Local Business Closures Affect High School Workers

SHS+junior+Sebastian+Pierre+working+at+Trap%27t+before+the+facility+closed+due+to+the+pandemic.++Pierre+says+his+ability+to+save+for+college+and+a+car+have+been+impacted.

Courtesy of Sebastian Piere

SHS junior Sebastian Pierre working at Trap’t before the facility closed due to the pandemic. Pierre says his ability to save for college and a car have been impacted.

Sofia Sarak, Staff Writer

Over 20 million Americans lost their jobs in the month of April due to cutbacks and closures imposed by COVID-19. Another 6.6 million left the labor force entirely, while 5 million were forced to lower the number of hours they work (Washington Post). These numbers are drastic, and news sources often compare them to those of the Great Depression, one of America’s most damaging economic recessions. 

Yet, these statistics do not show the totality of the situation. Whereas those numbers mainly account for full-time adult workers who filed for unemployment benefits, the struggles that teenagers have faced are left undiscussed. Although the consequences are not as substantial, it would be wrong to say that these workers have not experienced some sort of loss. 

Many high schoolers around the country take on afterschool jobs to earn money, and the students at Stamford High are no different; the most diligent attend school, work, and even participate in school-based extracurriculars during the normal school year. However, due to recent events, the lives of these students are changing, and a large number have lost their jobs or have had their work regime altered due to the coronavirus. Here are some of their stories.

Sebastien Pierre, a junior at Stamford, had worked at Trap’t, an escape room center in Stamford, for seven months before he was put out of work. The last time he was able to put in hours was March 14, which was about two months ago. Even then, things were different.

“We had to take many precautions to make sure we didn’t cause the spread,” he said. This included “constantly cleaning surfaces” and “having customers wash their hands.”

Ever since Governor Lamont ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses, Pierre has been out of a job, and his ability to save up for his future aspirations – college and a car – has suffered.

High school seniors tend to have a more urgent need for funds, though, as most have already committed to the college they will be attending in the fall. One example is Mason Locker, who has recently committed to Suffolk University in Boston. She explained that living in that area is going to come at a “hefty price.” Prior to the restriction of restaurants only to take-out and delivery services, Locker worked at Taco Daddy, a restaurant in Stamford. Completing hours as a waitress, she was saving up money for her college expenses. However, her service has not been needed recently.

“[We’re] opening for outdoor seating only on May 20,” she said. “I hope to get some more hours in then.” That would be the first time since restaurant procedures were altered that she will be able to earn money at her job.

Other Stamford High students found themselves on the frontlines, working at establishments that are considered “essential” by the government. Charlotte Saunders, a junior, works part-time at Cob’s Bread. However, due to her mother losing her job because of coronavirus closures, she has had to take on more shifts to cover the money her family needs.

“I don’t consider myself lucky at all,” she said. “I’m always scared to go to work.” Saunders also stated that her work experience has changed, as she has been forced to adjust to CDC guidelines. “We put up a protective glass, as well as markings on the floor six feet apart. We as staff must wear masks and gloves at all times,” she explained. 

On the other hand, some establishments have been able to continue employing students remotely. Mathnasium, a math-help franchise, is well-known for hiring high school students throughout the Stamford Public Schools district to act as tutors for younger children. The company has succeeded in moving tutoring sessions online through a special software that allows instructors and students to video chat and view math worksheets together. This shift to “[email protected],” as they call it, has allowed high schoolers to continue to pursue their financial needs right from the comforts of their bedroom.

Each student’s story is different, but they all encompass the same principle: working to save up money is not the same anymore.  Nevertheless, we are all in the same boat on this one – some just get affected a little differently than others. As the unemployed receive their benefit checks from the government, many high school students will continue to struggle to find funds for college and other expenses.