By: Chelsea Montes De Oca
Often times I am asked the question, “What is the most challenging aspect of your job?” This job, like any, comes with its fair share of challenges. The days are long and the education system is not the easiest to work in. Despite all this, living on a stipend has presented itself to be the greatest challenge throughout the year.
I baffled many people by choosing to take a job halfway across the country that would pay me significantly less than I was being paid at the time. I’ve always been a hard worker. Since I was 16, I worked full time at various restaurant jobs while also attending school full-time. For the most part, I had the fortunate circumstance of not really worrying about money. As long as I kept my job and my parents allowed me to continue to overstay my welcome in the house, I had enough money to support myself.
With taxes, my stipend comes out to around $460 every two weeks. My rent/shared building utilities alone usually comes out $470 depending on how cold it was that month. The rest of my bills usually go something like this; Gym membership = $15. Electric = another $15. Car insurance = $100. Cell phone = $60. Internet = $30. Gas= $80. A good night’s sleep = priceless. With other random monthly expenses this usually doesn’t leave me much over for recreational activities. In the past, I had been able to eat out or see a movie without really having to think about whether or not I could afford it. Adapting to this new change in thinking has been a struggle.
I recently accepted the offer to stay with City Year another year as a Senior Corps member next year. You may be thinking to yourself, why would you actively choose that path if you have admitted it’s a struggle living on the pay? The answer is quite simple actually. I may only get paid $920 dollars a month but I get paid so much more through my students. In my previous jobs, I would clock in, work, clock out and go home. I had no real feeling of doing something important that day. This is the first job in which I feel like I go home every day having at least made a small impact. One of my focus list students raised his reading percentage from 30% to 110% this last trimester. We celebrated by ordering Jimmy Johns and he was so excited to order food from the menu himself. I also have the opportunity to apply my passions to the students I serve by running a photography club. These types of success stories didn’t exist in my past jobs. The reward I get from finally seeing a student get a better grade on a quiz or develop confidence in reading has no price attached. After having a job where I feel like I make such a difference, I know I could not go back to a work environment I am not passionate about.
They never said it would be easy. They just said it would be worth it. They weren’t lying.