GTPulse: Kingsley Girl Works Summer Odd Jobs to Save For College

Elaina Abbarak won't be waiting tables or scooping ice cream for the summer. In an effort to pay for her first semester of Northern Michigan University she's using her outdoor skills to save up money and be her own boss.

No one forgets their first time moving away from home. Whether for school, a job or just a craving for change, moving out on your own for the first time is a nerve-wracking and exciting experience. Newly graduated from Kingsley High School, Elaina Abarrak is moving away for the first time this fall to study music education at Northern Michigan University.

She’s studying musical education, a bolder choice than going into something she felt less passionate about, but felt had more security.

“I was just going to go to NMC. I wasn’t going to pursue what I really wanted to do. I was going to be, I don’t know, a nurse or a teacher. Everyone said that music gets you nowhere, you need to make money, stuff like that. I finally talked to my band director who I trust a lot and we had a heart to heart and he was like, ‘Alright, if that’s what you want to do, this is what you have to do.’ And so I lined up all the things. I had to do a visit and I had to audition, which I’m really, really lucky that I auditioned when I did, because the next audition for scholarship opportunities was cancelled. ”

Rich and comforting like syrup over pancakes, saxophone solos are some of my favorite features in a song. Elaina has been playing since elementary school.

“Originally in fifth grade when we got fitted, I wanted to be a percussionist but I was told no and that I was either gonna play the flute or the saxophone because it’s a punch in your armature, or like the shape of your lips usually. It makes it easier for certain people to learn certain instruments, so it fell between saxophone and flute.”

Her aunt having a saxophone that Elaina could use felt like a sign and she’s been involved in school band since.

In high school, she tutored younger students in music and found happiness in doing so. Elaina doesn’t have younger siblings but many of her friends do. When their kid brothers and sisters would perform in band concerts, Elaina felt pride in watching the students that she had tutored perform and knew she had the right mix of patience, care and talent to teach on a larger scale.

A good student in school, she didn’t sweat much over getting accepted. Getting accepted to the music education program was a different experience.

“I was nervous. I played a song from solo ensemble, I don’t remember the name of it. I remember I apologized. It was Dr. Vickers, who’s the head of the program, and another lady, and I apologized after reading the sight-reading music. The rhythm was just off and just not clicking, and I didn’t think I was doing it right.”

Her nerves may have made her feel like she was performing poorly, but in actuality, she passed her audition with flying colors. The program director informed her on the spot that she would be accepted.

COVID-19 has altered her plans for orientation, it would have been this week. However, it hasn’t altered her farm girl work ethic. During quarantine Elaina was on the hunt for jobs, looking online with her aunts before one of them suggested that she try something different.

“My Aunt Desi had done this lawn care, kind of catch-all thing between her college.”

Her Aunt worked odd jobs to get through college, and for now, is Elaina’s work chauffeur. Getting her license, like everything else in 2020, has been interrupted so her aunt has come to the rescue for the summer.

“10 years back, my grandma bought 10 acres, and they wanted a place where children could come and learn about animals. So they had a hobby farm for about 10 years, which I spent a lot of my summers running around in the dirt and they had gardens. We did a bit of lawn mowing and so I learned a lot of skills out there like building some things, carrying some things down because she didn’t want it there anymore. My grandma was very particular.”

She’s also participated in her local 4H program and has experience with caring for farm animals as well. Using these skills to be her own boss for the summer made sense.

Elaina and her aunt Desi created a Facebook page called Elaina’s Gotta Pay For College, advertising Elaina’s odd job services that she’ll provide to save up for school this summer. The page took off quickly and she has already been hard at work.

“This is my fourth-week doing work for people. It’s been pretty busy!”

She’ll be spending her summer days working on yards all over Grand Traverse county, except for Saturdays. Saturdays are for some much-deserved summer fun.

She’s hoping to make enough money to cover her first semester of college and will work up until she leaves for Marquette in mid-August. Clients that like her need not worry about the gap in work, a gal pal of Elaina’s will take over the business after she leaves and the two will work together on yardwork next summer.

“My Aunt Shana works at 4Front. At the end of every day I give her all the money I’ve made. She gets all of it and I don’t get any of it. It all goes into savings.”

Student loans are a burden that follows college graduates long after they’ve begun their careers and I admire Elaina for having the maturity to want to offset those costs. I also admire her for taking the risk to leave her comfort zone and study something that makes her excited about a career.

“It’s intimidating, it’s kind of scary, but I’m also very excited. I love talking about it, I like thinking about all the different things I can do up there.”

To stay updated on stories like these, join the newsletter community.

Categories: GTPulse