It’s 2 a.m. when SUNY New Paltz senior, Therese Cavalari, finally leaves work. She wears a black collared shirt, black dress pants, and a black apron with the Applebee’s logo on its left side. Her shirt is covered with marinara sauce stains and the bottom of her pant legs look like she’s been walking around in mud all day. It’s Friday night, and all she wants to do is go home.
The 23-year-old art history major will catch up on sleep before her 5 p.m. bar shift starts again on Saturday evening. Her routine is common. Sunday will be a double shift for her, waiting tables from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then comes Monday —the beginning of her chaotic week—juggling both class and work.
She starts off her week by interning at the Ann Street Gallery in Newburgh, N.Y. She then heads straight to work where she will wait on tables for eight hours. She doesn’t work on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, so she uses these days to attend class, catch up on homework and intern.
“I work so much so I can pay my bills. There’s a choice factor, but there is a necessity. My father isn’t able to completely financially support me as much as I need to be,” Cavalari said.
A year after graduating high school, Cavalari enrolled herself in Orange County Community College. During this time, she acquired a cell phone bill, car payment, car insurance, and numerous other expenses which have made financial security difficult.
Due to the current economic climate, Cavalari’s situation is not uncommon. According to the 2007 National Center for Education Statistics, 21 percent of full-time students work 20 to 34 hours per week and 9 percent of full-time students work 35 hours or more each week.
“I manage it by choosing classes that can accommodate my work schedule, not the other way around,” Cavalari said.
SUNY New Paltz Financial Aid Director Daniel Sistarnik said he does not recommend this type of lifestyle for all students but does believe that responsibility can grow from having a job.
“You better get very organized if this is the life you are going to be living,”Sistarnik said. “I wouldn’t recommend it for 18-year-olds, but I think 10 to 20 hours of work each week will not kill students. To have to be somewhere and sign a timesheet will help them in the long run,” he said.
The Financial Aid officials support students looking for employment. They have set up a program for New Paltz students to find jobs on and off campus called JobX. On this Web site, students can search for available positions in the area. According to Sistarenik, JobX was started to guide students to potential employers.
“The persistence rate of studies we have done show that people on work study that have a job and have to show up somewhere actually do better in school,” Sistarenik said.
Her time sheet at Applebee’s indicates she works between 36 and 40 hours per week on top of a 15-credit work load. She said she regrets never living the typical college life, but thinks that she is making the best out of her situation.
“I know that working and attending school makes me stronger. I am able to deal with certain situations financially, and it’s also enriching. I’m taking a course in life,” Cavalari said.
With support from family and friends, Cavalari plans for success. Natassia Donohue, a fellow New Paltz student, admires how hard her friend works.
“I give her a lot of credit for what she does. I work, but not nearly as much as her. I know it takes a lot out of her, but somehow she gets by,” Donohue said.
Cavalari said she is not looking for sympathy or pity; she gets this attitude from her parents.
“My father expects this, my mom admires it. Emotionally, they support me but they don’t commend me. It’s like, do you want a medal?” Cavalari said.
For now, she will continue to work hard and graduate in May.
“I’m going to throw a party and invite people I don’t know when I’m done with this,” Cavalari said with excitement.