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The summer of 2020 was filled with uncertainty as more than 20 million people in the U.S. were left unemployed—including Kate Bustamante’s parents. Bustamante is a 20-year-old student at Santa Ana College in Santa Ana, California, home to predominantly working-class Latinos. She’s always worked part-time and attended school as long as she can remember. “I used to take the bus at 4am to work a shift before my first morning class,” said Bustamante.

But this summer was different. In March, California became the first state to impose a strict statewide lockdown due to COVID-19. Restaurants, theme parks, clothing stores, almost everything closed. Californians were allowed to purchase groceries, get health care, and commute to jobs that were deemed “essential,” like health care workers and grocery store workers. Bustamante had recently started her new part-time job as a cashier at a local organic grocery store when reality hit: her parents lost their jobs.

Overnight, Bustamante dropped out of classes and became her family’s breadwinner. “I’ve seen how much they give up for me whether it’s their rest or when they have to work multiple jobs,” said Bustamante. “They’ve always made sure I was fed. So that’s what I wanted to do for them. I had to.”

In this personal piece, Bustamante —through diary recordings and personal reflections— takes us into her world and what she went through while working full-time over the summer.

Featured Kate Bustamante. (Image courtesy of Kate Bustamente.) 

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