Part-time Pandemic

Student workers struggle with COVID-19


Celeste Hoover, Co-Editor in Chief

A minimum wage, part-time job was once a staple extracurricular for teens around the country. However, the ongoing pandemic has forced many seniors to become full-time caregivers, providers, students, and college applicants simultaneously. As the community reopens, what was once a right of passage for many students has become a series of impossible choices between health, income, and future career experience. 

Senior Sylvia Tan is one of countless student workers across the country who had to put their job on hold because of the pandemic. A regular employee at the local restaurant Tapioca Xpress since December 2019, Tan often struggled to balance her schoolwork and her job. However, when COVID-19 hit she quickly realized that to remain working would mean putting loved ones at risk.

“Sometimes I look back on how I managed to delegate my scheduling before COVID and it still surprises me,” Tan said. “But [since] Tapioca Xpress never closed down during the quarantine, I chose not to work for the months of April to August. I really wanted to keep my family safe, especially since some of my family members are immunocompromised. It wasn’t a tough decision for me because I was simply just trying to be responsible.”

When Tan did return to Tapioca Xpress last month, she found herself behind and with additional responsibilities both inside and outside of work that put pressure on her already busy schedule. 

“It has become more difficult to balance school work and my job,” Tan said. “Business definitely slowed down in the beginning of March, but never completely stopped. In fact, I would say that it has gotten significantly busier now despite the global pandemic, which is worrying to me at times. Getting off of work has been tiring for my coworkers and I. As well as finishing up my college applications for this fall, I am also doing KVA, so I automatically have more responsibilities in my family life. Because of these circumstances, I find myself struggling to complete assignments that are due after work and finding the time to put progress into my applications, but it has been manageable.”

Senior Dan Burns also worked in local food service before March, with experience at popular restaurant chain Taco Bell. His additional income was sometimes used to help pay off his family’s mortgage. But after leaving his food service job just months ago, Burns has been unable to find work. 

“I am looking for a job, but not many places are hiring, for obvious reasons,” Burns said. “[Before COVID-19], I just applied anywhere and that’s where I was hired. Now I feel as though there will always be a certain anxiety about being around people because of what we as a generation experienced.”

Future career experience and meaningful extracurriculars have also become a struggle for many students. Senior Miracle Weatherspoon was selected for the Hire Houston Youth internship with the city council just weeks before it was canceled due to COVID-19.

“A family friend told me about this internship with the city council of Houston,” Weatherspoon said. “I really wanted to try it out, because I’ve never had an official job. I thought the experience would be great, especially if I was getting paid. And I was able to work with Congresswoman  Sheila Jackson Lee! It was just so awesome to see her in action. It felt like a privilege to be ahead of the game and working for the city.”

Weatherspoon said she valued the “connections and experience” she got while at the internship. She had planned to submit her experience as part of her college applications; however, she was forced to finish the internship virtually.

“I got an email that had ‘Unfortunate news from Hire Houston Youth’ in the subject line,” Weatherspoon said. “And I already knew the internship would be canceled. I wasn’t surprised, but I was definitely upset. It was only two weeks in, I had just begun to enjoy it. Luckily, they still offered online classes. So I was able to earn the money, just not in the same way.”

As Weatherspoon and other student workers face an uncertain future, employers are beginning to look for virtual options to support their younger employees. 

“Now that everyone knows that we can do stuff online,” Weatherspoon said. “I think everything will be electronic and based-off technology. In a way we are losing our future job opportunities, but in time tech savvy students will find other, different opportunities.”