CHS students dish about experiences in local work force

coffee shop pic“Seeing what is believed to be unseen.”

That’s the motto of Visual Aura, a local clothing brand started by senior A.J. Kahn and sophomore Richard Stilwell, who started selling their T-shirts last month and have already made about $900 in profit.

“I’m the head of the design team, and I run the business operations,” Kahn says. “Prior to our release, I designed all our tees as well as the website.”

Stilwell primarily deals with the marketing through Facebook, Instagram and word-of-mouth. They sell their merchandise on visualauraclothing.com and occasionally at dances at the Monterey Fairgrounds. While they have made money, they say it isn’t for them yet.

“That money isn’t money in our pockets,” Kahn notes. “It’s going back into buying t-shirts and creating new designs.”

Kahn and Stilwell are just two of the many students who use their free time to get a job or create their own company. Nationally, preceding the 2008 recession, nearly 40 percent of high school students had jobs, according to Business Week. When the recession hit, however, that percentage plummeted. Even though the economy has started to recover, teen employment is still at a record low. In January, one-in-three high school students worked or searched for a job.

At CHS, students who work have jobs ranging from waiting tables to working at high-end clothing stores.

Junior Kaylee Meyer has worked at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Co. for a year, putting in 15-18 hours a week. As a lead barista, her responsibilities include making drinks, ordering supplies for the store, counting and managing money, supervising her co-barista, closing the store at night and making sure it is in good shape for the opener.

Although balancing a job and school work is difficult, Meyer says she enjoys her work.

“It is a really great job for any student,” she says. “The job has flexible hours and the time spent working is fun.”

The same goes for senior Peter Mellinger, who uses a skill—music—to earn money. The accomplished violinist gets hired to play “gigs” about once or twice a week.

“I play at weddings, private parties, restaurants and on the street for tips,” Mellinger says. “The best part is getting paid for something I really enjoy.”

The same sentiment is shared by senior Christine Walker, who has been working at Monterey Peninsula Country Club in Outside Member Services since June 2012. It’s a job that aligns with her passion of golf. Going to work 15-20 hours a week, Walker’s day-to-day tasks include everything from re-gripping golf clubs to setting up tournaments.

“Working at the club entails helping members with cleaning their clubs, basically any assistance they need,” Walker says. “I help fill up the range, pick up the golf range and clean golf carts.”

Although her job also earns Walker golf privileges, it isn’t always a hole-in-one.

“I like talking with the members a lot, but the worst is a slow day, or tournaments when it gets really crazy or dealing with rude members.”

Senior Madi Salvati can also relate to rude or annoying customers. Her job at J. Crew requires her to sometimes close the store at night, and occasionally a customer will come in right toward the end of her shift.

“The worst thing,” Salvati explains, “is when people come in right at closing time, try on a million things, then end up buying something tiny, like a hat or belt.”

That being said, Salvati is grateful to have the job. She originally sought a job at numerous stores in downtown Carmel, and luckily for her, J.Crew was hiring.

“I handed my résumé and dressed really nice,” Salvati says. “J. Crew was super helpful in the hiring process.”

While her primary responsibility on a regular basis is to help customers start fitting rooms, Salvati also fold clothes, works in the stockroom, restocks the floor and works the cash wrap.

“The coolest thing about J. Crew is that I get to develop a whole new style for myself,” Salvati says. “It’s one that I know I’ll carry with me the rest of my life.”

-Edie Ellison