For teenagers, the summer is a time to earn money, learn the rules of a new trade, and ultimately submerge themselves into the real world. Those four summers between freshman year of high school and freshman year of college allow them to experience a variety of jobs and pursue different and ever changing career interests.
"This is the third job I've had," said Alex Corvino, a senior at Monte Vista High School.
She is an employee of Jero'l Beauty Salon and Spa in Danville. It is not uncommon for students to have multiple jobs before they find the right one. However, it is getting increasingly difficult for teens to find employment.
The first hurdle comes in choosing where to work. With so many boutiques, eateries and stores in downtown Danville, it might seem like a simple decision. However, when considering pay, hours and interest level, the opportunities quickly ebb. For a teen, the work must be worth the minimum wage. Plus, of course, others might beat one to the punch.
"I wanted to work somewhere with kids my own age," said Alyssa Leone, a Monte Vista senior and employee at Katrina Rozelle Pastry in Alamo Plaza. "I get paid minimum wage, $8, and work about 16 hours a week, but I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile with my time this summer."
It's tricky to come across a summer job that benefits you as a teen employee, high school students say. Teen summer jobs are known for being grunt work.
"They'll be in charge of cleaning, serving, refilling and restocking," said Stan Ling, the manager at Baskin-Robbins on Hartz Avenue.
Some teens search for that right job that really teaches them something in return. Corvino plans to pursue a degree in business during college so feels her time at a place of business is well spent.
"I really learned a lot about the retail part of it," she said.
Leone also mentioned that she appreciated learning about hospitality "so a job in a cafe or bakery was perfect for me."
Once a teen has decided upon where he or she wants to work, attaining that dream summer job can be another complicated obstacle.
"I applied to four or five other places before I actually got a call back," said Leone.
It seems the teen job front is crowded and the competition is growing.
"We got 100 applications this summer," said Heidi Christensen, a manager at McCaulou's. "I look for an employee mainly based on availability. A lot of the teens have too much going on or won't work weekends."
Christensen said the store only takes eight to 10 of those hundred applications each summer.
Recently, the U.S. Labor Department released a grim employment update. In June, employers cut payrolls by 62,000 while the unemployment rate languished at 5.5 percent. Nearly 8.5 million Americans are unemployed, up from last year's 7 million.
With an unstable economy, more adults are searching for work and encroaching on the teen work scene, adding contenders to the already competitive summer job pursuit.
"It's nearly impossible to get a job now since we're up against people our own age plus people who have had years of experience. Obviously, employers are going to pick those with experience over us," noted Corvino.
Still, some companies actually prefer teen to adult. Teens will work for less than adults plus draw myriad friends for business.
"I don't limit myself to who I accept, but mostly teens apply," said Ling. "Really, I need the teens to attract customers."
With more competition, it makes earning that job just a little more rewarding, say the teens.
So, how are teens spending their cash? Skyrocketing gas prices mean "saving up for gas money," said Leone. Both girls mentioned setting aside a sum for college, and Corvino puts one-third into her checking account.
"I do save some money for back-to-school clothes," admitted Leone.
Aside from slight splurges, most of the money teens earn is saved and used later for something significant.
As the summer dwindles to an end, teens reflect upon the three months of hard labor. Many learned something new, some gained only cash, and others can't wait to say, "I quit!" It is all over - until next summer's rush begins.