Teens in Essential Work

Words: Ellie Zoller-Gritz

Photos Contributed By: Julia Stitely, Noorie Kazmi and Kheira Tuck

Every rule comes with an exception. During a nationwide time of panic, there has been a select group of people who have continued to work, despite stay at home orders. These essential workers are allowed to continue at their jobs if their line of work is deemed necessary enough. However, many of these essential workers are teenagers.

As an essential worker, a teen could work at a restaurant open for delivery or takeout, a gas station, retirement home, or any other business that remains open. 

Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant is a retirement home in Ellicott City, one that employs several Centennial High School students. These employees are considered health care workers, and are tasked with protecting the residents of Miller’s Grant from COVID-19. It is vital that they are very careful to not come in contact with anyone who could be carrying the virus, as the elders they work around would be extremely high-risk if they were to contract it.

To further ensure the safety of the residents, the staff is required to get temperature checks upon arrival at work, to wear masks during shifts, to fill out a mandatory questionnaire, and to practice basic procedures like social distancing and hand washing.

Since their working conditions have changed, teenagers now have the responsibility of being the frontline of defense against the virus, while also balancing distance learning and their own personal health.

The staff’s jobs have changed from serving in dining halls to delivering food and groceries to residents at their homes and apartments. They are also doing activities such as noodle ball, painting, trivia, games, and more with the assisted living and health care unit. The residents in these units are not allowed to have visitors until further notice.

Kheira Tuck, a senior at Wilde Lake, has been working at Miller’s Grant in these trying times. 

“[Residents] cherish every single interaction they have,” said Tuck. Even though the residents must stay six feet away, they still enjoy seeing other residents and staff from their balconies and when they pass by their apartments.

Teenagers who work at grocery stores are also powering through the stress that COVID-19 has brought with bulk buying and overstocking.

“In the morning, the store is usually crowded with people stocking up on whatever had been announced online to be scarce the day before,” explained Mia Zara Bridges, a senior at Centennial who works at sprouts.

Although some people are understanding towards the employees, she still wants customers to realize that she doesn’t have control over supply amounts, and becoming frustrated will not solve the problem. 

Despite the need for these essential workers, some teenagers have been pulled from work by parents, due to school and other reasons. By staying home, these teenagers are still doing their part to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

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