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The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we knew it, including how students learn.

USA TODAY

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the traditional school year, high school students still have the same responsibilities when it comes to planning for their post-graduate futures.

Hundreds of students in local public school districts have applied for permits to work jobs around their school schedules. State law requires minors to obtain a work permit before getting a job.

Since the beginning of the school year, the Conejo Valley Unified School District has issued 293 general work permits to its high school students, according to district spokesperson Kim Gold. 

In Oxnard Union High School District alone, district Career Education Director Monica Phillippe said there are around 500 students with work permits.

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Pablo Gallegos, a work experience education coordinator at Hueneme High School, said about 50 students have work permits on file so far. Typically, the school gets 60-70 permits in a school year.

Over the summer, he said there were requests from students who wanted to work in the retail or food industry. 

Picking times for classes, getting ahead

Samantha Simental, a senior at Camarillo High School, currently works at the Camarillo Health Care Center while balancing school work and athletics. 

Over the summer, Simental, 17, became a certified nursing assistant with the encouragement of her basketball coach, Cecilia Waite.

“I was afraid that I was going to be the only kid in high school,” she said about the program. “And I was, but some of my classmates (were) very surprised at what I was doing.”

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At her job, she helps take care of senior patients. This experience is essential for Simental, who wants to be a registered nurse in the future.

Though she doesn’t like learning online, the learning model made it easier for the teen to manage her schedule.

“Since we’re online, it’s a bit easier for me,” Simental said. “I’m able to get my homework done.”

When it comes to balancing her schedule, Simental said she attends classes in the mornings. She does homework in any free time that arises from a class ending early or during lunch periods.

Knowing it will all pay off

Hueneme High senior Itzel Huizar, 17, does the same to get ahead on homework when she can so she’s not overwhelmed closer to deadlines.

“I’m very big on education,” said Huizar. As a Latina, she said she’s been underestimated in the past and wants to prove that race doesn’t “mean you’re more or less than other people.”

In addition to her regular class load, she participates in her school’s athletics program, holds club leadership positions, volunteers at a local church and works at Chipotle Mexican Grill. She joked that she gets six hours of sleep if she’s lucky.

Huizar keeps three agendas to organize her college application, homework and work schedules.

While she has some responsibilities around the house, she said her parents are supportive and good about giving her space when it comes to her school work.

“I do get overwhelmed a lot, but, I mean, I know that it’s worth it,” Huizar said. “It’s going to be worth it.”

Current students, Gallegos explained, are more adept to change.

Though the pandemic has thrown everyone “into the deep end of the pool,” he said students are still finding a balance between school and work.

“The future does look bright with these kids,” Gallegos said.

Shivani Patel covers education for The Star as a Report for America corps member. Reach her at [email protected] or 805-603-6573. She is also on Twitter at @shivaaanip.

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