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Breaking the Bank: Student finances at El Camino

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Catherine Tadina

It is said that “money makes the world go round.” If so, then how does money make El Camino students’ worlds go round? Where does students’ money come from and what is it spent on? To answer these  questions, the Colt Quarterly staff conducted a school-wide survey of 836 El Camino students detailing their money sources and spending habits.

Money Sources
Let’s face it; everyone’s all guilty of asking for money from their parents. But should parents be students’ primary source of funds? The survey results show that students’ greatest source of money comes from their parents; an average of 37 percent of students’ money is given to them freely without requiring repayment to parents. The next greatest source of money comes as gifts given by relatives, with an average of 19 percent. Seniors get an average of 17 percent of their money from jobs—higher than any other grade level; lowerclassmen only get an average of six or seven percent of money from jobs.

It seems that the major sources from which students get their money has changed over the years. “When I was younger, my parents made me work for what I wanted,” economics teacher Joel Compton said. Learning the value of money caused Compton to think twice about his purchases.

Compared to earlier generations where teens usually had to work for their money, over the years more and more students have been receiving their money freely from their parents. What could possibly account for this change? Why is it that most kids don’t work, but are merely given their money as opposed to working for it?

This trend can be attributed to increased competition in high school. As the chances of getting into college are getting harder and harder, more and more students are focusing more on academics and less on work. Students are taking more and more AP and Honors classes, joining clubs, and participating in athletics as well as volunteering after school. Students are simply too busy to work when their hours are filled with studying, homework, and participating in activities that will give them an edge in college applications.

“[My parents] want me to focus on school first,” senior Reginne Ang said. “If I start working then I might get sidetracked because of all the money I’m earning.”

Another possibility, according to Compton, is a change in parents’ mentality. He hypothesizes that many parents have changed their outlook over the years, becoming more lenient—or “doting” on the younger generations.

While freely giving teens money may be convenient for students, it may hurt them in the long run. When students receive money without working for it, they may not understand its value and may thus take it for granted. This causes them to be unprepared when dealing with finances in the adult world. “When you give something for nothing, it’s like welfare at an early age,” Compton says.

Spending Habits
Not surprisingly, students spend the majority of the money they receive on entertainment, including movies, video games, music, and books. On average, students spend $140.07 a month on entertainment, which is 85 percent of the money they get per month.
It is also interesting to note that males and females spend their money differently. Females spend more money than males on clothes with 25 percent for girls versus 16 percent for boys, grooming expenses at seven percent for girls versus three percent for boys, and school supplies at five percent for girls versus two percent for boys. On the other hand, males spend more money than females on food with 19 percent versus 13 percent, entertainment at 34 percent versus 30 percent, and transportation at six percent versus five percent. Male students typically spend their money on video games, eating out, transportation-related expenses including their own cars, and electronics, whereas girls tend to spend more on beauty products and clothes.

In total, male students spend more money a month than female students. According to the survey, male students spend an average of $192.85 a month whereas females spend an average of $76.30 a month—a 40 percent difference.

Out of 628 responders from the 836 surveyed, 26 percent used credit cards or debit cards. “It’s a bad call for parents to give their kids credit cards,” Compton said. “It’s easy to spend for credit when you haven’t earned it.” If students consider about the work it took to earn the money they’re spending, they might make wiser decisions when it comes to spending money.

Although El Camino’s economics curriculum focuses little on lessons in teaching students practical lessons in managing their finances, several El Camino teachers teaching economics classes are planning to include more lessons on financial literacy in their curriculum. Compton stresses the importance of training kids in financial literacy at an early age. He feels that his parents had prepared him better for managing finances as an adult by making him work for his money as a kid, compared to his younger sister who readily received money from her parents much like the majority of El Camino students, and according to Compton, “had to learn the hard way” in the future.

El Camino’s Workforce
El Camino students who currently have or have had jobs in the past are generally employed in the retail sector. The next dominant industry in which students work are family businesses, followed by the food service industry. A low percent of students earn their money through babysitting. Students with jobs earned an average of $11.99 an hour—60 percent more than California’s current minimum wage of $8.00.

The higher the students’ economic class, the lower their work hours. Among the students who classified their socioeconomic statuses, students from low-income households worked for significantly more hours (16 hours on average) than did students from upper-income households (six hours on average). In correlation, El Camino students who qualified for free or reduced lunch (55 percent) worked 17 hours on average as opposed to students who did not qualify for free lunch (26 percent) who worked 15 hours on average. Students from lower-income households have a bigger need to work for money whereas students from upper-income households usually work to supplement their funding.

