Part-time jobs turn essential for teens on the front lines

Local teens are continuing to serve the community from the front lines after their part-time and after school jobs turned into essential work.
Recurring 10 p.m. news recording
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 10:15 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - For many high schoolers, getting an after school or part-time job can be a right of passage, a way to save up some money, or an opportunity to learn the value of a dollar. During the pandemic, some of those jobs have become essential work, putting the teens working them on the front lines.

Now, two teens are serving their communities as essential workers in local grocery stores.

Sixteen-year-old Mateo Guiao said he began working at Willy Street Co-op in Middleton in August of 2019. After a job fair at school, and some encouragement from his mother, Guiao started looking into job opportunities.

“My mom wanted me to get a job,” he said. “She thought maybe learning how to manage my own money - that would be beneficial for my future.”

Mateo Guiao works the register at Willy Street Co-op in Middleton.
Mateo Guiao works the register at Willy Street Co-op in Middleton.(NBC15)

Guiao works as a cashier checking out customers at the front registers. He also helps bag and assist customers if they need any help. He said those interactions with others in the store are what he enjoys most about his job, and fit well with his personality.

“Being able to talk to people about anything and everything even just what they’re going to be doing that day, or even how they like the certain products that we have in store here,” he said. “It’s really nice to have conversations with people just about anything, and just how people really enjoy the Co-op.”

Guiao said those conversations, and opportunities to connect, make him happy.

“I’m hard of hearing so I have a hearing aid,” he said. “The fact that a little girl came through our line with hearing aids, she seemed so nervous with her hearing aids, and I told her I have one too, and she immediately brightened up. I think that it’s just really nice to be able to connect with people on varying levels.”

It’s not only the people who visit the store, but the people who work there, who Guiao said make work a place he enjoys coming to.

“I like working here because the people are really friendly, the staff are really amazing, it’s really like a family here,” he said.

It was those relationships that caused him to want to continue working, and even increase his hours, when the pandemic began. Suddenly, his part-time job became full on essential due to the coronavirus.

“I saw this as an opportunity to help more people out, that’s also why I started to work more too, to help my coworkers who had kids out and to help them by covering their shifts and staying a little bit longer,” he said.

Guiao initially worked a four hour shift on Saturdays. When opportunities opened up to increase hours during the pandemic, he didn’t shy away, wanting to help his coworkers and continue serving the community.

“I just kind of see it as an opportunity to help others and that while it’s super important, I never really think I’m super important,” he said. “Honestly I’m just going and doing my job and coming in and working.”

He isn’t the only teen who’s decided to help his community from the front lines. At Metcalfe’s Market in Madison, 15-year-old Fred Van Riet is busy bagging.

He began working at the store last summer in the hopes of saving up a little money for college.

“I shopped here a lot before I even started working here,” he said. “It felt like a very safe environment to be in, and I liked the people who worked here, they seemed very nice.”

Van Riet has seen firsthand how things have changed in the store since the pandemic began.

15-year-old Fred Van Riet works at Metcalfe's market, serving his community on the front lines...
15-year-old Fred Van Riet works at Metcalfe's market, serving his community on the front lines during the pandemic.(NBC15)

“I think Metcalfe’s did a very good job on keeping everything clean and sanitized during this time,” he said, describing how employees wear gloves and masks in the store, and are separated from customers during checkout with plastic barriers.

Van Riet said he took a bit of a break from work earlier in the pandemic to give himself time to acclimate.

“I took a break for about a month, maybe a month and a half, just kind of to take a breather so I didn’t have to jump into the pandemic, so I could get adjusted to it a little bit,” he said. “But after that it was very simple.”

But, the high schooler didn’t stay away for long, now back on the front lines to serve the community.

“It makes me feel pretty good,” he said. “I’m helping out the community around Madison.”

While many high schoolers are focused on homework assignments or hanging out with friends, Guiao and Van Riet are working hands on to serve the community, one bag of groceries at a time.

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