Trojans Work Hard for the Money: Working Students at Jenks

By: Hayden Alexander

There are many firsts in High School. The first football game, first car, and your first job. Receiving that initial paycheck after applications, interviews, and many laborious hours marks your debut into adulthood. Like many things in 2020, student jobs have been impacted by the pandemic. Jenks students however have been hard at work this semester making the best of the situation. The Torch interviewed several Jenks High Schoolers to find out about their experiences in the workforce during the ongoing pandemic.

COVID-19 has seeped into every aspect of our lives, and workplaces have had to update to fit the times. Restaurants specifically require their staff to disinfect tables, maintain social distancing within the workplace, and prepare food safely.

“It’s just a matter of washing hands more often,” says Kaliana Gartelos 12. “We take temperature checks every time someone comes in, and the kitchen has to wear more gloves”

Kaliana Gartelos working the night shift at Hideaway Pizza.

Kailana works as support staff at Hideaway Pizza and is a talented drama student as well as a member of the Spanish National Honor Society. 

The restaurant industry is not the only business that has had to adapt to the times. Alexander Saleh 11 works for Strong Family Financial, a local insurance company that according to their website specializes in “premier retirement planning”. 

“We get on the phones and start calling the seniors,” says Saleh. “ We really just want to help them get benefits and the lowest cost they can get.”

Saleh works hard as an employee and member of STUCCO and DECA.

Saleh mans the phones at Strong Family Financial on a daily basis contacting local senior citizens.

“I get on the phone with them to set up appointments so one of our specialized agents can go out there and help them,” explains Saleh.

Seniors account for the most vulnerable of our society along with those with underlying health conditions which require new precautions on the part of Saleh and the agents.

“When we are on the phone with our clients we would politely ask if we need to wear a mask,” says Saleh “if they are super big on COVID-19 we set up a phone appointment. 

It just goes to show you that every business big or small has had to learn to navigate the hardships of COVID-19.

Balancing work, school, extracurriculars, and a pandemic is not a simple task. Students have to be able to account for school and work schedules. It can be difficult to find stability in the earthquake that is high school. One student’s secret to success…a mastery of time management.

“I try to focus on one thing at a time because thinking about it all at once is completely stressful,” says Maddox Kuehnert 11. “Just separate your time so you can focus on one thing.”

Kuehnert works as a hostess at Los Cabos at the River Walk whilst playing in the marching band, performing with the Jenks Winter Guard, and studying Engineering at Tulsa Tech. 

Managing stress seems to be key to a successful first outing on the mystical adventure that is one’s first job. According to Nathan Tiller, 11 tolerance is key.

“Try to have a good stress tolerance,” explains Tiller. “Because depending on how much time you have for school and work you probably won’t have much time for yourself.” 

Tiller works at Coney Islander preparing hotdogs masterfully while taking part in Key Club and keeping on top of his school work.

Making time for yourself is important for maintaining good mental health. Since the pandemic, mental health has soared to the forefront of the conversation. An overflow of emotions, information, and stress has dealt a blow to morale, but Kuehnert has found a simple solution to taming the stress of a young working adult and keeping spirits high. For more on mental health, Check out the Torches article How are you?: Students’ Mental Health This Year: By Ben Kimberling.

“I just hang out with my friends a lot because if I distract myself from what I am stressed out about it’s not as bad,” says Kuehnert. “I am a huge overthinker, and when I am thinking about school I am like oh my gosh there is no way I can do all of this at once, but when I am distracted it is not as bad.”

You may be wondering what could drive students to work during a pandemic, what could give them such valiance? Everyone has a different reason behind why they work but all are equally worthy. Some students work to pay the bills, others are saving for the future, and there are those who simply don’t want to have to ask their parents to pay their way. 

“Mostly it’s for DCI(Drum Corps International) and so I can get into a good college,” says Kuehnert. “I don’t want to put all of that on my parents because I am probably going to go out of state.” 

Another reason some students choose to work is so they not only make money but build character at the same time. 

“While I think I have a good work ethic, I want to improve it, I also want to prepare myself for having a job in the future,” says Tiller. 

Saleh has a more emotional purpose for working after his father showed him how with hard work and determination anything is possible.

“My dad worked his butt off and that is something that has really motivated me,” explaines Saleh. “He is my inspiration to push myself”. 

Alexander Saleh on the phone working 9-5.

A good work ethic and the ability to show kindness and respect for others is a valuable skill to master before venturing into adulthood. 

“I am a firm believer that everyone in their life should at least work once in a fast food place or retail because it teaches you a lot of things about the world,” says Gartelos. “ It teaches you how to respect those who are working. “

Kaliana prepping for closing as the night winds down.

A big factor for any teenager’s first job is finding one that fits their schedule, skills, and interests.

Never fear, for the beauty of being young is that we have the time to explore and learn from our experiences. 

“Go-based off of interest,” says Gartelos. “Don’t aim for the top, start at an achievable place.”

For those considering an entrance into the workforce or are currently working and need some words of wisdom, our student workers have some sage advice.

Nathan Tiller making the world famous Coneys.

“If you’re wanting to get a job, definitely make sure it is a job that your school thinks is important,” says Tiller. “While yes you have to do your best to work you have to do well in school.” 

In regards to working during a pandemic, the best advice is often the simplest and direct.

“You need to be more cognizant of the world around you and be more aware,” says Gartelos.

So go forth and take on the adventurous world of business! Find jobs that interest you and fit with your schedule. If COVID-19 is a factor in the process, then look for a job where you can feel safe as you work. If you can’t work due to COVID-19, then start researching for potential jobs so when life returns to some version of normal you are ready. For those currently looking for a job happy hunting! If you are working as we speak, keep up the hard work and stay safe! 

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