Surprisingly—and disconcertingly—the gender gap concerning earnings doesn’t just exist for adults. Female students earn an average of $9.91 an hour, whereas male students earn an average of $14.21 an hour. Female students earn 70 percent of what male students earn, or 70 cents for every dollar that male students earn. This percentage correlates with what statistics indicate: according to the US Census Bureau in 2004, women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.
There are several possibilities that might contribute to this disparity: four percent of El Camino’s workforce—all male—have indicated that they work in the construction industry, where pay is higher and where women may be less inclined to apply and get hired for jobs—clearly indicating to the gap. Other possibilities are that female students make less than men because they are less assertive about asking for raises, or have less chances of being hired for higher paying jobs due to the gender discrimination that still exists in society. “It’s a shame,” Compton said. “But I think there’s still a [sexist] attitude out there.”

In addition, today’s stagnant economy has made it more and more difficult for high school students to find jobs. Jobs that high school students used to have are now being taken by college students and other adults who, in turn, cannot find jobs or have lost their jobs due to the recent economic downturn.

“[Most work places] don’t want teens,” El Camino Work Experience Coordinator Skip Del Sarto explains. “I guess to them, teens are not as reliable.”

Senior Michelle Coronado has been looking for jobs since the end of her sophomore year, but to no avail. “I’ve applied almost everywhere,” Coronado said. “I feel I had really good qualities and for them to reject me makes me feel discouraged … If I can’t find a job as a teen, how about as an adult?” She also believes that race discrimination also plays a factor in her difficulty in finding work.

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Once a Colt, always a Colt: The story of Shannon Allen as a former student at El Camino

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By Catherine Tadina

Allen as a student.

While El Camino in the 1990s was physically very similar to that of the present, the surrounding areas were quite different; El Camino in the ‘90s had a rural atmosphere. “It was kind of like the Wild West,” English teacher Shannon Allen said. In order to go to school every morning, Allen remembers having to walk through a “scary path” across what is now the track field. The areas surrounding El Camino were grass fields: there was no South San Francisco BART, Starbucks, or Costco. The area where the nearest Trader Joe’s is currently located was once full of trees. “It was shady,” Allen said. “There was not a lot of adult supervision in the surroundings back then.”

The issue of building South San Francisco BART in 1997 was a source of contention among students. While South San Francisco BART was being built, many El Camino students protested, arguing the safety of making El Camino too accessible.

The Columbine School Massacre on April 20, 1999 had a profound effect on El Camino students. Allen recalls hearing the news in English teacher Thomas Crockett’s senior AP English class.

Allen at present.

“Everyone was in shock,” Allen said. “While there were school shootings before, they were fairly small; this was the first time a big scale school shooting—a mass murder—had occurred.” People all over the country blamed rock music as the driving force behind the Columbine high school shooters. Since Allen listened to rock music, there was some scrutiny put on students like Allen and her friends. To dispel suspicions, Allen organized a peace march, wherein about 30-40 students, as well as Crockett, walked to the South San Francisco City Hall. There, they passed candles and discussed what it meant to be peaceful.

Gangs were also more prominent at the time. While the gangs never bothered Allen, she had a Latino friend who was assaulted by a rival gang. “You really had to watch yourself back then,” Allen said.

Once a Colt, always a Colt: The story of Patty Vlahakos as a former student at El Camino

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By Catherine Tadina

Vlahakos as a student.

Counselor Patty Vlahakos had several family members attend El Camino before her arrival, giving her many opportunities to attend football games and dance shows. “I was always really excited about the level of school spirit that presented itself during these events,” Vlahakos says. “Students were always incredibly approachable and parents were always present at the events.”

According to Vlahakos, her most memorable moment in high school was her senior year homecoming, where she created a strong bond with her classmates. Participating in homecoming allowed her to create new friendships and made her feel as if she was a part of her graduating class. Her biggest regret was not participating in homecoming in the years prior. “After experiencing the excitement of homecoming in my senior year, I definitely regretted not participating earlier,” Vlahakos said.

All students at one point in their high school career were able to access other students outside of their typical “clique”. All of the students were open to socializing with many different types of students. “When I participated in our school musical productions, we had a very diverse group of students participate: there were athletes, dancers, cheerleaders, drama students, art students, et cetera. Were all involved in different aspects of the events,” Vlahakos said. There was definitely a sense of inclusion when such opportunities presented themselves.”

