BREA — For most high school students, winter vacation is a time for parties, merriment, lazy mornings and, most important, no school. But some students decide to make the most of their time off by making money through seasonal employment at the Brea Mall.
This season, more than 500 high school students from all over Orange County are employed by the mall's 160 stores. Some of the teen-agers are temporary employees, working jobs only available this busy time of the year. Others with regular jobs at the mall simply work more days or longer hours.
Lisa Carlin, a senior at Diamond Bar High School, began working at Sweats & Surf last week, just in time to help take care of the booming business. "It's exciting and it gets you more into the Christmas spirit to see so many people shopping for presents," Carlin said.
Added Brea-Olinda High School senior Liz Gates, who works with Carlin: "It does get busy and people get upset easily. They hate lines and want things right away. But I like working here."
Both are working 20 to 30 hours a week.
"It seems like when all my friends are playing, I'm at work," Carlin said. "They're all looking forward to Christmas break, waiting to play and party."
Reasons for working instead of playing vary among the teen-agers.
Kerry Reinhardt, another senior at Brea-Olinda, has worked at Helen's Chocolates since March, 1988. "My sister worked here before," she said, "So I knew they had flexible hours that I could work with."
Michele Heimos, a senior at Esperanza High School, works 15 to 20 hours a week at The Gap. "Soccer was over and I needed money for car payments, so I applied," she said. "It's hectic, but it's fun putting people's outfits together."
Each winter, Brea Mall hires students to dress in costumes and work at Santa's Forest in the Center Court.
Kelly Loomis, a senior at Troy High School, dresses up three times a week in a period costume corresponding to "good King Wenceslaus" of the English Christmas carol. "It's a lot of fun," she said, "but sometimes you get tired of screaming kids."
Josh Merold, a junior at El Dorado High School, joined Santa's Forest brigade because "I thought it'd be different and a challenge to work with little kids. It's real fast-paced and hectic. It's difficult to deal with parents and kids at the same time, trying to please them both, but I enjoy the job."
Sean Malone, another junior at El Dorado, works the cash register in Santa's Forest. "Homework is a bummer with work," Malone said. "Sometimes I stay up late doing it, but work is a blast."
As it is difficult to shop on an empty stomach, many of the mall's patrons eventually end up at the Food Court, where Katie White, a junior at Sunny Hills High School, works making cinnamon buns at Cinnabon.
"Work has both good and bad sides," White said. "It's good because it gives me discipline and that helps me with school work. But it's hectic, it keeps you on your toes. I never have a moment's rest."
But with her busy schedule, how does she have time to complete her holiday shopping?
"I do miss out on shopping a little," White said, "but by the time I get home from work, I'm too tired to go shopping." Brea-Olinda senior Julue Navarro is happy to be spending part of her vacation working at Hot Dog On A Stick.
"You don't have to sit at home all day," Navarro said about working over the holidays. "You're never bored, and you're always doing something. Work is something fun, but it does take a lot of my time. It's hard to balance school, work and a social life."