I’m a 17 y.o. Free-Range Kid (with a Job and a New York City Apartment)

In shshrhzstb
another era, this might not seem like a newsworthy letter. But now it is, and so allow me to present a note I got the other day:

Dear Free-Range Kids: My name is Jessica. I’m a 17 year old that’s passionate about changing the things (laws, culture, rules, etc) our culture does to stifle the independence of our youth. If you have the time, I would appreciate your advice and guidance about what I can do to help and support the cause. I just moved out of Florida to New York City and am looking to branch out into the community here and do good! 🙂

 A bit about me:

I was raised ‘Free-Range’ by a wonderful German mom. I won’t get into the funny Free-Range anecdotes of my youth (unless you’re interested) – what matters is that it made me amazingly independent and successful.

I got my GED the day I turned 16. Weeks later, I became employed full-time at a software company. I’ve been working there for almost 2 years. As a Lead Quality Engineer, I’m an integral part of the company. I have major responsibilities that affect our product and our users. My professional life is very successful for a teenager with an in-progress college-degree and a GED.

Overall, I am proud of what I have accomplished and I realize that my ability to function and thrive as an independent person in society is attributed to my mom’s hands-off, loving parenting.

I want to raise my kids in a society that embraces that kind of parenting (it made me who I am!) and I want to know what I can do to help support this cause. – Jessica Sachs

I wrote back to Jessica that I can use help on the tech front (always!) but also on the example front. That’s why I asked if I could run her letter. It stands as an inspiration (and reminder) to us all of what our progeny are capable of. – L

If she can make it here...maybe we have forgotten how capable teens can be.

If she can make it here…maybe we have forgotten how capable teens can be.

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16 Responses to I’m a 17 y.o. Free-Range Kid (with a Job and a New York City Apartment)

  1. vjhr October 28, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    WOW! At a time when most twenty-somethings are really just older, unemployed teenagers, this young lady is, sadly, an anomaly.

  2. KLY October 28, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Kudos to her mom for obviously doing a fabulous job, and also to this young lady who rose up and met the challenge of responsibility so admirably!

    And Lenore, I love the positive stories and examples you’ve been posting. It is so good to hear from parents – and kids – who are finding all the benefits of Free Range.

  3. Uly October 28, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Guess What? Kids These Days Don’t Find the OG ‘Halloween’ Scary

    “Some viewers took issue with the characters’ actions and the film’s overall plausibility.

    “Why did no one ever turn on a single light anywhere?,” Eclarin asked.

    “I kept thinking, where are the parents? Why aren’t they with their kids on Halloween?” Walker said.

    “Seriously did people [in the ’70s] just get naked while cooking because they spilled something?,” Rowles wondered. “And seriously, Jamie Lee Curtis, you couldn’t have made sure he was dead those TWO TIMES you beat him?” Rowles added that she spent too much of the movie “annoyed with how stupid the young women were to really be scared.”

    Read more at ONTD: http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/82819165.html

  4. librarian October 28, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I moved across the Atlantic and to NYC on my own when I was 18 (22 years ago-ugh)! Would do it again in a heartbeat, if I head to make this decision all over again. New York is a great city to be young and independent – and it is so much safer now then it was when I moved in. Good for you, Jessica!

  5. Backroads October 28, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Very cool!

    Sort of reminds me of my husband. He grew up in the middle of nowhere, and the local school served only through 8th grade. Busing the kids to the high school wasn’t practical, so the district instead gave a stipend. Most kids would use that stipend to (gasp) rent from places in a town closer to the high school. At this very age my husband was also renting a place, working, and attending school.

    But no GED at that age. I am so impressed by this young lady who is doing something that only a few decades was probably normal!

  6. John October 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    This is a great story and a huge kudos goes out to this girl for her independence and responsibility! But I must say that I am very surprised that a software company in the United States would hire a person less than 18-years of age, full time. Especially given our crazy over-reactive child labor laws.

  7. Jessica October 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm #


    The labor laws were an issue initially. Our HR flip flopped between hourly and salary to comply, but eventually found that (at least in Florida, as it should be everywhere) with my GED, I was entitled to be a salaried employee.

