Mason student jobs transformed

Three Mason students have seen their after-school jobs change completely under coronavirus restrictions.

Girl with computer
Junior Anuragi Thapliya’s job at CodeNinjas has gone fully online. (Photo courtesy of Anuragi Thapliya)

Anuragi Thapliya: CodeNinjas

Junior Anuragi Thapliya wasn’t working before the shutdown. In December, she had stopped signing up for shifts at her summer 2019 job at CodeNinjas to make more time for her schoolwork. Now, under quarantine, she leaves Skype calls with friends to log into work – a stark contrast from her classmates with canceled shifts and lost jobs. 

CodeNinjas is trying to keep the kids in their Falls Church Dojo busy and learning during their quarantine, and that means the Mason students teaching them keep busy as well. Thapliya and her coworkers, many of whom are also Mason students, have been working shifts by making themselves available through Zoom calls that kids can enter and leave freely either to ask questions or to learn from the Code Senseis’ presentations. 

At first, Thapliya worried that the shift to online teaching wouldn’t work – “At first, it all seemed really crazy,” she said. CodeNinjas focuses on creating a fun, comfortable learning environment, and she worried about how that would translate online.

But to her relief, “A lot of kids are really excited. They put on their cameras and it becomes really interactive. They like to put in their own input and they start conversations,” she said. 

Thapliya is glad that kids who are part of CodeNinjas (and some who aren’t – weekly free coding sessions are also available) still have the opportunity to do enriching activities during their quarantine. Thapliya and her coworkers spend hours creating a new curriculum to teach virtually, so they can keep the Dojo members engaged and learning.

Abbey Meighan: Harris Teeter

Sophomore Abbey Meighan worked at Harris Teeter from December through the first two weeks of quarantine, when she took a leave of absence. For the first two weeks of quarantine in March, she just tried to carry on like everything was normal, when, in reality, nothing was normal.

“When dealing with the customers, I tried to act normal and ask them the questions I always ask them,” Meighan said. “Usually they turned the conversation around [to the coronavirus].”

The atmosphere at Meighan’s workplace had become drastically different. Her job as a cashier was to check everyone out and get them out of the store as quickly as possible. But when people began urgently hoarding essentials at the beginning of the quarantine, it became harder to move quickly.

“It was definitely more stressful because we had people coming in with two full shopping carts and you never want to be slow,” Meighan said. 

Meighan took a leave of absence at the end of March, mainly at her mother’s urging. Meighan and her mother agreed that it was the best decision to keep her and her family safe. Meighan wasn’t the only to take this path.

“The majority of teenagers have taken time off of work because of their parents’ concerns,” Meighan said. “The managers were super understanding.”

Meighan emphasized the precautions Harris Teeter was taking to keep their customers and employees safe. Before she left, cashiers cleaned their stations between every two or three customers. Store workers wore masks and gloves. The store hours changed from 5 a.m. until 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. After 8 p.m employees cleaned the entire store and disinfected and restocked shelves.

Since the outbreak began in the United States, Harris Teeter corporate has gone to the majority of Harris Teeter locations to grade their cleanliness and whether or not they were taking the proper precautions for COVID-19. All of the locations in Virginia passed. 

Avery Ruby: Badd Pizza

Sophomore Avery Ruby did not have a job before school ended for the year, until her sister came home from college and applied at Badd Pizza, a new restaurant in Falls Church. She wears many hats at Badd Pizza, including answering calls and making the pizzas.

Badd Pizza opened its first store in Virginia last year, and opened another store in Falls Church soon after. Since Ruby didn’t have a job before the COVID-19 outbreak, she doesn’t know what it’s normally like at the establishment.

“It’s weird, customers can’t come into the store and order face to face,” Ruby said. “Everything has to be a call in or an online order.”

Ruby loves working at Badd Pizza and hopes to keep this job for quite a while longer.

“I love to serve the community in this time of need, and everyone at Badd Pizza has come together to help one another out,” Ruby said. “We have a really great atmosphere here.”