Recent Op-Eds

Summer Jobs, Lifelong Values

By Sen. John Thune

July 7, 2023

In South Dakota, we take pride in a job well done. Our work ethic is often instilled in us from a young age – first at home and school, in sports, and eventually in our first jobs. A first job is an important rite of passage that teaches values like teamwork and diligence, as well as the freedom and responsibility that come with earning a paycheck. During the summer, it’s exciting to see so many young South Dakotans working across the state.

Summers in South Dakota offer plenty of opportunities to gain work experience while earning some money. Many of the small businesses, farms, and ranches that are the backbone of our state’s economy offer opportunities for young people to fill job openings, particularly during the summer months. And employers of all kinds need extra sets of hands during the busy travel season.

Growing up in Murdo, at the crossroads of Highway 83 and I-90, my four siblings and I all worked summer jobs related to the travel industry. My sister waited tables at a restaurant, two brothers worked at filling stations, another brother at the Pioneer Auto Show, and I got my start at the Star Family Restaurant, which still operates today. I spent seven summers there, starting out as a busboy, reporting for duty at 5:45 a.m. I later moved to the back of the restaurant to wash dishes before eventually becoming a cook. I value the experience I gained working at the Star Family Restaurant, and it was a great place to earn money for college and to learn lifelong skills.

As a U.S. senator, I’m able to offer young South Dakotans the opportunity to gain a different kind of valuable work experience to start their careers. My office offers paid internships for college students, and I can nominate qualified South Dakota high school juniors for the Senate Page Program. Paid internships are available throughout the year in Washington, D.C., Aberdeen, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls. Interns work closely with constituents, hone their writing, research, and communication skills, while learning firsthand about the federal government and the issues affecting South Dakota. The U.S. Senate Page Program allows high school juniors to see firsthand how the Senate operates while taking classes and assisting in the Senate’s day-to-day operations. Both the internship and page programs operate four sessions throughout the year and application information for both can be found on my website or by calling any of my offices.

First jobs are not often the most glamorous or easiest work, but they instill important values and a work ethic in first-time workers that will serve them throughout their life. I hope all the young South Dakotans working their first jobs this summer have a chance to reflect on some of what they’re learning from their experience and the future opportunities they might present, and I wish them all the best in their work.