Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 23, 2014

An extra helping of gratitude

AHS students serve up special tribute to lunchroom staff

By Dustin Luca

---- — Andover High School students last week came together to honor a group of staffers who don’t always get their due — the cafeteria crew.

Through handwritten cards and notes, some students even sought to make amends for their not-so-kind past behavior

“I’m sorry for heckling you all the time,” one student wrote. “It’s out of love. Thank you.”

“Cafeteria Workers Appreciation Day” — celebrated last Friday, Jan., 17, during all four lunch blocks — was cooked up by 17-year-old seniors Alexa Rockwell and Eliana Kafantis through their journalism course.

As part of a public relations unit, the students were challenged to find a school organization or program “that doesn’t get the publicity it deserves” and then promote it to their peers, teacher Scott Aubrey said.

Rockwell said she knew what she wanted to do the instant she got the assignment.

“I decided the cafeteria ladies and men are always so kind, and they don’t always get the appreciation they deserve,” she said.

In addition to making cards for the staff, students presented the lunchroom workers with paper and foam crowns, each marked with their names, to wear throughout the day.

Sarah Garcia, a 17-year-old senior, said after depositing her card that the cafeteria employees “always have a positive attitude. They brighten my day.”

Fellow senior Peter Reilly, 18, said it was great the student body was honoring the lunchroom staff, who, like other employees at the high school, are “under-appreciated.”

“They do a lot more work than we recognize,” he said.

Aubrey agreed, saying the cafeteria workers “have an incredibly difficult job.”

“If you talk to any kid, they’ll tell you they are the nicest people in the building,” he said.

Midway through the recognition on Friday, as the box holding the notes of thanks was becoming filled up, Rockwell said she was surprised by the response from the student body.

“You can tell (the students) are supportive of them,” she said. “They were waiting for someone to step up and appreciate them.”

Rockwell said it was the least the students could do for the lunchroom staff who “go out of their way to learn people’s names and remember their orders.”

Standing at a register, cafeteria worker Chrissy Marchese — an Andover High School graduate herself — said she felt her job was rewarding already because the workers are providing critical fuel to students through the meals they serve.

How did she feel about being the center of attention?

“It’s positive energy going in both ways,” Marchese said.

Gail Koutroubas, the director of food services throughout the Andover school district, said the honor “is well deserved. The staff works hard.”

“It means a lot to them. It means they’re considered a part of the school culture,” Koutroubas said.

Koutroubas said recognizing individual students and remembering what they like to order on a daily basis is par for the course for her employees, because “customer service is No. 1 for us.”

But she said it was nice of the students to show the cafeteria staff that “they do make a difference.”

“It’s very important that they are noticed,” Koutroubas said.