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THAT’S MY JOB: Marble Falls senior Mariah Canchola balances school with work and family

Mariah Canchola, 17, works at Panda Express in Marble Falls year-round.

Mariah Canchola, 17, works at Panda Express in Marble Falls year-round. She has worked part time since she was 15 years old. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

Mariah Canchola has been working at fast food restaurants for almost three years now and said she will continue her current job at Panda Express through her senior year, which began in August at Marble Falls High School. She plans to attend college (not sure where yet) and earn a degree in criminal justice.

The 17-year-old has lived in Marble Falls her entire life (she was born in Llano) and comes from a family of law enforcement officers, including her grandfather, father, and brother. Dad Jesse Canchola worked as a sheriff’s deputy for Burnet County and as a police officer for Granite Shoals and Port Lavaca. Her brother, Adrian, currently works for the Llano County Jail. 

She also has a little sister, Olivia, who is 7. No word yet on her career aspirations, Mariah said. Mom Angela Canchola is an administrative assistant at Pro Mex Construction Co. Inc. 

Mariah started at Panda Express as part of the service team, working the counter and the drive-through window. In early August, she was promoted to shift lead, monitoring the workflow and helping with the floor and window as needed. 

Although quiet, her confidence and leadership qualities are apparent when she talks about her life and plans for the future. Despite not having all of the answers, she is sure of her long-term goals and her ability to figure out how to get there. 

Here’s what she has to say about life as a daughter, a sister, a student, and an employee.

MARIAH CANCHOLA

I’VE MADE A LOT OF FRIENDS WORKING, and the money is really nice. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s better not to job hop. It’s better to stay at one place long term. I worked at Chicken Express for two years before changing jobs to work at Panda Express. I’ve been here (Panda Express) for seven months now. With Panda Express, if I want to move to Austin, I can just switch stores. I wouldn’t have to quit. 

I HONESTLY LIKE WORKING BETTER THAN NOT. It doesn’t interfere with my school work. I was on the drill team and the softball team, but I quit them because I wanted to focus on my school work to keep my grades up. I think I’m going straight into college after graduation.

THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF BENEFITS TO WORKING. I’ve only been working here seven months and already I’m being promoted to shift lead, which is really cool. I do a lot of things. Today, I’m basically watching over everyone to make sure they are doing what they need to do. I’m in training for the shift lead job. 

MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE is just balancing my schedule. I have to figure out when I work and when I have time to do other stuff. I have a 7-year-old sister. I think she looks up to me a lot more than she does my brother just because I’m a girl and I take care of her a lot. I feel like she thinks I’m a pretty responsible person. 

I WORK 20 TO 30 HOURS A WEEK DURING THE SUMMER. During school, I work 10 to 20 hours a week. I don’t think I’m missing out on any fun. A lot of kids feel like working takes away from having a fun high school experience with parties and going out with friends, but I like working. I have friends who work and go to school, too. 

WORKING MAKES YOU MORE MATURE, more responsible. It’s a good responsibility to have, to learn from. It teaches you responsibility. I think my teachers think I’m a pretty good student. I’m not too much of a trouble maker.

suzanne@thepicayune.com