Masked up, sanitized, and ready to work: teens, jobs, and the pandemic

Despite having some safety concerns, most students relished working during the pandemic.

COVID-19 shuttered many schools and reduced teens’ access to activities they loved. But during it all, many students worked part-time jobs, hoping that their masks and hand sanitizer would keep them safe.

I interviewed ARHS high school students and asked how they felt about balancing school work with a job. “I think it’s definitely easier to balance the two,” said Emily Grybko, of online school and work, because she has found remote schooling less stressful with fewer classes to balance. Grybko works at The Works in Amherst center.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie Hanlon, who works at Target, found it tougher. “It can be hard to balance. I go from school right to work and having it be online means more homework,” she said.

“It was a lot easier to balance when school was in person because I had study halls and could get my work done during school,” she added.

Senior Taylor Masteralexis thought having a job during the pandemic has been both a positive and negative experience. Masteralexis is employed at Amherst College Dining. “I think it’s been positive to fill up my time and for the aspect of the social interaction,” she said. “But I think I’m overworking myself just because I need something to do and I’m constantly exhausted because of it.” 

Senior Tyler Borrell said that his day-to-day at work hasn’t changed much but other aspects have. Borrell works at Northampton Transmission.  “The work environment is largely the same, but customer interactions have decreased tremendously,” he said. “People are buying more used cars that need to be fixed than ever before, so the business is doing pretty well right now.”

Some students like senior Jonas Camera started their jobs during the pandemic. Camera who works as a DoorDasher delivering food and other goods ordered from the app loves the flexibility of his job and how much growth the delivery industry has seen. “I only started Doordashing this winter, so I’m not completely sure what it was like before,” he said. “I believe more people use Doordash now compared to before the Pandemic began.”

Senior Charlotte Staudenmeyer, who works as a correspondent at the West Springfield Record, thinks that when more students are vaccinated, it will be safer to be at work and more fun.  

“I have a lot of hope for the future in terms of the vaccine rollout,” she said. “But it also makes me nervous because I think things opening up creates an illusion that the pandemic is over, which is not the case yet.” 

Senior Sarah Donahue, who works at Amherst College in dining services, agreed that getting lax now, especially in the working world, is not wise. “It worries me a little but I feel more comfortable now that people are getting vaccinated,” she said.  

Junior Delia Clotfelter agreed, noting that while working at Amherst College Dining Services she noticed a redundancy in having to ask people to correctly wear their masks.  “Some students are so bad at wearing their masks properly,” she said.  “Some of them are respectful when we ask them [to adjust], while others are rude.” 

Despite frustrations like these, most of the students really appreciated working and found it brought them a welcome mix of distraction, social interaction, and improved cash flow.