More than Just Essential

A look into our very own teenage workers during the pandemic


Janelle De Jesus , Editor

What is an essential worker? When you think of the word essential and worker in the same sentence, you think of doctors, first responders, nurses, lawyers–anything that quite literally can save lives. But, what about the teenagers working close to minimum wage jobs during this global pandemic? 

The nice blonde boy that delivered your pizza, did you tip him? The girl with glasses that bagged your groceries, did you thank her? The boy handing you your drinks in the drive thru, did you wear your mask? Whether they work at your local coffee shop or the biggest supermarket in town, teenagers all over the country have been excessively working during this pandemic. Their jobs,which are claimed to be ‘easy’, have changed millions of lives around the world through these trying times. 

“When I was still in school I remember working around 30 hours a week, I would take all of the overnight shifts at McDonalds,” senior Julissa Martinez said “Once the virus hit, I was working anywhere between 40 to almost 50 hours a week; it was ridiculous for a 17 year old, but it was needed.” 

Being an essential worker myself, I understand the struggle of my classmates to maintain such a responsibility. When you are working a full time job for minimum wage pay, life gets hard. there are some students who would take the night shifts seven days a week and, now that school has begun, it is only getting harder. Students are having to maintain extracurricular activities, school, and their job. Off the top of my head, students like senior Dominick Peralta work shifts outside of town, then have to travel back to Castroville for school. Still being enrolled in high school with a pandemic is hard enough, but  also having to have a job during it is much worse. 

“I know that I do have opportunities to work and also make time for school, it just sucks having to balance it since it takes so much time to get to each location,” Peralta said. “The traveling makes it hard, but the money and the helping [makes it] worth it.”

Another issue that arises in such activity is employees catching  the virus. Most jobs in the community and in the country have taken certain steps to prevent this, but you cannot prepare for everything. I know that working at Domino’s, we kept our lobby open for sometime. I never thought I would say ‘I’m sorry you need a mask to enter’ or ‘Our lobby is closed’ as much as I did. Everyday these teens face the issue of coming in contact with the virus. Peralta, myself, and others work in kitchens most of the time, but what happens when you are a grocer at a big store like H.E.B. or Walmart? Senior Mackenzie Noakes faces these issues every week. 

“It’s scary, really, to think about how many people think it’s okay to not wear masks,” Noakes said. “It’s even harder when you have a customer come up to you trying to hand you money or talk to you six inches away from your face. It’s common decency, but some people seem to lack that.”  

Being an essential worker was never easy, nor will it ever be easy. When coming in contact with these workers,try to think about more than just yourself . Now that you know just how many students here in our community were a part of this bigger picture, I hope that you look at them differently. Tip your drivers, say please and thank you, maintain distance, and please wear a mask. These jobs, and especially these students, are more than essential.