Mountainside’s Essential Workers

Cole Bennett, Op-Ed Reporter

With prospects of a Covid-19 vaccine quickly becoming available for most families, student life may finally be returning to normal. Many frustrations have come with the start of Distance Learning: for one, the struggle for some students to find a good balance between holding a job while juggling work from several classes. It’s an issue that seems to be affecting upperclassmen the most. These students have to weigh the risks of employment in times like these, such as: losing time for homework, the possibility of being exposed to the virus, and also potentially exhausting themselves more than they already have. All of this for what many consider to be easy, unessential jobs. 

Survey results from a sample of 37 MHS students.

Here is a look into the thoughts of some of these working students:

In this survey – conducted by myself, as well as several MHS teachers willing to help by sharing it with their students – a total of 37 students participated. Though it is not the greatest sample size or most accurate representation of the Mountainside population, it provides a great insight into the choices of many working students. Luckily, of the 37 who participated, the majority were upperclassmen, as these would be the grades most likely to have jobs.

Of the 37 answers, 14 of the students have jobs, which makes up for just about 38%. As expected, all of the students who report being employed were upperclassmen: eight being Seniors and six being Juniors. Out of these students, and some who had been recently laid off, only seven of them believed their job to be essential as of now.

I believe that food is [an] essential service for people to be able to eat. While some may say that it is possible to survive without going out to eat – and there is definitely some truth in that – the reality is that most people need the services restaurants provide. I also work in a healthy fast food restaurant. Health is especially important in this time when gyms are closed and sports are cancelled, many people aren’t getting the exercise they need.” – senior Ty Adewumi said.

Many others who believe their jobs to be essential also happen to be in the food industry, unsurprisingly. The majority of employed students, however, believe their job is not essential for America function.

“I worked earlier in the pandemic at a Halloween store. In my opinion, that was in no way essential; and I really should have not taken the job because while I was very careful, my coworkers – and ESPECIALLY the customers – were not.” – senior Ty Kalestiantz said. 

The only reason these businesses stay open, as of now, is because they have been deemed essential. Working during the pandemic presents a much greater risk of contracting the virus, which is why it is interesting to look into why many individuals continue to work.

“I choose to work so I can save up for [college].” – Samantha Cox, a junior, said.

13-out-of-the-19 responses to this question involved needing money in some form; whether it be for their family, for college, or to survive. These are 13 students –among many more across the school– who are putting themselves at risk because they feel that they are forced to work, even during this climate in positions that are oftentimes ridiculed for being “lazy and unimportant.” 

It is rather saddening to hear of the danger that many students are putting themselves through, even if this pandemic feels closer-than-ever to being over. The need to make money at this time may be seen as a clear reflection of what many Americans have been complaining about for years, especially tuition fees. It will be intriguing to see whether these problems will be brought up in the future; and used as an argument to develop change.