Writing has always been my passion. My parents impacted this interest by helping me develop a love of stories as a child through reading books to my sisters and me and through taking us on frequent library trips.
Inspired by the stories I read or watched in movies, I often led my two younger sisters in telling tales of our own with our abundant supply of stuffed animals, and as I grew older, I traded our cuddly companions for a pen and paper as my storytelling mode of choice and have been writing ever since.
My dream is to pursue a degree in English in order to become a writer or an editor. My family has not only played a large role in shaping this dream but has also influenced my desire to graduate from college debt-free.
From a young age, my parents established the principles of industriousness and financial wisdom in me by stressing the importance of saving money and by encouraging me to work hard in order to purchase things I wanted for myself.
As the fourth child, I was also able to watch the examples that my older sisters set as they held two jobs while attending college; thus, the idea of working, sometimes multiple jobs at once, to afford one’s education has always been a familiar concept to me. Because of this foundation from my parents and my sisters, I have always sought ways to pay for my own college expenses and have worked several different jobs and side hustles as a result.
Joining The Family Business
My journey into the world of employment began when I was around seven or eight. My parents own a photography business, Brenham Portrait Gallery, and they needed people to help with different events they offer throughout the year, like live bunny photos, Santa portraits, and school pictures for the private schools in our town.
Because the required tasks were simple, such as wrangling baby rabbits or ensuring each child was photographed with his name for identification, my parents decided to let my sisters and me help, and I started earning some money working for the family business.
As I grew older, I transitioned into my current responsibilities for the business, which include handling money for Santa and bunny photos, posing over six hundred kids on around sixty different teams for little league and soccer pictures, and performing other tasks around the studio, including using my writing skills to author Facebook posts that reached over 2,500 people.
I particularly enjoy helping with Santa pictures because I have been able to see them grow from a one-weekend event in December to a sixteen-day undertaking in November and December that has become a tradition for many families and that was even mentioned on the television station of a neighboring city a few years ago when we celebrated twenty years of partnering with the same Santa for pictures.
Helping my parents is not just a way for me to earn a little extra money but has also showed me how to interact with customers and, by allowing me to observe my parents and obtain hands-on experience, has taught me much about operating a business.
Starting To Write
In my sophomore year of high school, I discovered another potential source of income through my writing abilities when I earned an honorable mention in a national poetry contest for homeschoolers.
Although the prize amount was not very much — only fifty dollars — it inspired me to enter other writing contests. While I obviously did not win them all, I did earn first place in a few different categories for a contest offered by my town’s junior college in my senior year of high school and again in my freshman year of college.
Similarly, I have used my literary skills for a side hustle by co-authoring a children’s book with my father. He has always had ideas for stories but was never particularly skilled at writing, so when I was in seventh grade, I helped him transform one of his ideas into a full-fledged children’s story called Lily Helps Her Dad.
A few years later, my father found a local artist to illustrate it, and finally, after much research, we self-published the book in my senior year of high school. It is available in our town’s local bookstore as well as on our website, www.thebookhill.com, and it was even in the BookPeople bookstore in Austin for a while. Unfortunately, this venture has not produced much profit, but it has been a useful learning experience and has given me more practice writing stories.
Becoming An Assistant Stage Manager
Working for Brenham Portrait Gallery and entering the occasional writing contest remained my only sources of income until my first semester of college, when I received an unexpected job offer from Unity Theatre, my town’s professional theater. I had taken a homeschool acting class at Unity the previous spring when I was still in high school, and my teacher was going to direct the theater’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Because she had been impressed with my commitment during the class, she recommended me to the stage manager to be his ASM (assistant stage manager) for the play. I had never been involved with theater before the class, but since I had always enjoyed watching plays growing up, I decided to give the job a shot to earn some extra money.
While it was a somewhat daunting task helping to manage a production with nearly forty actors, around thirty of whom were kids, I soon fell in love with the job, and when Unity offered me the position of ASM for another play the next spring, I jumped at the chance. Since then, I have served on crew for one show and, when the theater’s 2018-19 season ends in July, I will have worked as ASM for ten plays in the course of two years.
I also had the opportunity to be onstage in Unity’s production of the comedy The Savannah Sipping Society, when I had a cameo as a ninety-one-year-old lady who dies of shock when her granddaughter throws her a surprise party. While the job can at times be challenging, my hard work and attention to detail have impressed even long-time professional actors and have encouraged the theater to continue hiring me for play after play. I love getting to contribute to making each production a success, all while meeting amazing people and gaining valuable leadership experience, and the fact that I get paid to do so is an added bonus.
The final side hustle I have undertaken to pay for my education began the summer after my first year in college when my father suggested that I try helping at the local newspaper, the Brenham Banner-Press, to see if journalism is a career in which I would be interested. After talking with the paper’s publisher, my freelance writing side hustle commenced. I only wrote one or two articles a month, but I enjoyed being paid to write about different topics in the community, such as Unity’s plays, my church’s most recent mission trip, and the lives of veterans at a local nursing home.
Then, this January, eager to save more money in preparation for transferring to Texas A&M University this fall, I asked my publisher if the paper had any available positions and thus turned my side hustle into a part-time reporting job. This job has been a wonderful opportunity to learn from professional journalists and to practice writing and editing as I have authored articles about people, events, meetings, and other occurrences in the county.
I even recently interviewed U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul, the chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Homeland Security! These experiences have allowed me to develop stronger connections in my community and to gain confidence in myself as I have continually stepped outside my comfort zone, all while earning some money to afford my education.
So, what’s next for me? I’m currently taking a semester off after receiving my Associate’s in English from Blinn College this past fall, and I plan on working at my current jobs until the end of August, when I’ll be transferring to Texas A&M University to earn a Bachelor’s in English with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in journalism (hopefully with extra financial assistance from this and other scholarships I’m applying for).
Unfortunately, these plans mean saying goodbye to Brenham Portrait Gallery, Unity Theatre, and the Banner-Press. Of course, I’ll still help my parents with their business whenever I’m home for a weekend or during the Christmas and summer breaks, and I might work at Unity during the summers, but for the most part, moving to College Station means moving to other jobs.
While I’m not entirely sure what they will be yet, I hope to obtain a job that involves writing, whether it’s reporting for A&M’s newspaper, tutoring students in English, or putting my talents to use in any other way. But one thing’s for sure: I’ll continue to work and side hustle my way to making my dreams a reality.
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Check out the other finalists here: 2019 Side Hustlin’ Student Scholarship Results Page.