(This article also appeared at The Express)
As a child, Andrea Lunetta would spend a week every summer with her aunt in San Ramon, California, where they would do artistic things like make jewelry together. When she recalled these times, Lunetta’s soft, sweet voice found a lilt and a twinkle.
“When I was a kid, my parents were really, really strict. I wasn’t equipped to make friends because I couldn’t venture out and spend time with them,” Lunetta said. “I feel like that kind of made me more of an introvert, so I found a lot of things to occupy my time on my own. So I would draw or do crafts.”
Lunetta’s creative pursuits followed her well after her adolescence. After attending City College and then graduating from Sacramento State in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in art, she began looking toward the next step to turn her passion into a vocation: becoming an accredited art teacher.
“I think my teachers gave me a really good support system—especially when I got older—to be someone that I could talk to if stuff was going on or I had stuff on my chest,” said Lunetta. “I don’t think any of my teachers knew what they were doing for me, but it had a really big impact on my life, so, when I was reflecting on maybe what I wanted to do for a living, I kept thinking about teaching.”
Unfortunately, Lunetta’s plans, like so many others’, have been put on hold as the coronavirus pandemic has begun to have long-term effects on her academic, professional and personal well being.
Lunetta had been substitute teaching in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District since graduating, which provided her with a wealth of classroom experience as she prepared to continue her studies, and also working part-time at Rogers Jewelry in Elk Grove.
After the Elk Grove Unified School District closed March 7, Lunetta knew it was only a matter of time before she was laid off from substitute teaching. Her district closed March 13, and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 shelter-in-place order forced Rogers Jewelry to close, too, leaving Lunetta unemployed for the foreseeable future.
“So, now I’m not working, but Rogers is giving me two weeks of pay. It’s very kind of them, but then after that my last paid week will be April 4. If it doesn’t kind of blow over by then, I won’t have much income,” said Lunetta.
The pandemic did not blow over as Lunetta had hoped; as the shelter-in-place order extended to May, Lunetta is still unemployed. However, she said that she feels very fortunate. She has been able to receive unemployment benefits, and her boyfriend, Matt Vlach, has been able to work full-time from home. She said that these factors will help to ensure that they can afford to survive as the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit her economic viability.
“Our income right now—even though we lost 40% of our income—what we have remaining is still covering our bills. We’re not extravagant people,” said Lunetta. “The only reason I’m seeing any silver lining is because I’m not worried about how we’ll feed ourselves and how we’ll keep our roof over our heads.”
Vlach, who works as a graphic designer for Sacramento’s Yellow Brick Group, said that he and Lunetta are very well equipped for the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought to their lives.
“It’s been kind of a weird terrain—I don’t even really know what next week is going to look like,” said Vlach. “We both have been able to save a lot over the past two years, and we still have some income, which we’re super thankful for.”
Vlach and Lunetta had been saving up to go to Europe in June, planning to stay for a month and visit several countries while Vlach worked remotely. Now they’re not sure if the trip will pan out. Some of their savings were also intended to pay for Lunetta’s graduate-level teaching credential program at Sacramento State, but uncertainty about the future is forcing Lunetta and Vlach to re-evaluate those plans.
“My heart really goes out to those people who are under financial stress right now,” said Lunetta. “I financed this wedding ring for this guy that was also a substitute teacher, and I wonder if he’s OK, because now he has that new bill that he has to pay, and he lost his job.”
Despite their worries, Lunetta and Vlach said they are trying to make the best of the quarantine. Vlach noticed he had more time to devote to personal projects, and Lunetta said that she has been able to focus more on the art that she loves. Her emphasis in college was drawing, but she said that she finds ways to channel her passion for drawing into other media, like sewing and sculpture.
“I feel like I’m able to be a little bit more creative now,” said Lunetta. “On my walks, my mind wanders to more fun and creative spots. The pace of life has slowed down a lot more.”