Students get creative amid financial hardships


Kaitlyn Ayala sews masks in her free time (Courtesy of Kaitlyn Ayala)

Marlene Cordova, Community News Reporter

Since early March, students have been dealing with far more than transitioning to online classes. Some don’t have space or technology for their online courses. Some are struggling to survive as they and family members lose work. Still others must care for their children or siblings while trying to complete schoolwork and join virtual class sessions.

Amid the chaos, some students have found creative ways to bring in extra income. 

Kaitlyn Ayala, a 19-year old Citrus College student, started to make masks for her family,  eventually selling them to others. The extra money has helped her family. 

“The money I make from these masks is to help my mom out with her bills. Also, to help my younger brother and grandparents that no longer work due to the virus,” Ayala said.

She takes orders through Instagram direct messages when she has enough inventory and the price is $7 for kids or adult sizes. She slows down production some weeks to catch up with her online classes.

“I couldn’t keep up with the demand after awhile. I had to pause sales and get back on track,” she said. “Before my classes transitioned, I was on top of my grades. Not having a strict school schedule for myself is harder and I find myself falling behind.”

Similarly, Cheyenne DeWolf, a television and film major at Cal State LA, said she has been struggling to balance her schoolwork with her artistic side hustle: Producing posters and animations and doing photo edits and photoshoots. 

“I was taking five classes and also had an internship at the time. Now with the virus, there is no routine and no one to tell me what to do, so I keep pushing things off. It has been a challenge,” DeWolf said. 

She started selling her artwork locally in 2013, and through social media platforms and her website since 2017. Due to coronavirus-related policies, she had to leave her college dorm and can’t go back home to her family in Detroit right now. DeWolf is staying in Los Angeles with friends, so selling her artwork has been key to getting bills paid.

“I sell my art to help myself purchase things I need, and [I do] not have to impose on others to do that,” she said. “Sales are a lot better because of the pandemic. I think people realize independent artists are getting really affected. I charge for my time, depending on the kind of style. Some styles take more time than others.”

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]