Sophomore Lucia Avellaneda helps take care of her 8-year-old sister. (Photo courtesy of Lucia Avellaneda)
Daniel Pearl Magnet High School

Part-time student, full-time sibling

Weeknights often unfold in a similar way for sophomore Elishava Ibarra. After completing her schoolwork, Ibarra works hard to feed, bathe and change her younger siblings. Once she is done, Ibarra, her 6-year-old brother Nathan and her 19-month-old brother Randy cuddle up and watch movies on Disney+.

“My second youngest brother, Nathan, sleeps in the same bed as me,” 16-year-old Ibarra said. “We usually stay up pretty late and just watch a movie. He’s pretty calm. He is learning how to behave more.”

With schools and daycares closed, young children are stuck at home. Some of the childcare tasks for older students have changed or increased now that they are home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School have been balancing schoolwork with helping out with their siblings. This has resulted in additional responsibilities, which can be both difficult and rewarding.

“(The most challenging time is) when I’m in class and I’m taking care of them,” Ibarra said. “They don’t get to go out anymore. Nathan would usually hang out with friends and Randy would go to a daycare. Now they don’t hang out with anyone, so they’re just with me.”

Derek Calderon, a junior, has been very busy taking care of his 7-year-old nephew Tajh and his 1-year-old nephew Khalil from time to time. When he’s taking care of them, he also helps cook and clean. This summer, his sister had a gender reveal party for her third child, whom Tajh and Khalil were ecstatic to find out is going to be a girl. 

“Basically, I’m kind of like a babysitter,” 16-year-old Calderon said. “I’m making sure they don’t go and hurt themselves, or I’m the one playing with Khalil. They’ve been coming over a lot more (during quarantine). I’ve started to become a lot closer with them.”

Quarantine has had its ups and downs for students and their siblings alike. Sophomore Lucia Avellaneda has been taking on a leadership role when her mother is unavailable. She’s in charge of watching and caring for her 8-year-old sister Catherine. Avellaneda’s main responsibility has been guiding her sister through schoolwork.

“We have an office part of our house with computers for learning,” 14-year-old Avellaneda said. “Occasionally, we would be in Zooms at the same time. It would be hard to focus, so now I sometimes have to go somewhere else. It really kind of took a toll on my learning experience.”