The summer job market for Lake Highlands teenagers doesn’t exactly lead them down the yellow brick road to great riches. For most, it means being on the lowest rung of the work ladder.

They quickly learn it’s not fun to bus tables or work the graveyard shift for minimum wage. But one entrepreneurial Lake Highlands student is a great example of a summer job leading right to the future.

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Matt Shouse, a Lake Highlands High School senior, doesn’t shy away from hard work. In elementary school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. While his friends ran around after school, Matt spent three years going to a neighbor for intensive tutoring. In his free time, he liked the outdoors and enjoyed scouting, sports and helping his mom, Mamie Shouse, in the yard.

When he was 12, a neighbor asked Matt to mow his yard.

“I really liked it,” Matt says. “At first, it was a way to make money. I started with a side discharge, plain mower.”

Through word of mouth, Matt kept getting more yard work. By ninth grade, he was in business. He took the advice of his father, dentist Bob Shouse, to create low-cost business cards by printing them up on a computer and copying them.

For three years, his mom drove him and the mower throughout Lake Highlands. (She took him to get his license the minute he turned 16.)

When the business kept expanding, Matt took on a partner, fellow LHHS student Jacob Youngblood. Today they have 30 clients and earn between $15 and $30 an hour.

His mom is impressed.

“I was real amazed at how he got organized,” Mamie says. “He has a daybook and touches base with all his customers. He has a knack for it.”

“Anyone who has really struggled in school finds it gives them an inner fortitude. Matt was a classic case of dyslexia, very smart. The reward never equaled the effort he had to make.”

Matt doesn’t just work. He has played football throughout junior high and high school, plays the cello and has taken up pole vaulting on the track team during the past two years.

He’s also an Eagle Scout. Not to anyone’s surprise, his Eagle project was building the Nature Trail at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

While working there, he met two college interns who helped cut the thick bamboo forest for the trail. Through them, Matt learned about the horticulture program at Stephen F. Austin College. He knew it was just what he wanted to do.

“I like planning things out and applied to Stephen F. Austin at the beginning of my senior year,” Matt says. “I want to either own a nursery or specialize in greenhouse management.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Matt trusts his instincts to make business decisions.

“Everyone told me not to waste money on new equipment so I wouldn’t have any overhead,” he says.

But he realized he couldn’t afford equipment failure. With the help of his parent’s credit card, he got an interest-free, 90-day loan so he could upgrade to a $550 mulcher mower. He paid off the loan on time and worked at his dad’s office in order to purchase a $200 back-pack blower. He also plans to pay back his father several hundred dollars for a trailer.

There are many challenges – finicky clients, yards full of sticks and pecans, August heat and scheduling 20 yard jobs on weekends when there’s an out-of-town football game. But the rewards are great for Matt Shouse.

“It’s the perfect job,” he says. “I’m my own boss. I like to sit around and talk with my customers, and I always have cash.”

And in case anyone out there is thinking of taking over his territory when Matt goes to college, watch out. His younger brother, Joey, is next in line.