    I couldn’t imagine someone denying me my right to work because of my age, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were laws like that in other states.

  8. Papilio October 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Sounds like one of those very smart kids who managed to escape the educational system (mentally) alive…

  9. John October 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    @Jessica….I should have added that a huge kudos is also in order for the software company that hired you! Particularly given the “child abuse” paranoia we have here in the states. I think a big part of the child labor laws is to prevent a job from cutting into a child’s education time. That’s why 16-year-olds are only allowed to work a limited number of hours during the school year. But since you already had your GED, there’d have been no reason to restrict your working hours. BUT somebody, somewhere is gonna cry “child abuse” so I’m glad this company had the guts to hire you full time!

    Good luck with your new job Jessica!!

  10. Buffy October 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    My kids couldn’t even get their own checking account under the age of 18 because “minors aren’t responsible for their contracts”, much less rent their own apartment. Must be a state-by-state thing.

  11. hineata October 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    @Buffy – that’s a good point. Jessica, do you have one? I was living away from home at 16 30plus years ago, could rent a room etc but needed my parents to back up my cheque account. Quite strange differences in age requirements for things even then (though of course I don’t live in the States – maybe your laws used to be more consistent).

  12. Asya October 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    Jessica, cool! Just beware that in some states you cannot buy matches because it is considered smoking paraphernalia. You may be a young, independent woman paying her dues to the state, but remember: You are still a minor, so you still need adult supervision around candles, spray paint, and alcohol. (P.S. I would actually really like to hear your anecdotal experiences!)

  13. Donna October 29, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    hineata – I opened my first checking account at 17 many years ago. I do remember having my parent’s name (my step-father I believe since he went with me to open the account) on the account, but not on the checks. It wasn’t a requirement though; just something that I did. A family member’s name has always been on my bank accounts because I’m single and my parents have never been rich. There is no way that my mother could pay my bills without being able to access my money if I were incapacitated (say in one of those car wrecks we are always talking about).

    I think sometimes here too much emphasis is placed on must do EVERYTHING with no help whatsoever to be an adult. It seems like such a lonely, difficult way to live young life, not to mention often completely financially unsound. Nor has it ever really been the norm as older generations have always helped the younger generations if they could. It really seems like a lot of irrelevant huffing and puffing to prove to the world, and yourself, that you are an adult instead of just being an adult.

  14. Andy October 29, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    @Donna Nicely put. I would say that if you do a lot of irrelevant huffing and puffing to prove to the world, and yourself, that you are an adult, then you are not an adult yet.

  15. Jessica October 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    @hineata, Buffy –
    I had to open a joint account with one of my coworkers (risky, I know) or I could’ve asked to be paid in a money order.

    Along those same lines, I bought my car in 2012, at 16, I was only able to do so because of that same coworker signing for it. I’ll actually have to refinance (!) when I turn 18 so that I can get put on the loan, as I’m not able to sign contracts as a minor.

    @Asya –
    The beauty of New York is that there a tons of small shops that don’t care. In Florida, the culture is very strict on carding, etc.

    Once, I was really really sick, heading back from the office to take a half-day. I had to ask one of my coworkers (who is from Jersey City/NYC) to stop work and come with me to CVS because I knew they wouldn’t sell me robotussin. So we did a little experiment and I went to the counter to pay for it. He was so amazed that they were that strict, and he wanted to see if they would card me. Of course, they did, and he had to show them his ID for them to sell it.

    Just one of many things that happened.

  16. hineata October 29, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    @Donna – possibly true! Actually, unlike Jessica, to be perfectly honest I personally wasn’t that keen on being an adult at that age, LOL, just a requirement because of the course I wanted to do being way away from my wee town :-). Just found it odd that I could live independently but still needed parents to open a cheque account, when (as I didn’t mention earlier) I had had a regular saving account for years. It was all my own earnings that went into that, but I suppose the bank is not going to know that….

    My mother’s name is still on most of our emergency contact lists, as hubby’s family live overseas.