or they have other ways of getting it.”

The low pay isn’t the only aspect that affects people’s perception of minimum wage jobs. In areas like Cupertino, where it is much more common for students to partake in after school sports or clubs, jobs don’t always carry the same validity as other extracurricular activities.

“I think just because we come from an affluent area, a lot of jobs aren’t as common so many people don’t expect that to take up a lot my time or a lot of other students’ time,” Karaborni said. “So they probably don’t think it’s as legitimate of a reason to, say, miss an event… or not have my work in class.”

This perception of student workers presents a paradox: In an area where students strive to have “real world experience,” the minimum wage jobs that are the most similar to what adults face at some point in their lives are the jobs not taken as seriously.