Campus / Community / COVID-19 / National / News / May 21, 2020

Students discuss essential worker experience

Every now and then, Cheyenne Finke rises at five in the morning to head to work. The coffee shop chain she works at won’t open for hours, and the junior is not preparing for the day ahead. She’s brewing coffee to deliver to local hospitals for the doctors and nurses who have been working around the clock.

The coffee is donated through a pay it forward function in the shop’s app, just one of many things that have changed to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic. The deliveries have been the highlight of Finke’s pandemic experience. They come with strict regulations about gloves, masks and sanitization and at least 35 hours a week at work.

Despite sick customers in the drive through and an undeniable feeling of guilt for providing people with a reason to go out, Finke continues to go into work. Seeing the reactions of the doctors and nurses when she delivers to hospitals seems to balance out some of the negative.

“I do enjoy being able to give back in that way even though it inherently puts me at more risk,” Finke says.

Balancing work and school has been no easy task for Finke. Laurel Stugart, junior, can relate. This is the first time the two have worked during the school year. Stugart has been stocking shelves and helping at registers at a local grocery store.

Stugart and Finke are balancing unusual work hours with classes at different times than normal. Finke feels like she never gets a break. Stugart is trying to keep a normal schedule despite everything, but along with working while taking classes for the first time, she’s living alone for the first time. Still, Finke and Stugart are up for the challenge.

Michael Moss has been working at a chain grocery store in Galesburg. The pandemic has brought more business to the store. The senior compared the amount of traffic he’s been seeing at work to the holiday season. The store has had to hire more people to keep up with demand, even temporarily putting a policy of hiring people on the spot in place.

Moss, Finke and Stugart have all seen new policies put in place to keep customers and employees safe at work. They all wear masks and gloves at work. Registers at the stores that Moss and Stugart work at have plexiglass shields to protect workers. Customers aren’t allowed to come into the cafe that Finke works at.

Moss and Stugart have struggled with the lack of social interactions they’ve faced throughout the pandemic. Finke is having a hard time balancing her hectic schedule. Still, all three are finding positives shining through the uncertainty and chaos the pandemic has caused.

Finke looks forward to making her hospital deliveries. Moss has learned how to better prioritize and manage his money. Stugart has learned to celebrate the small things and is proud of herself for being able to take on so many challenges at once.

Sarah Eitel

Tags:  COVID-19 essential workers home jobs off-campus pandemic student workers

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