Summer brings changes for college employees

Some enjoy having time off; others find second jobs during the summer.

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WALLA WALLA - Classes are either over or coming to a close at Walla Walla's colleges and university. For most students, the summer is an opportunity to take time off, work or relax.

With students gone, college services are also cut or scaled back - dining halls close, libraries have reduced hours, and many employees find themselves going three months without any income.

For some employees, having summers off is a job perk. Anita Foffonhof, who works as a nurse in Whitman's Welty Health Center during the school year, said she enjoys working in a college environment even though the pay is lower.

"More money can be made working at a local hospital, but I choose not to do that because I enjoy the freedom," she said.

For Foffonhof, summer is a chance to travel, see family and relax.

"I budget frugally during the school year because I enjoy having the entire summer off," she said. "We all need to recharge our batteries."

Librarian Corinna Whitehurst, who works at Walla Walla Community College and Whitman during the year, said she appreciates the chance to spend time with her children over the summer.

"It's a way for me to catch up with them and reconnect," she said.

Whitehurst typically works weekdays at the community college and at Whitman on the weekends, while attending school online. In previous years, she has been able to take the summer off because her husband runs a painting business that provides income during the summer.

This year, for the first time, Whitehurst chose to continue work at the community college part time over the summer. She will staff the library during reduced summer hours, in part to help pay for her education.

Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla University offer summer courses, but enrollment is much lower than during the academic year. Whitman College has no summer classes, though it does host several extracurricular summer programs.

Because of these summer activities, grounds maintenance and custodial work generally continue during the summer.

Tori Goff, who runs Walla Walla University's grounds and custodial departments, said she's able to employ students over the summer.

"Typically we're able to offer jobs to pretty much everyone who wants to stay," she said.

While fewer students work during the summer, Goff said the number of hours needed is relatively constant. The students who do work are more likely to be full time, because they are less likely to be taking classes.

Not every college employer is able to retain its work force over the summer. While students in the community college's culinary arts program continue to work in food services over the summer, Whitman and Walla Walla University close their dining halls.

Whitman's dining halls are run by the Bon Apptit Management Company, which employs more than 100 people during the school year. Summer catering and events allow the company to retain about 50 employees for some portion of the summer, but others have to find work elsewhere or go without.

"Some people prefer to have the summer off to spend with their families, others already have second jobs and are able to increase their hours during the summer. Many find temporary summer jobs, and the remaining people who are not able to find work are eligible for unemployment," said Roger Edens, the Bon Apptit general manager.

While Foffonhof enjoys her summer freedom, she said every school-year employee's experience is different.

"We all have different stories," she said. "I'm just by myself, so I do OK. I think it would be difficult if you had a family."

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