After school and after soccer practice, Gabriella Rowles gets to work.
The senior at Northwest Classen High School helps clean and do other work at a family friend's salon. She needs money for bills. Rowles lives with a friend, and she pays rent to her friend's parents. Then it's homework time.
“I don't give up, though,” said Rowles, 17. “I just figure that's how it's going to be in life.”
New data released Thursday by the U.S. Census shows that more than 1 in 4 high school students age 16 and older work. That's more than 3 million workers nationwide.
Only 1 percent of students work full-time, according to the data.
Also, white students are more likely to have part-time jobs, but minorities are more likely to work longer hours, according to a study released Thursday by researchers at the University of Michigan and Penn State University.
Students who work more than 15 hours a week are more associated with problems like low grades, smoking, drinking and drug use, according to the study. However, researchers say that work doesn't necessarily cause those problems, only that an association exists.
Some students work for extra money, but many work to pay bills, said Ashley Westerman, a counselor at Northwest Classen. Some are expected to help support their families.
For some students, working a minimum-wage job is a reminder of how important education is, Westerman said. But for others, paychecks are tempting.
“Sometimes they like getting the money, and they'll take on more hours,” Westerman said. “They'll fall behind in school.”
Northwest Classen has a work program that allows juniors and seniors to have a shorter school day while earning class credits at work. They leave school early for afternoon jobs or come in late after night shifts.
“If we didn't have that, we'd lose some kids,” Westerman said. “One girl, she was in tears because she was going to have to quit school.”
Senior DeShawn Holliday, 18, said it's important to balance work and school. Holliday works about 30 hours a week as a Walmart cashier. He pays for his phone bill and also gives money to his family.
He has a heavy homework load during his last semester, but he is focusing on the prize: college. Holliday said he hopes to study vocal music at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma.
His advice for other working students is simple: “Take care of yourself.”