Andrew Soliz SNA Member Since 2001 » Foster City, California Andrew Soliz, SNS, director of child nutrition for California’s San Mateo-Foster City School District, had earned a district director position by the tender age of 24. Now, still only in his thirties, he’s already racked up an impressive set of achievements and volunteer service. Soliz was bit by the child nutrition bug early, working as a field supervisor assistant in his former hometown of Salt Lake City in 2000. By 2004, he had taken on that first director position, in Fresno. Association leadership soon followed—Soliz has served in numerous roles at the national, state and local levels (including president of California SNA). What could possibly be next? Let’s join him for a look back and ahead. On Inspiration Throughout my career, I’ve found “moms” wherever I go. My mother was a single mom working two jobs. She was a strong support, but my Grandma also lived next door and looked out for us, too. And when I was a teenager, there was Harriett, a teacher at school, who gave me some guidance and stability. She taught me that if I applied myself, I’d be okay. I’ve found other great mentors to guide me, such as Gale Ladwig, who hired me for my first school nutrition job in Salt Lake City, and helped me fall in love with it. She’s the one who pointed me toward getting my BA and MBA, helping me understand that in child nutrition, we’re running a multi-million-dollar program, which means we need to know how to run a business. I always want to encourage those who are new to child nutrition that this is an opportunity that they should take. I tell them, “You will work hard and also play hard! You never know what will happen in the day. And you don’t have to be stuck behind a desk—get out and interact with students. See what impact you are having on them! There are, of course, lots of rules and regulations. You have to be able to learn how to work within the requirements and still provide the best for all of our kids.” For me, that’s what leadership is about. It’s serving in a supporting role for the team. Even though I happen to sit in the big chair, I’m not better than the others. I try to provide guidance and support for my staff and colleagues. And I want to make a difference, whether I ever know about it or not. I want others to look back and say that I inspired them! I have a quote from Ronald Reagan as my computer screensaver, so I see it every day: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” On Volunteering The mentors in my life encouraged me to contribute by volunteering, and I jumped in from a young age. I was the state vice president for the American Federation of Teachers Utah when I was 19! When I started my child nutrition career in 2000, the Salt Lake City district had a strong local SNA chapter. There was an open certification chair position on their board. The prior chair asked me if I wanted to do it; this opened my eyes to the bigger association beyond the district. When I moved to California in 2004 to take a director position, the first thing I did was contact the local SNA chapter to find out how to get involved. From there, I became local chapter president and then state president, while also working on child nutrition issues through other organizations, like the California Association of School Business Officials. My recent work on SNA’s State Affiliate Agreement Task Force, in particular, was eye-opening about how the state and national organizations can work together. After all, at the state level, we like our autonomy! But I agreed to participate, because I wanted to understand the relationship between the state and national associations. It’s all about dealing with different personalities, audiences and groups—and managing those relationships. On Challenges Challenges happen every day! For me, many trace back to starting out so young. I had to go through learning lessons and making some mistakes, sometimes more than once! When I left Salt Lake City in 2004, I had a lot of self-doubt. It was a huge cultural difference, and the first time I was on my own. Many nights I asked myself, ‘What am I doing?’ I had to learn how to be in charge, and it wasn’t easy at first. I tended to act like a bulldozer, with no thought to others, wanting everyone to just get stuff done because I thought it was important. Things got much better when I found a new mentor. I’ve learned that it’s okay not to know things, and not to be afraid to ask questions. I also didn’t need to reinvent everything and push my ideas through; I could learn from others who’d been there and done that. I try to remember these lessons now, since we are undergoing a lot of changes in child nutrition. Some seem difficult to implement, but I try to understand the intention behind them, focusing on the positive and the solution. On the Future Getting my education was huge for me. I finished my bachelor’s degree after I started working in child nutrition, and went on to obtain an MBA and a certification in School Business Management. I try to emphasize the importance of education to others. It shows that you have the determination to sit through years of school; you are a dedicated person. Continuing my education, maybe getting a PhD, is a personal goal. In my career, I can see myself becoming a district’s chief business official—maybe even at my current district! I am very happy where I am, so I’m waiting to see when that natural progression comes. As told to Susan Davis Gryder, a freelance writer in Silver Spring, Md. 30-SECOND BIO CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN Salt Lake City, Utah CURRENT HOMETOWN San Leandro, California EDUCATION MBA, University of Phoenix; Certificate in School Business Management, University of Southern California YEARS IN SCHOOL NUTRITION 18 TITLE Director of Child Nutrition Services EMPLOYER San Mateo-Foster City (California) School District PROGRAM AT A GLANCE 21 sites, 12,500 PreK-8 students, 34 employees, $2.5 million budget. Offers lunch, breakfast (selected sites), summer. SNA LEADERSHIP SNA Resolutions & Bylaws Committee, State Affiliation Agreement Task Force, SNA Professional Development Committee, SNS Exam Committee, Future Leaders Program, California SNA President 2010-11 FAMILY Mother, brother, sister, five nephews—all in Salt Lake City
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