Sometimes you meet someone and you know they are special.
That’s the case with 17-year-old Billy DeLeary The Chocolate Truffle’s newest sales associate.
“I love the challenge of selling,” he said. “It’s very nice to talk with customers, and we bond like friends. It feels more like I’m helping them solve a problem.”
Billy is the rare teen who has a plan for his future. A student at Northeast Metro Tech Vocational School in Wakefield, he’s known what career path he will be taking since his freshman year. And, he’s got a few words of advice for his peers on why they’re not finding summer and part time jobs.
“Youth are lazy and lack motivation,” he said. “They could bring a lot to the workforce, but sports and activities are more important to them. They quit a job to play sports.”
Billy will graduate as a dental assistant this spring and then head off to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences where he has been accepted into their pre-med program. After that comes dental school.
As a high school junior and senior, he worked with dental students at Tufts University, and spent two summers shadowing his own dentist to learn the ins and outs of the job.
By the time he hit middle school, Billy felt a disconnect with his fellow students, he said. He wasn’t into sports, and became the target of bullying.
“My friends turned on me,” he said simply. “I wanted to get away from those kids and start over.” At his new school Billy found a group like him, students from a multitude of towns, (the Tech serves 12 communities including Reading) who were all looking to make new friends.
“It’s an easy going crowd and there’s no cliques,” he said. Billy feels at home as one of 340 students who “all love their shop.” He enjoys the balance between academics and shop work, where he gets to use his studies in practical applications.
“In almost every shop math plays a part,” he said.
Most of the tech students plan to attend four year colleges after graduation, he said. “It’s not like it used to be, where kids go because they can’t handle school,” he said. “Now , a lot of kids go to college even if they already have jobs. Getting a B.A. can’t hurt.”
With so much attention being paid to the lack of jobs for teens, Billy said he doesn’t think his peers are motivated enough to find part time work.
“When an opportunity came up for me to have a dental job I wanted to take it, otherwise I would just be hanging out with my friends,” he said.
He remembers one particular friend who quit a sports team as a senior when a valuable work experience became available.
“I thought that was noble, to leave a team and work,” he said. “In another month or so he would be looking for work with everyone else, and there wouldn’t be anything to set him apart.”
As for the political question of raising the minimum wage, Billy said “$8.50 is a good wage for a kid.” He fears a rise in the hourly wage will lead to companies letting people go, and believes raises come to those who apply themselves.
“If you want to make more money, you have to work harder for it,” he said. “People who want a higher minimum wage are not applying themselves. They want more money for doing less, and the people who work their way up are getting screwed.”
Working this part time job has shown Billy how difficult running a small business can be.
“I saw how busy the shop was at Easter, there were huge crowds. Then it drops off. I can see how difficult it can be for a small business when the crowds aren’t swarming around, how a business can go under. You really have to realize what people want and then give it to them.”
Billy advises his peers to think about their future paths, and to start building a resume as soon as possible.
“You may be thinking about the weekend, but you should be thinking about next year,” he advised. “Think, what am I going to do for my future today? It’s less overwhelming if you think about it a little bit every day.”