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Dan Wegmueller: School and work can go together
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At the risk of sounding hopelessly reminiscent, I remember my senior year in high school, just nine years ago. I knew one person who had a cell phone. She would randomly "borrow" it from her parents, an act that was nearly useless because she had to drive 20 minutes just to get reception. E-mail was yet something to be embraced, even during my late high school years. I vividly recall sending my brother an e-mail from a school's computer, with a crowd of onlookers craning their necks behind me. "So, your brother is going to be able to read that letter at his computer halfway across the country?" Yes, there was a time not long ago when an Internet connection speed of '35' was considered snappy. Contrast those memories with the reality of today: This summer Stewbert and I took a motorcycle road trip across the country, documenting each day via a daily column. Each evening I simply had to type up a few hundred words on my laptop, then instantaneously send the column to my editor, compliments of our hotels' free wireless Internet service. Should we happen to be stranded in Grenfell, Canada, where electricity is still a novelty, I had to simply locate and park outside a Hilton Hotel - its free wireless Internet access blankets even the parking lot. Yes, my friends, technological advances have allowed us to accomplish feats never before imagined. Take me, for example - last autumn I did something that no one deemed possible. I remember a pre-semester phone conversation with my college academic advisor. After I enrolled in 15 credits' worth of classes she exclaimed, "That is quite the load - you're not planning on working more than part-time this semester are you?" I truthfully replied that I had one part-time job and "knew I could handle it." Well, what I failed to mention was that I had also just picked up full-time work at Craigo Grain, meaning I would be working 50 hours at the grainery, 20 hours bartending at Ludlow, in addition to my 15 credits of online classes! So then, from October to Christmas last year, the reality of my life was as follows: Weekdays I worked at Craigo Grain, which was at least an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. stint. During harvest season we worked late. When the weather was good, we worked late. Since the entire harvest season was blessed with good weather, we almost always worked late. Then, at least two days a week I bartended at Ludlow's, which typically amounted to an eight-hour shift each, maybe more. In between these times I scrounged for an opportunity to complete my class work. I read many a chapter from my American Literature textbook while waiting for my trailer to fill with corn. Pop quiz: An eight-inch auger running at 1,500 RPM will move a thousand bushels of corn in how many pages of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man?" From thereafter every time I opened the book I would be greeted with a cloud of little red corn hulls. On many nights I would finish at the grainery well after dark, only to exclaim to Chris and Johnny, "See ya tomorrow! I have three essays to write tonight." Actually, I have to admit I loved writing essays; words are so easy to come by! Even at 2 a.m. I could crank out seemingly dry prose on Human Resource Management with ease. Here is a sample of an essay that I wrote in the middle of the night. The assignment was to compare the various job evaluation methods, and then provide my opinion as to which method was the most beneficial to the employee:

The process of job evaluation provides a necessary service to the firm - it provides insight to a job's worth and opens the door to fair pay practices. ... I would prefer the Factor Comparison Method. This technique of job evaluation bases judgment on five universal factors: mental capacity, skills, physical abilities, responsibilities and working conditions. Rather than simply looking at the relative worth of a job overall, this in-depth method rates individual components which, I believe, is more accurate at determining a position's value to the organization.

Brilliant! Of course, that particular midnight brainchild of mine went on for 600 more words, but, trust me, you don't want to read it. Well my friends, I did it! I recently acquired my transcript for the 2007 fall semester, and I passed. I will probably not be the key speaker at graduation next year (although I should be), but I did it. I singularly accomplished something that no one said was possible, thanks to the advancement of technology. Since my classes all were online, I could access them at any time, day or night. I could close the bar, and then come home to join a class discussion at 2:30 a.m. via my laptop computer and wireless Internet connection. Of course, an entire semester of working, cramming and four hours of sleep per night took a toll. I gained 15 pounds, darn it! When the semester ended and the Christmas holiday rolled around, I crashed. I had no desire to do anything on my days off, bar sleeping in until my clock read "P.M." Oh well, at least I will be rested up by the time the spring semester rolls around - in one week! So then, what is the moral of the story? For all you parents out there, keep this article in mind the next time your kid comes home from college, whining about needing more money. Politely inform them that there are lawns to be mowed, snow to be shoveled, tables to be waited, and ditches to be dug. Tell them to get a job. Heck, it is entirely feasible to work and achieve passing grades in school at the same time. If you don't believe me, take comfort in the fact that the newspaper couldn't print it if it weren't true! - Dan Wegmueller of Monroe writes a weekly column for Friday editions of the Times. He can be reached at