What motivated you to choose this profession?
I always say that I “fell” into this profession. I graduated college a semester early but didn’t want to move back home to Illinois yet, so I applied for a school nutrition specialist internship (shout-out to Arizona’s Paradise Valley Unified School District!) I honestly didn’t even know this field existed before that internship and was seriously shocked by all that goes into feeding students. After completing the internship, I moved back home and eventually found the position I hold now!
How do you stay engaged with the students?
A One way is through our Young Chef program where we teach middle school students how to cook. It is such a fun program, and I think the cooking experience is so valuable for kids. I also stay engaged by visiting schools during meal service times. I honestly love talking to the students, especially the little ones. My favorite thing to do is to compliment them as they go through the line. It is amazing what a simple, “I love your hair!” or “Great job picking your vegetables today!” does for a student. I think building up confidence in our students is extremely important.
What career highlight gives you the most pride?
A Hands down, my career highlight so far is speaking at SNA’s 2019 Annual National Conference! I taught my class, “Self-Awareness: Knowing Yourself to Improve as a Leader.” I was beyond nervous before I started, but at the end, so many people I had never met came up to me to share kind words and express how the impact the session had for them. I even received a handwritten letter mailed to me from an attendee! It was such a memorable experience because it reminded me of how supportive this industry can be.
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
A Healing powers! I especially would like to have the power to detect underlying hidden diseases before they present symptoms or cause harm and then be able to heal from there. Imagine how many people I could help?
What would you include in a time capsule to be opened in 100 years?
I would love to add a journal listing my greatest life lessons and experiences, especially during trying times. When looking to the past, the real value is hearing reflections from people who lived through different experiences.
What’s your favorite family tradition?
Every Thanksgiving, we have the full traditional Thanks-giving dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.), plus our usual Italian spread (pasta, meat-balls, focaccia bread, etc.) Each year, we ask ourselves why we insist on serving both spreads—because we feel so full after—yet we keep doing it anyway.
Name some of your goals.
To continue learning and growing as a professional and a leader, especially in my own organization. I earned my master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Learning, and I want to use everything I’ve learned to help others grow in their own leadership journey, whether that is through my public speaking, content creation or hands-on training.