Students face resounding effects of the pandemic in their school-work balance


Jahni Harn

Senior Jahni Harn (left) works with her coworker (right) at Jimmy John’s.

Kushi Maridu, Site Manager

Many students have struggled to balance school and work even amid pandemic-induced hardships, such as the national labor shortage.

COVID-19 hit America more than a year ago, but the ripples are still present today. It caused businesses to shut down, people to lose their jobs and countless other problems. Stock markets dipped and the whole country fell to its knees.

In the wake of the vaccine, the nation started to get back on its feet. Stores opened up and life started to get back to normal. Even though most people got up and went to work again, a labor shortage took hold of the country.

Companies began putting more pressure on workers while keeping wages the same. Many of these workers thought that using unemployment benefits until they found a better job would trump working extra hours with no increase in payment.

However, other high school students kept their jobs, often working extra hours. 

Senior Jahni Harn worked at Jimmy John’s this previous summer and still works currently. “The pandemic caused it so I work more hours. Since there had been a labor shortage, I had to pull more double shifts during the summer,” she shared. “My longest day was from 5:30 am to 3 pm because when we couldn’t find anyone to work, I would usually be called in to cover shifts, or help out when needed.”

Harn possesses an amazing work ethic; she is enrolled in five rigorous college courses. In addition to those classes, she is attempting to graduate high school in December. “I usually have about four to five hours of homework a night in addition to around 28 hours a week,” Harn said.

Senior Leo Haan works at the Whitey’s Ice Cream in Bettendorf as a supervisor. Whitey’s was only closed for some of the pandemic and operated as a drive-thru only store for most of the pandemic. Whitey’s recently opened up its lobby, so people can go inside and have the nostalgic feel of ordering ice cream rather than ordering from a car.

Haan has worked a lot of hours due to this change. “The pandemic changed around the amount of hours I work as we had to change store hours and work around the virus. The labor shortage made it so that we are very understaffed and I would be closing the store at around 12:30 am almost every night,” he said. “The labor shortage also caused me to work all the time because I had to cover extra shifts and work for multiple days in a row.”

Although these students lead a busy life, all the work helps them stay organized and get ready for the tedious life after high school. Harn has proven that all her hard work is helping her stay on task. “It is difficult to juggle school and work, but I have learned to do it. I usually get all of my homework done when I get home. I just have to manage my time in my study halls, and during my three non-working days,” she said.

Haan also mirrors Harn’s determination. “My work and school work take up basically all of my time because I’m saving up for college and applying for almost every scholarship I can apply for. This means I have to sacrifice things I enjoy doing like hanging out with friends and playing video games with the boys,” Haan expresses.

These students’ experiences demonstrate that even a pandemic and a labor shortage cannot stop teenagers from balancing work and school. Balancing school and work is a hard task on its own, but students persevere and excel at juggling school and work. Even on this positive note, the future still holds uncertainty with its national labor shortage and how it will affect high school students with a work life.