Vlahakos was born and raised in South San Francisco, and thus, she considers El Camino home. When she was given the opportunity to work at El Camino, she could not let the opportunity pass. She chose to work in education so that she could help reach out to all students and provide them with the support they need to reach their full potential. “What better way to give back to my community than to serve youth in such a rewarding way!” Vlahakos said.

Transitioning back to El Camino was easy for Vlahakos, as teachers, counselors, and staff members made her feel right at home. “It was refreshing to see that the school had maintained the positive vibe that I had recalled,” Vlahakos said. She had the honor of having some of the current teachers as her own – Social Studies teachers Richard Arias and Steve Simondi, English teacher Thomas Crockett, and Math teachers Megan Connery and Richard Finacom. “It has been a pleasure to work with them all,” Vlahakos said. “I know how powerful they all are in the classroom and it is always exciting to hear my students speak highly of them also.”

Vlahakos at present.

Students nowadays have more opportunities to enroll in rigorous courses than when Vlahakos was a student. The only decline she has seen is in the school’s elective department due to the budget cuts which have taken a toll on the school’s resources; when Vlahakos attended, they had classes such as accounting, metals, wood, home economics, and speech. Nevertheless, the presence and involvement of counselors has increased drastically, as well as the amount of Honors and AP classes, according to Vlahakos. Students now have numerous opportunities to seek out counseling resources, speak with college representatives, and attend “life after high school” presentations more regularly.

Vlahakos believes that over the years, El Camino has always maintained its spirit. “I think that our teachers, staff and students take pride in our school,” she said. To her, the most impressive thing about El Camino is how effective it is in maintaining a safe environment. “As a whole, we have been successful in allowing for our students to uphold their individuality,” Vlahakos said. El Camino has held strong in creating a second home for its students, teachers and staff.

We are El Camino: Lisandro Gomez

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

By Steven Hansen

(Photo Katrina Nolasco)

“Don’t ask me where I’ve been; ask me where I’m going,” is senior Lisandro Gomez’s mantra. Gomez, after a rough five years, recognized his path as one of a scholar with limitless potential.

Gomez was raised in a low socio-economic household by immigrant parents with little schooling and little grasp of the English language. Like many in his position Lisandro faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles chose apathy towards school thinking it was useless. This thinking started him down a dark road.

His delving into the seedy underworld truly began with his attempts to join a gang in middle school. “I wanted to have that power and respect that they did, so I gave it a shot,” Gomez recalled. But following those influences didn’t lead to a positive outcome, as Gomez quickly found out when his best friend went to jail for assault and battery. “I realized that the tough guy life wasn’t for me,” Gomez said.

However, while not taking it to such extremes, Gomez still wasn’t the ideal student by the time he got to high school. He was content to be a class clown and a nuisance, quickly writing off seemingly inconsequential things such as homework or college. “My parents fought so hard to make me a good kid and I just wanted to be cool,” Gomez laments. “I thought I would get all the ladies and respect by being cool, like not paying attention in class, making fun of the teacher, and getting in trouble. I wanted people to know my name and I was willing to do anything.”

Eventually, however, reality set in for Gomez. His parents began to push him to do better and meet his potential, as well as offer in the occasional reality check. Equally shocking to Gomez was his brother’s newfound success in academics, coming home with straight “As”. “While his report card would be glued onto the refrigerator, mine would be hiding somewhere behind last month’s water bill,” Gomez said.

(Photo Katrina Nolasco)

Those external factors, combined with a push by El Camino counselor Lea Sanguinetti, led to Gomez’ difficult but rewarding transition from delinquent to academic. “Ms. Sanguinetti saw something in me,” Gomez recalled, “she helped me believe that I could go to college and become something of myself. I could recall walking into her office after school to complain about my rather rough day, and Ms. Sanguinetti with a warm smile and a contagious giggle would say, ‘Lisandro, you’re doing great. Keep it up and the universities will be applying for you to go to their school,’” Gomez said.

Of course, making the change was an arduous process, as Gomez suddenly had a lot more work on his plate. According to him, making this life change was the most difficult thing he’s ever attempted. However, he had to do so, as he was now in competition with hundreds within our school and thousands throughout the nation to get a spot in college. “Now I had to push myself, cut down on distractions and get things done. It took a lot for me to turn down dates for math homework and two hour phone calls in exchange for reading time,” Gomez said.

Still, the end justifies the means for Gomez, as he has successfully completed AP and Honors courses within the last year and a half, and is on his way to attending college – a possibility he wouldn’t change for the world.

“I didn’t want to be a part of another lame statistic on how Latinos have the lowest college education and how there’s arguably more Latinos in jail than in college,” Gomez said.

