By Louisa Benatovich
ECS Student Reporter
For many ECS students, summers in Ellicottville mean one thing: summer employment. Ellicottville, with its many festivals and tourist destinations, is ripe with jobs for the picking. Whether it’s working at Holiday Valley, in the village or on the farm, Ellicottville students relish the independence and satisfaction of earning their own paychecks.
Given the sheer amount of students applying to the summer workforce, a prospective local employer is especially vigilant when hiring new workers. Watson’s Chocolates, a pillar in the Ellicottville community, employs, for the majority, a high-school-aged staff. Barb Toth, manager of the establishment, explains what she looks for when hiring. “The benefits of hiring students include their availability and willingness to work nights and weekends, even in the summer. They’re young and eager to learn,” Toth says. “The downside, however, is that a student’s availability is limited around school activities. Students typically lack as much professionalism and experience handling money as their adult counterparts.” Despite this, Toth looks for outgoing, friendly, and responsible teens with a customer focus and previous work experience. This is the case for the majority of local businesses.
With this in mind, students attempt to put their best faces forward in pursuit of summer employment. Summer, after all, is the perfect time to make the money that’ll feed their starving bank accounts. With the freer schedule, however, that money can quickly disappear. Lisa Krotz, who graduated this year, combats this by having three jobs. “It is difficult to work three jobs,” the rising college freshman says, “but I need the money to pay for my car and the other small expenses that arise in the summer before university. I make the most of my little time off, and generally go and do fun things on those days.”
Abby Sonnenberg, incoming senior, takes summer jobs to a whole new level. She works as a Tae Kwon Do instructor in Hamburg, and has to make the commute at least twice a week. “Is it worth it making the trip up there?” says Sonnenberg. “Absolutely! I was making the commute to train even before I took the job so this was a chance to take my passion to the next level.”
Sonnenberg works twice a week, about four to five hours per shift. “I’m saving the majority of my paycheck to help pay for my college education,” she says, “but I also spend it on gas and car insurance.” Few high school students have the chance, as Sonnenberg does, to use their hobby as a source of income, and, coincidentally, exercise.
Another student summer employment avenue is the selective summer internship at the Ellicottville Memorial Library. Sponsored by the Ellicottville Rotary Club, this is an opportunity for students to garner pre-professional experience as well as aid in the care of a beloved Ellicottville institution.
Kirklind Kaleta, who will be attending JCC in the fall, is this year’s intern. “My favorite aspect of working at the library is the creative freedom I am given to run the Summer Reading Program,” she says. “With (library director) Laura Flanagan’s approval, I get to choose whichever activities and special events the kids get to do for the week. I enjoy creating opportunities for other kids to have fun.”
Kaleta continued: “Compared to the typical high school job of food service, lifeguarding, or babysitting, this internship is a lot more laid-back. Alongside checking out books and organizing shelves, I get to work with a lot of kids. It’s a job I wish I could keep all year.”
Among the hustle and bustle of the employed, there is a sector of Ellicottville students who make the decision not to hold a summer job at all. Megan Hartsell, Ellicottville junior, says that she weighed the pros and cons before choosing to remain unemployed. “I thought about getting a job over the summer,” Hartsell says, “but I decided against it. Even though summer is supposed to be a vacation, I am always busy with soccer or other activities.”
And busy is what ECS students will continue to be. Whether it’s toiling in the sun or selling products in an air-conditioned storefront, whether clearing plates or being the caboose in a long line of preschoolers, Ellicottville students aren’t lazing away their summers. They are, rather, unwittingly contributing to their retirement accounts, and never imagining a day when they will be forced to use them.