Students struggle to find summer jobs

With some camps closed, summer job market tightens

By Emma DiGiacomo
Posted 7/30/20

For decades, the Kendbrin Swim and Tennis Club has been a family favorite for many in Barrington. However this year, with the world hit by a global pandemic, the pool club looks a little different. …

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Students struggle to find summer jobs

With some camps closed, summer job market tightens

Posted

For decades, the Kendbrin Swim and Tennis Club has been a family favorite for many in Barrington. However this year, with the world hit by a global pandemic, the pool club looks a little different. Lifeguards are now armed with masks, swimming children have to maintain social distancing, and constant cleaning has become the club’s new normal.

As a result of COVID-19, Kendbrin has also faced a shortened season. Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been the club’s opening date, however; as a result of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s safety regulations, the season was rescheduled to start at the end of June. This has been common for many businesses, from restaurants to beaches. But because of these reduced hours, employees have been hit the hardest, especially high schoolers.

As Sandy Gorham, the executive director of Kendbrin, said, “For the most part, I’ve given very small raises to kids, but the financial part of it has been very difficult. I didn’t hire eight employees back.”

These staff cuts have boiled down to the financial burden that the pandemic has had on businesses such as Kendbrin. As a result of the shortened season, “There’s been a huge lack of revenue coming in, yet you have to spend money out to make the club as safe as possible.”

Mr. Gorham said that just on cleaning materials alone, “We’re spending close to $2,000... A lot of the janitorial supply stores run out, so any day I could be calling up to four supply stores to get the necessary cleaning supplies.”

These increased costs have meant less money to spend on employees, so hours have been cut, as well as some staff positions completely.

Employee cuts have become increasingly common across many businesses. At the Bayside YMCA, for example, an anonymous high school student shared how he was left out from the summer staff. 

“We all got furloughed in March because the Y got shut down completely...and then, when it started reopening, I asked my boss when I would start working again, and she said we’re not going to be able to have anyone 18 working until at least August,” he said.

Priority is traditionally given to college-age students, as older employees generally have more years of experience and have a greater need for the money.

As Mr. Gorham noted, “We’re trying to budget so that the older, college-age employee gets priority, then the kid going into college next year, then the junior going into senior year, and then unfortunately the younger kids just get fill-in time.”

With older students receiving more hours, and more job opportunities in general, many high schoolers have been left with little options.

Nadie Monaghan, a rising senior at Barrington High School, has also struggled with this, saying “So many spaces are being filled by people who can work year round or college age kids, and I’m just a high schooler who’s 16.”

Nadie had been set to work as a counselor at Camp Burgess and Hayward, a sleepaway camp in Sandwich, Mass. However, as a result of the virus, the camp was cancelled. Nadie added, “It was super drawn out… but after camp was cancelled I would call several places a day to try and get a job but most places were already filled up.”

Nadie is not alone. As camp programs, especially sleepaways, started cancelling, job slots filled up especially quick, with teenagers rushing to find another work opportunity for the summer.

Anne Sweeney, another rising senior on the hunt for her first summer job, said, “I called every place that I thought could have an open spot and they didn’t. They all just said ‘We’re set for the summer, we have our lineup’, no but’s or anything.”

Anne was eventually able to find work at Camp Endeavor, Barrington’s town day-camp, but not without difficulty.

“It was frustrating,’ she admitted, ‘I was so worried about having nothing to do, and not having any money saved up.”

The lack of profit, shortened summer seasons, and priority given to older students, has resulted in constant job-hunting with no luck for many high schoolers. As the Rhode Island's reopening plan continues, the teenagers of Barrington are left hoping that eventually, life will go back to normal, including with employment.

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.