Gomez has chosen his path in life and knows it will eventually lead to success.

“Before, I thought life was about being the cool guy with all the girls, the coolest clothes, the nicest car and the most devastating punch,” Gomez recalled. “Now, I see life through a whole different pixel. It’s a lot easier going downhill than up, but once you strive and struggle to get to the top, you’ll be up there with the best of them.”

 

 

 

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The cause and effects of breaking school rules

November 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Cause and Effect

By Brian Trinh

Rules exist for a reason. Although some may seem annoying, they are essential in establishing an orderly system where students, teachers, and staff members can be safe and cooperate. Break a rule and trouble follows. So be careful with what rules you break, if you choose to break any at all, because the violation of any rule will inevitably have consequences.

1. How to lose a job in one day; be tardy.

The short term effect of breaking the tardy policy conveys an “I don’t care” attitude to the teachers and sets a bad precedent for other students. If the student can’t come to first period on time, what will prevent him from being tardy in his other classes? Besides setting a bad example, tardy students disrupt the teacher from teaching which unfairly robs diligent students from learning. The habit will also be unacceptable in the long run, especially when competing against peers in the workforce. Be late once, and that might cost you your job.

2. A messy home for books: library etiquette.

The library is filled with many valuable items such as books, computers, and expensive printers. Students are prone to make a mess if they eat and have the potential of spilling liquids on these expensive items. The mess will welcome ants, rats, little rodents and flies. If a mess is made, the janitors have to divert their time from their duties to clean the mess. This is very thoughtless, so why not avoid it by not eating in the library? It would also be nice to pick up trash around the library and clean up after yourself. That way the library is kept nice and tidy.

3. Books of steel or books of wood?

A new Pre-Calculus book costs a whopping 163 bucks. Wouldn’t it make sense to take care of it just as you would take care of an expensive iPod or graphing calculator? By not covering the book, students make it vulnerable to wear and tear from the elements of earth, water, wind, coffee stains, etc. Think of a book cover as an iPod cover or cell phone protector. Even though school books do not technically belong to students, the school has to pull funds out of their treasury to pay for a damaged or lost book. This brings up the case for returning books. Some books are in limited supply so make sure they are returned on time. If the book has to be returned in three weeks, make sure to return it in three weeks. There are other students who need the same book. If they can’t find it in the school library, they have to go to another source like the South San Francisco Library which takes up time and fuel to get there.

4. The Art of Destruction: Vandalism.

Vandalism is never acceptable, and graffiti and gum are not exceptions. If people do not own an item, they should treat that item thoughtfully. Failing to do so will not only bring grief to the owners, it will make them lose trust in the people using the items. As a student, you are obligated to follow this principle. There is nothing inherently wrong with graffiti as a form of art, but it is wrong to deface something that isn’t yours. Similarly, placing gum under the desks is equivalent to vandalizing. It spreads germs and creates an unsanitary environment and also becomes a nuisance for janitors and students to clean.

5.Short term option, long term loss: Cheating.

Cheating doesn’t get anyone anywhere. In the short term it has four effects. 1) It shows the teacher the integrity of the individual. 2) The person cheating and the person sharing the answers will get a zero on their paper, in addition to a note filed in their record. 3) Depending on the degree, the individual may be assigned Saturday school and detention in addition to a notice sent to the parent or assistant principal. 4) If done frequently, the student will flunk the class.

In the long run, cheating will get you nowhere in life because if you’re always seeking the easy way out, you will harm your reputation tremendously. Also, you learn nothing by cheating except how to cheat.

6. Patience is a virtue: Line cutting.

It’s fourth period, there’s sixty more seconds until the bell rings, and your stomach is growling for food. The bell rings and you rush to the cafeteria to wait in line for your food. But what happens when somebody cuts in front of you? At El Camino, line cutting is a problem that needs to be addressed. Students who get in line first deserve to get their food first; it’s as simple as that. When you cut in front of someone, you take away their lunchtime because they have to wait longer. You would be furious if it happened to you so why would you do it yourself? So do your neighbor a favor by not cutting in line.

7. Feed your mind in 17 minutes: Reading period.

In El Camino’s busy schedule is a 17-minute period set aside for reading during third period. The objective is to allow students to enhance their reading skills and enjoyment by reading their own books. Some students make use of their time by reading, while others distract the studious students by goofing off or doing last night’s homework. The school put the period aside to help students, and if they don’t make the most of it, then reading period may disappear. There doesn’t have to be a reading period. It is not a right; it is a privilege.

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