Lynbrook student jobs — pandemic edition

The+pandemic+has+brought+changes+to+the+work+life+of+Lynbrook+students.++Some+have+returned+to+work+while+others+have+been+left+in+uncertainty+or+found+new+opportunities.

Photos used with permission of Natalie Homstad, Michael Florip and Michelle Zhu; graphic illustration by Anwen Huang

The pandemic has brought changes to the work life of Lynbrook students. Some have returned to work while others have been left in uncertainty or found new opportunities.

Anwen Huang

The COVID-19 pandemic has created hurdles for people all across the world. In particular, the work force has been hit hard, with many people losing jobs or facing the difficult transition to a virtual working environment. For students with jobs, this means adjusting to a new work life coupled with remote learning. Some have not returned to work, others have and still others have found new opportunities in the midst of the pandemic.   

NATALIE HOMSTAD

Senior Natalie Homstad is in her third year working at the Queensborough Swim Club. She first learned to swim at Queensborough at 4 years old, and has swam recreationally there since. After receiving her lifeguard permit in 2018, Homstad applied to be a lifeguard there and worked for one year.  

Having enjoyed tutoring kids in the past, Homstad wanted to transition to a teaching position, so in the following year she did both lifeguarding and teaching. Like all jobs, starting off had its hurdles, but Homstad navigated through them.

“It was kind of rough at first since I didn’t know how to teach swimming,” Homstad said. “I’ve also never been a competitive swimmer, so I’m not super technical. I learned from my coworkers though, and they really helped me through that first summer.”

Due to the pandemic, Queensborough Swim Club no longer has lifeguards, so Homstad is both an instructor as well a social distancing supervisor. A new position that has been added this year, the social distancing supervisor is in charge of making sure all people at the pool are following the guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For instructors like Homstad, working this year has been significantly different, in particular due to schedule changes. In the past, instructors were able to choose what times they taught, but now they must follow a fixed schedule set by the manager. Even though Homstad’s daily work hours have decreased, she is no longer able to personally decide her schedule, resulting in a growing difficulty between balancing her job alongside school work.

Another downfall is lower pay. With added positions like social distancing supervisors, the payment of instructors has had to face cuts. However, Homstad still sees several benefits from working that outweigh many of the consequences.  

“Working has allowed me to get out of the house, earn some money and exercise,” Homstad said. “I also just love teaching because the kids are really cute.”

From March to June 2020, the pool was closed and not cleared to hold lessons. When it eventually reopened in late June, lessons had to adapt to new safety guidelines. Most teachers no longer enter the water and those who do, like Homstad, must remain at safe distances from their students. For younger children, the lessons center around teaching them to float and require their parents to be in the water with them. Not being able to be physically near the students also makes it difficult for teachers to form connections with them. 

“It’s hard to bond when we can’t get close to them and give them high fives or other rewards when they do something great,” Homstad said.  “I’ve had to take on verbal affirmation a lot more, so much so that at the end of the day I get tired of talking.”  

Beyond student and teacher bonds, co-worker relationships have also been harder to maintain this year as employees no longer have the chance to hangout and form friendships.  

The decision to return to work was a choice Homstad made on her own and wasn’t required by her company. Many of her co-workers have opted out of teaching this year. Despite choosing to return, Homstad still has some safety concerns.

“I definitely worry,” Homstad said. “The kids don’t wear masks, and there’s no way to know for sure how exposed they are and where they have been.” 

However, she thinks that it is worth taking some risk if it means she gets to do what she loves best.  

“I wouldn’t trade it,” Homstad said. “I think it’s one of the more fun jobs and I just can’t see myself doing something like online tutoring. To me, that seems boring.” 

MICHAEL FLORIP

Junior Michael Florip has been a swim instructor at the local Rancho Rinconada pool since the summer of 2018. An avid swimmer and member of Rancho Rinconada’s swim team since fourth grade, Florip first applied for the job more than a year and a half ago. For him, the decision to work there was natural, considering the many connections he had fostered there already.

