Summer job means more than money

Fred McCormick

Ask any teenager his or her favorite time of  year and the answer is often summer. The break from school and the warm weather provide plenty of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

But summer, when  temperatures rise and tourists flock to Black Mountain, provides the opportunity for young people to take their first steps into the workforce.

Sam Perry checks out customers on a busy Thursday morning in the Town Hardware & General Store.

For 16-year-old Sam Perry, those steps are on the creaky wood floors of the Town Hardware & General Store, where he landed his first job.

"I moved to Black Mountain from Hickory last September to go to school at Asheville Christian Academy," he said. "The owners (of Town Hardware) are from Hickory as well, so we knew them. I reached out to them when I was 15 to see if they had any jobs they could hire me to do, and they didn't. But they called me when they did."

A typical day at work for Perry starts at 10 a.m.and ends at 5 p.m. The time in between is filled with a variety of tasks. Perry is often asked by coworkers to lift heavier items, but he spends most of his time interacting with customers while working the register.

Though Perry wanted the summer job to be less dependent on his parents for financial support, the experience has provided him with much more than spending money.

"I'm not a person that knows a lot about hardware, but I've learned a lot from everyone there," he said. "A lot of times people will have hardware questions and I will find somebody that knows the answer. And I'll learn something new about fixing something or building something myself."

The experience has also been Perry's crash course on the value of a dollar. "It takes a lot of work to earn the money that I spend," he said.

Caleb Bolick spent the last two summers washing dishes at Camp Rockmont, earning enough money to buy his first car, a 2005 Dodge Neon. But this summer he took what he calls a "step up" when he began working at Grace Jewelers.

"Of course dishes and jewelry work are two totally different things," he said. "But it feels nice to get into something that is a little more professional. I really enjoy what I'm doing."

Bolick, who plans to enter the Bible and religion program at Montreat College in the fall, said  the people he meets daily at the jewelry store on Broadway are part of what makes his job enjoyable.

"I'm a 'people person,' so I think what I like most about this type of work is the people I get to meet," he said. "I met a guy that was a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam."

Caleb Bolick repairs jewelry in the back room at Grace Jewelers, where he is working this summer before starting at Montreat College in the fall.

And like his first job provided money to buy a car, his position at Grace Jeweler is a chance for him to save money for college.

"The older you get the more responsibilities you have," he said. "Now it's a matter of saving for school and the costs that come along with that. My family is middle class, so I have to be able to work to provide for myself."

While Bolick and Perry are spending their summer days providing services to customers, Colby Maloney is soaking in the sun as a lifeguard at the Black Mountain Pool.

"It's definitely fun, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility," he said. "You have to make sure everyone is safe because it's a serious job."

Maloney began working at the pool four years ago.

"When I was 15 my parents told me to get a job," he said. "I had a friend who was doing it and he told me I should try to get a job as a lifeguard."

Keeping a close eye on the deep end of the pool, Colby Maloney talks about the duties associated with being a lifeguard.

Not only has the job required him to earn valuable certifications like first aid and CPR, but it has taught him a lot about the workplace in general.

"You have to be at work on time, and when you're working, you have a responsibility to do what you're being paid to do," he said. "I'm lucky to have had this job because I've had the chance to learn so much about responsibility since I was 15."