Essential workers: High School students working through a pandemic


Photo By Drey McGrew

Behind the counter registers are protected by glass for in-store customers.

As Covid-19 surged through the US in 2020 millions of people were forced into tough job situations. Teenagers are a group that was seriously impacted by this, lots of teenagers work jobs that could label them as an essential worker. Whether you work a fast-food job at Wendy’s down the street or you stack shelves at the local grocery store, these kinds of jobs are usually occupied by high school students and they play an important role in the economy.

So where are these high school students and how are they dealing with having to work for a job and pass classes while being in a pandemic. Balancing school and work can be a challenge even without the pandemic, Senior Yahia Hamden shares how he juggles his school life and work life, “Balancing work and school was a little difficult at first when we first started, I had to change my work schedule to fit around the school schedule so they wouldn’t overlap each other. It’s my senior year so my classes aren’t that hard, I can work four days out of the week easily and manage school at the same time“ Hamden said.

Even with his perseverance, there still have been interferences and problems while being an essential worker during the pandemic. Hamden shares challenges he’s faced while working, “Back when the pandemic first hit is when I got my job at Taco Bell, schools were being shut down and so were stores, trying to adjust to the pandemic work style, in the beginning, was the hardest challenge I’ve had. I remember being trained on how to be more careful and it was just a really new experience.“ Hamden said

Dining in is no longer an option at fast-food restaurants, Senior Santi Silva shares how he feels about this change, “ I honestly don’t have a problem with it at all, for me, it’s less of a hassle at work. I have to cook less food which is nice, it is strange seeing empty seats the entire time but I’m not worried about it, I’m just there to get my check” Silva said.

Essential workers have to make sure they are always healthy before starting their shifts, with Covid being a contagious disease, workers must ensure they are healthy before working with others. Silva explains how Chipotle makes sure their workers are all healthy, “ At Chipotle we have a lot of Covid protocols such as temperature checks and cleanliness inspections” Silva said.

With the new remote learning system in place, some students feel as if teachers aren’t being as considerate as they should be towards students who have jobs. Senior Devin Pope shares how he feels about remote learning and having a job, “ Some of us work because we want to and some of us work because we need to. With that being said a lot of students can’t skip work to focus on work, teachers should take this into consideration during remote learning and assigning loads of homework. They need to understand not everyone is in the same situation and teachers need to make sure students are all getting an equal opportunity to complete their work” Pope said.

No matter if you’re a cashier at a department store or a crew member at a fast-food restaurant, being an essential worker during these times is no easy task.