Nepean High School Corner: What it is like to be a high school frontline worker

By Anna Carsley-Jones (she/they)

We asked students at Nepean High School (NHS) who have essential part-time jobs how it has been to be both a high school student and a frontline worker during a pandemic.

Everyone who answered agreed that working during a pandemic creates more stress than usual, as not only are time management and workload a worry, but so are lives. Tara, a Grade 11 hybrid student, was working at a butcher shop in March when the pandemic first hit Ottawa. She recalls that she was extremely aware of her exposure to others, especially because masks weren’t mandatory yet. Tara says that she is relieved now that the community seems to be taking the necessary precautions. 

Two students, one Grade 12 and one Grade 11, who both currently work in grocery stores, say that they experience COVID-19 anxiety. The Grade 12 student says that she now sometimes wears two masks, especially since COVID-19 cases have been rising in Ottawa recently. Another student, Younesse, who worked at a food centre during the summer, told us that although he really enjoyed the job, COVID-19 anxiety took its toll. 

A part-time job can be tricky for everyone, but Grade 12 students in particular have expressed how difficult it can be. Francis, who works at a store/restaurant, says that managing work, university applications and school is stressful, especially when class is compressed into short and busy quadmesters. And Olivia, currently working at a fast food restaurant, says that working four shifts for a total of 20 hours a week, on top of senior year, can be a lot to handle. 

Many people reported feeling a decrease in their mental well-being during the pandemic. One Grade 12 student tells us that her mental health has plummeted during the past months, and although it comes and goes in waves, it makes it very difficult to go to work on the more severe days. School has been more difficult and tiring than usual due to COVID-19, and adding a job to schedules only amplifies this for most.

While health anxiety and busy schedules are an issue for high school frontline workers, there are some positives. Francis says that having consistent shifts each week has helped him procrastinate less, and another Grade 12 says her job gives her a reason to leave the house. Tara tells us that working during a pandemic has taught her how to handle a lot of responsibilities, which is a great skill for the future. 

Many of the students we spoke with say that having a job right now means they get in-person social interaction, something we all lack in both school and our personal lives at the moment. Although it isn’t like normal, we still can get some human connection, which is vital, and it’s a bonus if we work with friends or classmates we like.

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