For many students, summer break is synonymous with a reprieve from study sessions, essay deadlines and getting up for 8 a.m. classes. Many young adults in Madisonville, however, are using their summers off from high school and college to earn workplace experience as well as some extra cash.

Western Kentucky University students Maddie Johnson and Dylan Ashby work seven days a week at Madisonville City Park Pool, and they said that the work is just as much of a commitment as school. Ashby said that they, along with five other college students, spend their time monitoring the chemicals in the pool, preparing snacks, checking the bathrooms and working other odd jobs around the facility as they each take shifts lifeguarding.

"If you're not on guard, there's always something to do," Johnson said.

The lifeguards at Madisonville City Pool are all college students home for the summer, and Johnson said that the job has been a great opportunity to be with peers as well as a learning experience in how to work as a team in a professional setting.

According to Ashby, it's also a great way to connect with the community.

"You meet a lot of different people at a job like this," Ashby said. "You really get to be out in the community."

Johnson said that getting experience in the workplace is beneficial for students even if the work is not related to their career plans.

"We get to talk to people, we're making money, we're learning new things, and we're also making memories," Johnson said. "I think that's a very important part of the college years, and young adulthood is working your way up and learning how a job works."

According to Johnson, it's tempting

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for students to enjoy a break after five hard months of school, but using the break for work experience will benefit them in the long run moreso than sleeping in until noon everyday.

Incoming college freshman Olivia Gunkel has been working at the Gift Horse for three years, and she said the experience has helped her on a personal level as well as financially.

"It's taught me responsibility and how to get out there in the business world," Gunkel said. "It helps you because you're not just sitting around at home. You're out meeting people and getting new experiences."

According to Gunkel, work has also strengthened her relationship with the Madisonville community.

"When I go out, I recognize a lot more people because I've helped them here," Gunkel said.

Owner Kelley Chandler said that she has always prioritized hiring students in the five years that the Gift Horse has been under her care.

"I think it's a great opportunity for us to give the younger generation a chance to get out in the workplace," Chandler said. "They can learn a good work ethic and social skills to use in the future."

Chandler said that hiring college students gives the business an opportunity to impact the younger generation, as well as help the youth earn money in community.

And for many students, the experiences and memories made at work doesn't end at the start of school.

"A lot of former employees come back to see us during their breaks," Chandler said, "I love staying in contact with them and seeing where the future has taken them."

School may be out, but for many students over the summer, the work has just begun.

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