It’s 7 a.m. on a Friday morning, when the sun hasn’t fully risen and most LMU students are still in bed. For a group of seven students – three men and four women – this is the time they meet at Facilities Management to prepare for a day of work at the recycling yard, helping to complete jobs like sorting glass, baling cardboard and transporting the contents of the recycling receptacles across campus.
These seven students are part of a group of 24 LMU students who are working in the Student Worker program to make money to help pay for their tuition, fees and housing costs. It is a program awarded based on financial need, and selection for positions occurs each year in the spring. Those who work in the recycling yard are paid $13 an hour for their contributions.
Freshman business administration major Bryan Ruiz explained the origins of the program, which he said was started by the Jesuits after a group of students asked the University for a way in which they could work off their tuition in order to pay for their education.
Students who apply for positions are interviewed, and those who are selected must work a minimum of 18 hours per week. During the summer, student workers are given a 10 percent discount on housing and are required to work a minimum of 40 hours per week. Priority registration for classes is given in order to make sure students can most effectively manage their time.
Most go above and beyond the minimum hour requirement, choosing to work as much as their schedules allow – between 25 to 45 hours every week on average, which often means students leave work and go straight to class in their uniforms.
Students are also housed in Leavey 6 together year-round, even as freshmen, which allows them to build a strong bond as they fondly refer to each other as family.
“What’s most important is that we’re all there for each other, we all encourage each other. We support each other and understand each other’s hardships,” said Douglas Martinez, a sophomore business administration major.
Most student workers work in the yard their first year as “rookies” in the program, and it is the only time they have a chance to work together in a group and experience manual labor. In the program, it is considered a “rite of passage,” and according to junior business administration major Amanda Proo, it is what gives each worker his or her “street cred” in the program. Following yard work, assignments to other positions are usually based on performance.
“We meet so many people doing this job and have a chance to interact with members of this campus who we probably wouldn’t have known otherwise,” said Ana Rivera, a junior political science major.
Proo said of the job, “When you go back to your class, you’re drained. Not only because it’s hard, but because of the sun, a lot of things. But we’re still here, and I think that says a lot.”
Even with the long hours these students work to help maintain the appearance and sustainability of the campus, most workers are involved in numerous other clubs and activities across campus, ranging from research assistantships to Greek life, ASLMU, service orgs, athletics and internships.
“The more you do, the more you realize how much you can do; you learn organization. Like right now, I’m in Delta Gamma, I’m a research assistant, I babysit for families and I also [applied] for ASLMU Director of Environmental Responsibility. You can have other jobs and you can manage it,” said Amelia Roucel, a junior political science major.
“During your first semester doing this, you gauge how much time you really can commit,” said Michelle Nader, a freshman sociology major, who works 37 hours a week.
Proo admitted that because they are so active in the LMU community, most only get four to six hours of sleep each night, but their bosses, Bill Stonecypher, manager of Facilities/Waste Management, and José Molina, solid waste recycling equipment operator for Facilities Management, are very understanding of the fact that they are students first, and they encourage them to get as much of a college experience as possible.
Despite the time commitment, Ruiz commented that there are strong motivating factors that encourage students to push themselves to their full potential. “There’s always someone working harder than you, working more hours, doing more than you, so it motivates you to work harder and pushes you to your limit,” he said.
They explained that their biggest job of the year is graduation. It is the student workers who set up everything, including the 13,000 chairs to seat guests and families of graduating students.
It’s not all work and no play for the student workers, though, who explained that they take summer trips to Arizona and Vegas, as well as hold barbecues by the beach. They also have a formal and hold retreats to the mountains, for which even some alumni of the program come to participate.
“We all go through this together, and it’s great because there’s always someone to relate to who knows exactly what you’re going through. It’s humbling and it feels good to give back to the environment. And we do have a lot of fun,” Roucel said.
Stonecypher discussed the students’ positive attitudes and how they are truly a major component of what keeps LMU running on a day-to-day basis. “When you do this every morning, you know that you’re a part of making the University ready for that day. These students can tangibly see that without their contribution every day, we [would] have problems within hours. [They can say] ‘I’m an agent that has guaranteed that LMU will be LMU for one more day.’”