School shifts to distance learning, canceled athletics and extracurricular activities as a safety measure against COVID-19 have led to freer schedules for Twin Ports students.

Some have joined, or increased their time in, the workforce, a move that has been beneficial, they said.

Brennan Morrissey got his first job during the pandemic.

The Superior High School senior started at Superior Meats in early April. He works four days a week, clocking anywhere from 30-40 hours — and he’s thankful.

“Having that work four days during the week really helps my mental state because it gives me that structure,” Morrissey, 18, of Superior, said.

Before the pandemic, his days started at 6:30 a.m. with off-season football training and classes. He had track practice until 5:15 p.m. and lacrosse practice from 5:30-7 p.m., before dinner, then studying.

Morrissey was shocked and, soon, unmotivated, after announcements were made about school closings.

“Sports are really what I’ve been basing my life around for the past four years, and what I’ve been working for. I was pretty upset when I found out I wasn’t going to be able to do them,” he said.

A family friend dropped off a Superior Meats application with Morrissey's mother. Morrissey applied, and soon he was hired.

Superior High School senior Brennan Morrissey weighs hamburger for a customer at Superior Meats Tuesday afternoon, May 5.(Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior High School senior Brennan Morrissey weighs hamburger for a customer at Superior Meats Tuesday afternoon, May 5.(Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

He started as a cleaner, doing dishes in the back room, washing floors and cleaning counters. Now, he works with customers on the floor, weighing orders, making burgers or cutting brats.

“It doesn’t seem like a job,” he said. “It seems more of me and these guys joking around, but we’re always working to get the job done.”

Morrissey logs on for school from 10 a.m. to noon. Then, he works from 1-9 p.m.

He said the pace and schedule remind him of school. He’s learning people skills and the benefits of hard work, and the long hours don’t bother him. He gets out of the house, and he’s always busy when he’s at work.

And, he’s enjoying the money. While he was surprised at how much taxes took out, his first big paycheck was more than $550. He did buy a new fishing pole and assorted tackle, but the rest went into his bank account.

Before COVID-19, Morrissey planned to spend the summer fishing with friends. Now, he’s going to work to save money to curb some college debt.

It feels good, he said. “I know I worked, and that’s what I’m getting out of it. It’s nice to see the fruits of my labor.”

Superior High School English teacher Andy Wolfe, center, congratulates senior Brennan Morrissey, top, after Morrissey demonstrated the process of saving a photograph to the class during a newspaper class meeting on Google Hangout Thursday, April 2. Morrissey balances his schoolwork with his job during the pandemic. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior High School English teacher Andy Wolfe, center, congratulates senior Brennan Morrissey, top, after Morrissey demonstrated the process of saving a photograph to the class during a newspaper class meeting on Google Hangout Thursday, April 2. Morrissey balances his schoolwork with his job during the pandemic. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

It's business as usual to have high school students apply at Superior Meats, but the business has needed more help lately.

"We've been busier than a hot Fourth of July for the past two months,” night supervisor Nicole Dzikonski said.

Management has added about two or three employees to their night shifts.

"For many, it's their first job. They're doing what they can, and they're trying to learn as much as they can," Dzikonski said.

About three-quarters of the employees are students. Some are asking for more hours, but it's hard to give them as many as they'd like due to labor regulations.

Photo courtesy of Deanna Zalaznik
Photo courtesy of Deanna Zalaznik

Not all students are working more during the pandemic. Jayden Sheffield had been working at Kwik Trip for more than a year when she decreased her hours.

“It was kind of tough. Initially, my mom did not want me leaving the house. She’s a nurse, so she sees that firsthand. We talked it out, and I’m working now,” Sheffield, 17, said.

They’re staying on top of cleaning in the store, and not as many customers are coming in, so they aren’t staffing as many bodies.

Before the pandemic, her job was a “stress-reliever from school,” she said.

Sheffield is in advanced placement classes for literature, physics and biology.

After school, she'd go to work at 4:30, then leave about 10 p.m. to do homework until whenever she finished. She'd work up to 30 hours a week at Kwik Trip.

“It’s way less of a load than it used to be. I’m relaxing a little,” she said.

At work, Sheffield has learned time management and leadership skills.

If there’s not an official leader during a shift, someone has to step up, and doing that has changed her, she said.

“I used to be a really closed-off, shy person. Now, there’s an agenda; there are things to get done," she said. "Who cares about anxiety? Just speak up and get it done.”