ARVIN, Calif. (KGET) — For many high school students the summertime is a much-needed break from school and the many pressures a teenager encounters daily. But for the players on the Arvin High School football team there is no summer “break.”
Arvin has 16 players on its varsity football team who spend part of their summer working in the agricultural fields while tackling a three-hour football practice afterwards.
As you enter the city of Arvin the agricultural influence is seen all around. Endless fields of orange trees, grape vineyards and plenty more surround the small town. For many students at Arvin High School, working on the agricultural fields is not uncommon. It’s expected.
Arvin’s junior right tackle, Gonzalo Contreras, is one of those players.
“I wake up at 5 in the morning, get ready for work, drink coffee, wait for my ride, soon as my ride gets there come here start at 6:30 a.m. and then work, do this basically every day in the summer … after that go home, I have like 30 minutes at least to get ready, eat something, go straight to practice.”
According to the most recent census report, Arvin’s median income is slightly over $36,000 per year. For some of these players, working in the fields allows them to make enough money to buy basic necessities.
“I do this every day to earn some money and buy school clothes and school supplies and other stuff,” Contreras said. It was my first time working last year and I made money and I bought whatever I wanted, it didn’t come out of my mom’s pocket that was the best part.”
While many schools in Kern County have football practices in the morning during the summer to keep out of the sun, Arvin is forced to adapt to its players schedules.
Arvin High School Athletic Director Ralph Gonzales understands what the players encounter daily and accommodates practices to fit their schedules.
“We’re one of the only schools in the district that has to practice late in the evening because so many of our kids work out in the fields,” Gonzales said. “So it’s hard for them to get here for an early practice, they’re at the other work until school starts.”
Entering his 28th year overall as a football coach and 19th as head football coach for Arvin, Edgar Mares, connects and understand his players from personal experiences.
“Coming from the area my parents worked in the fields,” Mares said. “I knew that in the summer I was going to work in the fields as well to help them … I just understood that for some families that’s the way it works out here.”
Coach Mares understands what his players like Contreras endure in the summertime in order to help their families.
“I have a lot of respect for Gonzalo is because he never complains and he doesn’t question what we ask him to do, gives 100 percent and you wouldn’t know that he’s worked the whole day and he’s still out there giving it his all,” Mares said.
For Contreras, working in the grape vineyards during a hot summer day in Kern County is hard but it’s the life lessons that come from it that he takes the most away.
“These people here they’re just happy all the time, they’re in the heat but they’re happy. They love working and it shows me that us kids these days we take everything for granted,” Contreras said, most of these people are here for their kids.”
While Arvin is not the only high school where students work in the fields during the summer, its football team has one of the most players working in the fields in the area.
With school starting many players end their summertime jobs in the fields and focus on school. Despite having to work around the players working schedules and instead of complaining about the little time they get to practice, excuses are non existent.
After a long summer working in the fields and attending football practices in the evening the players get ready to go back to school. Most of the players’ families will continue to work in the fields year round while they attend school. For many of these players furthering their education is their best chance to tackle life head on to provide for their loved ones.
“Hopefully something I get to do something in law enforcement maybe CHP or sheriff just like my sisters,” Contreras said.