During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been asked to work remotely to keep themselves safe and support public health. However, people with jobs that are vital to the community have been designated as "essential workers," and are required to come in every day. From cashiers to nursing home assistants, these people are working on the front line to support others in their communities. Many Minnetonka High School students, while balancing the challenges of e-learning, have continued to work as essential workers in the Minnetonka community. Here are a few of their stories.

Jimmy Bohn

Jimmy Bohn, Culinary Assistant at Deephaven Woods Senior Living Home

Jimmy says he would not consider himself a hero. "I would just consider myself doing my job because I signed up to feed people," he says. Jimmy is a graduating senior at MHS. For the workers at Deephaven Woods, adjusting to the limitations of the COVID pandemic has been challenging. "It's a learning experience, but everyone's learning," says Jimmy. "The boss is learning, the boss's boss is learning, so we got to work together to understand that this is new for everyone."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, senior home facilities have been some of the places most affected in the US. When asked how the current situation has changed his view about his work, Jimmy says it "puts the environment in perspective, the grand scheme of things in the world, especially when you hear about [what's happening at] other senior homes."

Jimmy also says that he and his colleagues who help serve food to the elderly residents are "just employees who need to keep coming into work otherwise people aren't gonna get fed."

However, when Jimmy thinks of the term 'essential worker,' he turns to the nurses that work directly with the residents as the real heroes. "It's brave of them to be working so close with infected people. They're more on the front line than I am because they give them medicine and they, make sure they stay alive. It's pretty cool to see how they are putting these residents before themselves."

Jack and Zach Sullivan

Jack and Zach Sullivan, General Merchandise Experts at Target

Jack and Zach Sullivan, twin brothers and rising seniors at MHS, know that the term "essential worker" comes with great responsibility and great significance. "[It] comes with a lot of stress knowing that we have a lot of responsibilities," says Zach, "but it also comes with an upside of knowing that we are helping others."

As general merchandise experts at the Chanhassen Target, Jack and Zach have seen just how important their place of work has been for the community during the pandemic, but at the beginning, when the situation got worse, coming into work was a bit scary. "It kind of gave us a little bit of a reality check and made us realize that this whole thing is really starting to affect everybody around us," says Jack.

Jack has worked at Target since October 2019, and remembers vividly the day he became an essential worker. " I walked out to our service center, where a lot of the human resources workers work, and they handed us a slip that basically said we're an essential worker," he remembers. "We [had] to put it in our car, saying that we have to go to and from work, because nobody knew really if the state was going to shut down. It was quite crazy."

"Knowing that I'm helping people makes me want to take the risk," says Zach. And despite the struggles, Jack knows that "the bottom line is that we're all trying to get through this thing together."

Conor Abrahamson

Conor Abrahamson, Worker at Valvoline Instant Oil Change

Conor is a rising senior at MHS and has been working at Valvoline Instant Oil Change for about 4 months.

Connor says Valvoline has taken some measures to ensure employee and customer safety. "At all times we are now required to be checked by a non-contact infrared thermometer," he says, "and we have to clean the store every three hours." In addition, he and his co-workers have been using masks and latex gloves regularly.

"I never thought I'd be an essential worker," Connor admits, but he does acknowledge the impact his work has for the community. " I'm keeping cars on the road and ultimately the community moving forward," he says.

Lucia Hill

Lucia Hill, Barista at Starbucks

Lucia Hill is a graduating senior at MHS and has been working at Starbucks since last September. Like many workers now, she never would have expected her current working situation. "Honestly, I didn't think that I'd be considered an 'essential worker' during a global pandemic," she says.

Lucia is a graduating senior at MHS and has been working at Starbucks since last September.

Starbucks, like many companies, has taken measures to ensure employee and customer safety. Masks and added cleaning are a must, and the only transactions that can be made are at the drive thru. But due to a pre-existing condition, Lucia has taken extra precautions. " I returned to work at the beginning of May and because of my health risk I don't have to come into contact with anyone other than my coworkers," she says.

Lucia realizes that coffee might not seem essential during these times, but she knows that her work has at least "given people something to do. I understand the boredom people are facing and how getting out of the house to go do something is really critical for people's sanity."

Ellie and Addison

Ellie Westlind and Addison Pajor, Full Time Culinary Staff at Deephaven Woods Senior Living Home

If staying healthy during a global pandemic were not tough enough, Ellie Westlind and Addison Pajor, two graduating seniors at MHS, have been balancing full time e-learning AND full time work at Deephaven Woods Senior Living Home.

Along with a tough schedule, Ellie says she has faced other challenges. "It's a lot of walking and being on your feet," she says, "and that is probably the hardest part because being on your feet for so many hours can be really hard on your body."

As senior homes have been some of the toughest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Deephaven Woods has taken extra precaution. "We have to wear face shields, gloves and face masks," says Ellie. "The biggest change for sure is that we used to have all the residents come down and eat in the dining room but because of social distancing we put everything on 1-2 carts and go around to all of their rooms and deliver their meals separately."

Despite the risks of working everyday, they remain committed to their jobs. "I'm always going to come in," says Addison. "Even if everyone here has corona, I'm still going to come in."

The change was a shock for both, but they kept coming into work knowing that they were essential. "My normal hours were only about 10 hours a week, so going from that to 50-60 hours a week was a huge change. [It] made me realize what an essential worker really is," says Ellie. " I knew I would be essential I just didn't know to what extent."

"I think my work is probably a lot more meaningful to me," Addison adds.

Ellie has also seen the emotional hardships a pandemic like this can take on the residents of a senior home. "Some of the residents are for sure social butterflies and really miss being able to see all of their friends," she says. " Us and some of the RA's (resident assistants) are the only people these residents get to see during the day, so we for sure [try to] put smiles on their faces and make them happier."