After eight months of being at ACE Leadership High School as a Jesuit Volunteer, hairnets are still on my mind. When it is just me in the ACE Kitchen, hairnets are a part of my morning ritual. Its ten minutes for me to collect myself amongst the stainless steel countertops and appliances before I serve breakfast daily. The school starts to fill but I don’t realize it, as I move apple juice containers from the fridge and stack granola bars in a pyramid. At 8:45, my hair net comes on and the kitchen window is rolled up.
ACE Leadership High School is a participant in the Universal Lunch and School Breakfast Program and students enrolled at the school can receive breakfast and lunch at no charge to them. In large part, because studies have shown that children who are not hungry perform better in school. And I never know what I’m going to get --- which group will emerge from a corner of the building or which student is going to be waiting eagerly for food. Each day is different—the usually chatty kids might be sulking, or a quiet student might suddenly ask how my day is.
Serving breakfast daily is a remarkable opportunity to meet students where they are at. It is a quiet moment, before the pace of the school day accelerates. It is easy to fall into the thought trap of not enough-ness with internal dialogue like: I am not doing enough at this school or I have not changed the system structurally.
Breakfast reminds me that enough-ness” only requires a simple recipe.
1. Show up, regardless of where I’m at that morning. If I had a bad night’s sleep, if I’m angry, unsatisfied, overjoyed, let the students know, all while handing out muffins and juice.
2. Say “Good Morning,” in a way that conveys that, deep down, there is a belief that every morning is unequivocally good.
3. Ask questions. About anything and everything. A question as simple as “Tell me something good, just one little thing,” might lead to a student spilling out a passion for K-Pop and learning Korean.
4. I am proud to say I’m a lunch lady, dispelling the stereotype of greasy hair, bright lipstick, a large mole and mystery meat slopped on your plate. There is dignity in this forgotten work. It is an opportunity to start every day as I intend and hopefully the chance to alter the course of at least one student’s day.
It’s the best part of my day, even if I have wear two hairnets.
Jack, a recent Boston College graduate, is from Walpole, Massachusetts. He majored in Political Science and minored in Hispanic Studies. This year, he is serving as the Community Engagement Fellow at ACE Leadership High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jack’s biggest passion is for soccer, and he also enjoys doing anything outside, creating all kinds of art, and spending quality time with friends and family. Because his college friends all had musical talents, Jack decided to teach himself guitar during his freshman year, and now always loves a good jam session.