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Productive during the pandemic

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Productive during the pandemic
Natalie Albizo kneels by Natalamb at the Pierce College Farm in Woodland Hills, Calif., on April 3, 2020. Photo by Katya Castillo.

The definition of an essential worker varies across the country, but Pierce College is taking those roles seriously to keep student workers active and receiving a paycheck when millions are losing their jobs.

Hourly wages haven’t changed but student workers are now performing tasks remotely, and maximum hours are no more than 12 per week.                   

Peer to Peer Mentor Lyndsey Morgan wrote in an email that she is no longer worried about unemployment.

“Pierce College provided me with the ability to work when I can and offer assistance to students,” Morgan wrote. “I was worried that I would become unemployed. It was rough for the first two weeks. I was really depressed and stir-crazy.”                   

Student workers are still given the same requirements to continue working, some that include not dropping out of classes, remaining in good academic standing and taking at least 12 units per semester.

Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Human Resources Director Mercedes Gutiérrez wrote via email to LACCD representatives that student workers will be paid for their already made schedule until June 30, 2020.

   Pierce College did not anticipate that a campus closure due to COVID-19 prevention may become an issue for the spring semester.

  Luis Morales, a student worker at Pierce College Dream Resource Center, wrote in an email that his job at Pierce is not enough to help his family during this pandemic.               

“I have had to seek extra help because, in my family household, we are quite a few so groceries are very necessary,” Morales wrote.               

CalWORKS student workers funded by the CalWORKS Workforce Investment Board are prohibited by law from working remotely. These students will automatically be paid at the full- time equivalent value, through June 30, assuming the Safer at Home order continues in Los Angeles, according to the email sent by Gutiérrez on April 14. 

Pierce College supervisors are assisting student workers by giving alternative assignments when online transition is impractical.

Information Desk and the High School Outreach Office student worker Kaitlyn Matsumoto wrote in an email that her duties have not changed much since students are still able to contact her and she can still help them from home.

Student worker jobs are considered essential due to the resources they provide for other students. The workers are also willing to work from home with normal pay.                   

Fernando Becerra, a Peer to Peer Mentor student worker, wrote in an email his view on whether or not his job is considered essential.               

“My job is essential for the school because I provide students with information, updates and contact information with faculty who can help them further in specific categories,” Becerra wrote. 

Many student workers have felt that creating a schedule has allowed their mental health to be stable during the pandemic. Some feel that their job has allowed them to find a sense of distraction and has given them the ability to take breaks in between classes.                   

Workers are using their own resources, ranging from laptops to hotspots, to work from home. However, any impracticalities workers experience with the transition will be provided with alternative assignments to insure jobs.                   

Despite that, Pierce College is providing online help, online counseling and scholarships available for students.