It's probably true that fewer (in proportion) youngsters get their hands dirty these days than before. There's not much real dirt on a cellphone screen. And my impression is part-time jobs during high school aren't very usual any more. This post on the Yale Sustainable Food Project describes the benefits one Yalie gets from working in the Yale garden. It's partly the hands-dirty thing and partly having a community.
I can identify with latter. I worked for 4 years in the cafeteria in one of the women's dorms. My co-workers gave me a community which, given my shyness, I couldn't have found on my own. While you can get lost in a big university, there are also niches to find, more than in a smaller place.