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TO WORK OR NOT TO WORK? IT'S A QUESTION OF BALANCE

After spending all your money on Christmas gifts, you might be considering getting a part-time job to pick up some extra cash.

But before you decide to commit your weekends and evenings to a minimum-wage-paying job, you have to decide if it's worth the stress of keeping up with school and having limited time with friends.

I talked to several teens who had a variety of views on this difficult decision.

Crystal Ammerman, 15, has a part-time job and thinks it gives her a sense of responsibility and is definitely worth the extra cash. "It doesn't interfere with school too much," she says. "But I don't like working late because I find myself tired the next morning. Sometimes I don't get to spend as much time with my friends as I would like because I've made a commitment to my employer."

Kyle Jackson, 16, doesn't work but would consider getting a job. He thinks having a job is a good experience for a teen, but only if he or she can balance both school and work. "There should be a probation period monitored by your parents. As soon as the grades fall, the student should no longer work," Kyle says.

Melissa Galante, 16, had a part-time job at a fast food restaurant during the summer, but she quit because she couldn't handle the stress. "It was great during the summer, but now I'm exhausted and just don't have any time or energy. The stress is not worth the money. But there is a sense of pride when you buy something with money you have earned through your own hard work."

Karla Cino, 16, baby-sits two days a week a couple hours after school. "My parents don't want me to get a job because they think it might interfere with school," she says. "Also, I participate in some clubs and sports, which colleges see as very important, and having a job would definitely interfere. By baby sitting I get the extra cash I need, and I still have the weekends free."

Coung Do, 16, works at an after-school sports program for kids in his neighborhood. He says it has helped him meet new people.

"When I work I don't think about school," he says. "It helps me to relax, and I have fun with my friends who work there and the kids we meet who come to the program. My parents encouraged me to get a job, and I thought it was time to become a little more independent and to start paying for some of my own things."

Before you make the decision to go job-hunting, consider these things:

Do you think that you can handle school?

Is your job schedule flexible enough so you won't miss out completely on social events with friends?

Look into jobs that don't have a set time commitment, such as baby sitting. That's the kind of job you can pass on when you have too much homework or big-time social plans.

Bridget Coughlin is a junior at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School.

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