Mark Ward 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Two scholarship winners demonstrate a winning attitude toward continuing education. Meet Cindy Davis Many working professionals who opt to pursue a degree while holding down a career do so in hopes of a career change, advancement and/or a higher salary. Sometimes, however, too much emphasis on career skills can cause adult students to lose sight of a time-honored reason for pursuing higher education: personal enrichment and becoming a better person with a broadened perspective. Last year, Cindy Davis, account clerk III for the student nutrition department of Hampton (Va.) City Schools, was only one course shy of her longtime dream to complete a degree from Thomas Nelson Community College. For eight years, she had put off a required course in public speaking, saving it until last. In January 2011, she was set to start class, when her husband of 40 years passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Under the circumstances, Davis withdrew from the class, fearing her dream was now out of reach—since her withdrawal coincided with the expiration of a Schwan’s Food Service Scholarship that she had been granted for her studies. Mission Accomplished “But my husband always wanted me to stay with it and finish my degree,” Davis recalls. So, when she was ready to tackle this last academic requirement, she contacted the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), which administers the scholarship, and was given permission to apply her unused scholarship funds toward the class. After passing her public speaking course with flying colors, in December she completed her associate degree in accounting—with a 4.0 grade point average! Davis had put off thoughts of college for more than 30 years while she raised a family and, since 1983, worked in Hampton City’s school nutrition department. “When I was hired as an account clerk in 2003, I started my degree program that year out of a desire to achieve a personal goal.” Clearly, personal and professional growth are priorities for Davis. She has attended all but two Annual National Conferences since she joined SNA in 1991, and, she explains, “All the educational opportunities there showed me that I still enjoyed learning, and [they] instilled in me a desire to go back to college.” Over the years, Davis has paid her tuition with help from the School Nutrition Association of Virginia and her local chapter, as well as an SNF Professional Growth Scholarship, several Schwan’s Food Service Scholarships and professional development funds available from her district. “Juggling work and school helps you manage your time, stay disciplined and keep your eyes on the prize,” she avers. Those attributes helped carry Davis through her grief and recovery. And while being upheld by the recollection that her husband supported her college aspirations, Davis also takes pride in sharing her achievement with another generation. “Going back for my final semester meant that my granddaughter and I attended the college together!” It All Adds Up She came to Hampton as a child when her father retired there after military service. There, she married, raised four children, worked as a bread maker in the local schools and in 1991 entered the cafeteria manager trainee program. After 10 years of managing elementary and secondary school kitchens, she joined the central office team as an application processing specialist. Today in her work as account clerk III, Davis processes all food orders, reconciles inventories and prepares vendor information so that the school system can issue payments. “I enjoy the math and getting everything balanced,” she says, “and I enjoy my interactions with managers and still maintain my own SNA certification.” At the time her husband died, he was already retired, and Davis had planned to join him in retirement in a few years. Today, however, her college degree fills Davis with new purpose. “Now I have no reason to retire,” she explains. “I love what I’m doing, hope my degree can help me be better and I plan on working here as long as I can!” Meet Yvette Parker As nutrition services support lead for Hillsboro (Ore.) School District 1J, Yvette Parker, SNS, makes more than 60 classroom presentations a year. Over the course of the last school year, she provided nutrition education in 22 of the district’s 25 elementary schools. Parker joined the Hillsboro district in 1996 and managed individual cafeterias for the next 13 years. In 2004, however, a teacher asked her to make a guest presentation about nutrition. That led to two more invitations the following year and morphed into 20 guest talks in 2006! By 2009, as invitations continued to mount, the district decided to convert her extracurricular activities into a full-time position. Fruitful First With her expanded role, Parker looked to enhance her professional development. She was already a regular at Oregon School Nutrition Association (OSNA) state conferences and had earned her SNS credential. “But I’m a 10-month employee,” she continues, “and have no paychecks in the summer when the SNA Annual National Conference [ANC] is held.” So last year her director, Cindy Longway, nominated Parker for an ANC First-Timer Scholarship. Each year, 20 such scholarships are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to nominated managers and employees who have never attended ANC. The $500 award enabled Parker to join four Hillsboro colleagues in attending the 2011 ANC held last July in Nashville Parker found ANC to be a “professional Disneyland” full of stimulating experiences. “Spending a week with thousands of people who share your passion is so empowering,” she affirms, “and it gave me immense pride in my profession and in what our own district is doing. That level of conviction makes you more effective in communicating about your program to students, parents and the community.” Educate and Energize Because good communication is the key to Parker’s effectiveness in the classroom, she has thought long and hard about “what works” in nutrition education. First, her team has decided to focus efforts on 2nd- and 3rd-graders as the primary target audience for classroom activities. Students are old enough to sit through presentations and read instructions, but young enough so that eating habits have not yet fully formed and are open to change. “Being a ‘guest speaker’ gives you credibility with young kids, so that they perceive your message as important,” reports Parker. “Also, you’re a voice they don’t hear every day. So if you speak with passion, they feel your energy. But keep presentations simple and fast to fit their attention spans, and use lots of visuals and props,” she advises. For example, she uses “the rainbow on your plate” concept, asking youngsters, “What colors did you eat today?” Then she connects her theme to school lunch by declaring, “You can get all your colors at our cafeteria!” Parker’s passion is fueled in part by her own experience with childhood lessons about healthy eating. Growing up in Oregon, her mother introduced her to a variety of foods, and she spent many happy days in her grandparents’ vegetable garden. “By age six,” Parker recounts, “I knew that I wanted a career related to food.” After attending the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore., she interned at a hotel, got her first job in a restaurant and went on to manage the kitchen at a Hillsboro retirement home. After serving at a variety of healthcare facilities, Parker married and sought work with a less-demanding schedule as she looked to start a family. That led her, in 1996, to Hillsboro School District 1J. Now with plans to attend the next ANC this coming July in Denver, she looks forward to keeping her work in nutrition education on an upward trajectory. And for first-time ANC attendees making plans for the 2012 meeting this July in Denver, Parker can offer advice as a veteran: “Absorb it all!” she counsels. “Even sampling the local cuisine can expose you to new learning experiences. Just put yourself out there! Say hello to people in the elevator or waiting in line for the shuttle bus. That person might provide your next light-bulb moment.”
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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