By Greg Gelpi
Hitting the beach is more than just about soaking up the rays and having some fun.
Seasonal workers at The Beach at Clayton County International Park are among 374 hired by Clayton County for summer jobs.
Rising college tuition costs and declining numbers of summer jobs are sending local students scurrying for seasonal positions.
Daniel Johnson, a Gordon University student from Stockbridge, said most of the money he earns as a lifeguard at The Beach will be used for tuition and the rest will go to pay bills.
The hot summer afternoons lifeguarding at the water park provides more than money, though, Johnson said.
"You get a tan and get paid for it, too," he said. "I plan on going into the field of saving lives and so this is a start."
With a family full of paramedics and firefighters, Johnson said he hopes to do the same.
According to the 2004 Junior Achievement Interprise Poll on Summer Jobs, about 88 percent of teenagers plan on having a summer job. While "extra spending money" remains the most popular reason for summer employment, raising money to "save for college" had a significant increase.
About 29 percent of the 401 teenagers surveyed indicated they were getting a job to defray the costs of college tuition as opposed to about 24 percent last summer.
More than half of those surveyed said they plan to work in a restaurant or in retail for the summer.
Hannah Jenkins, who will be a senior at Lovejoy High School, said she is working so she can get her car fixed.
Jenkins checks armbands at The Beach and said it beats being in school. She added that about half of her friends are working for the summer, while the other half is taking the summer off.
Stephanie Sanders of McDonough said about half of her friends are working as well, but the other half is taking classes for the summer.
The McDonough resident and lead lifeguard at The Beach said she is earning money to pay for various social activities, including sorority dues, at Gordon University, as well as gaining practical experience.
"I really like the environment and helping people," Sanders, who is majoring in nursing, said.
The Georgia Department of Labor provided $480,000 for the creation of 400 summer jobs in metro Atlanta. The money is being used to create jobs with WORKTEC and Hearts to Nourish Hope food bank in Clayton County.
"The department is taking this action to respond to the worst job market for teenagers since World War II," according to the Department of Labor.
Last year, the number of youth employment ages 16 to 24 jumped by 2.1 million between April and July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. That figure was down from the 2.4 million increase of the previous year.