“The vibe there was like a family,” Florip said. “Everyone knew each other, so it was the first place I thought about getting a job at.”

After a few forms, an interview and a swim test, Florip began work. Through two-week blocks, he taught children of all levels from as young as 3 years old to as old as 15 or 16 years old in the summer, spring and parts of fall. Florip didn’t teach during finals week, but for all other weeks, he worked three-hour shifts on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. He continued working all the way through January 2020 and had been planning on signing up for the March shift.

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in mid-March, lessons were halted and the pool was closed to the public. As schools shut down nationwide, employees like Florip were notified through email that they would stop teaching indefinitely. While not having to work provided him with more time to spend on schoolwork, it also cut his income and brought new problems.  

“Since quarantine, I’ve had to spend less,” Florip said. “I’ve also had to figure out how to earn money through activities that don’t involve doing stuff in person.”

The pandemic has also made him reconsider future job choices.

“It’s made me think about how safe a job really is,” Florip said. “Any job that can be done online from home and doesn’t require you to go to work physically, such as engineering, seems much safer now.” 

Since mid-June, the pool has been open for limited individuals and times, and some positions, such as lifeguards, have resumed. At one point, Florip even considered applying for a lifeguard position but decided against it due to the additional training the job required. Teaching students, however, is still off limits, and Florip isn’t sure when he’ll be able to return. In the meantime, he has resumed swimming for the swim team and is attending socially distanced practices every week. If given the choice though, he does plan to resume work.  

“Teaching both younger and older kids was really fun and are things I still miss, so once there’s no risk involved, of course I’d want to return,” Florip said.  

MICHELLE ZHU

Despite quarantine negatively affecting jobs, some students, like junior Michelle Zhu, have actually found new opportunities during this difficult time.  In August of this year, Zhu started her first job at MODO Hawaii, a local donut shop. She wanted experience in the work field, specifically in customer service and retail.

“I feel like those kinds of jobs are the most valuable, since they give you a different perspective on service jobs,” Zhu said.  

She also wanted to gain more financial freedom, something Zhu has enjoyed since starting work.  

After personally dining at MODO a few times, Zhu became interested in seeing how the business operated and decided to apply after seeing a job opportunity. The application process was straightforward and began with an emailed resume followed by an interview with the manager. Zhu was quickly hired, and started working in early August.

Her work at the shop covers various different positions, and Zhu rotates between them throughout her shifts. From making, shaping, frying and glazing dough to working the cash register, Zhu works an average of eight hours per week, mostly on the weekends.  This added workload has changed her schedule significantly.  

“Before getting this job, my summer was pretty empty and I would just do SAT prep and lounge around my house all day,” Zhu said. “Now with both this job and school, however, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices from my homework time and manage my time more wisely.”

Besides making sure to set aside enough time for schoolwork, Zhu has also had to pay more attention to her sleep schedule.

“I feel really tired after coming home from my job, so now I’m making sure to be more careful about when I sleep,” Zhu said.  

If schools were to reopen, Zhu doesn’t believe she can maintain the schedule she has now, as there would be added commute times and more hours spent in school.  

Like all businesses, employees at MODO follow strict guidelines. They maintain safe distances between them and their customers, have physical barriers to shield them, wear masks and must wash their hands and forearms consistently. Despite having initial concerns about safety, Zhu says that the precautions her business takes have made her feel much safer.

Overall, getting a new job during the pandemic has had its fair share of struggles, but also several benefits.  

“I think the hardest part of starting a new job during this time is getting to know the work environment while also being super careful,” Zhu said. “On the other hand, working has also taught me lots of skills, from customer service skills to overall in-person and world-applicable skills. It’s a lot about being responsible for your job and carrying your weight on a team.”

For Zhu, working is also about giving back to those around her.

“The thing I enjoy most is working with my coworkers and having an impact on my community,” Zhu said.

 

No matter to what degree these students have had their work lives affected to, they all hope to return to some sort of normalcy at their jobs. From teaching swim lessons to frying up donuts, Lynbrook students have found work in a wide range of professions, and will continue to do so no matter the circumstances.