By Isabella Carmona Ramirez
As a student, walking into the bustling student café can often feel like just another item to check off the to-do list. Grab a coffee, maybe a pastry, and rush off to class. But for many students, the smiling faces behind the counter have become much more than just baristas; they have become friends, confidantes and sources of support during the often challenging college years and beyond.
Li Mack, a senior education major, oftentimes finds themselves in the Education Café at least twice each day. Mack has spent the past four years starting their morning with the greetings and contagious charisma of the women running the Education Café.
“They remember me from my freshman year and have seen me become a different person,” said Mack. “They just love interacting with people and knowing what people are up to. Even if you go during ‘rush hour,’ they’ll still make time to connect with you, have a conversation, ask you how your day is going and what can they do to make it better.”
This sentiment is shared by many other students on campus, who have found solace and comfort in the friendly faces behind the counter. Whether it's a smile, a joke or simply “how are you doing?”, these employees have become a constant source of support for many students who may be struggling with the transition to college life.
For Erika Hollis, 52, who has been working at the café for over 10 years and is the current Education Café supervisor, the job is much more personal than just making coffee.
“I love being able to connect with students and make a positive impact in their day,” Hollis said, her passion and adoration for students of the college evident. “Sometimes all it takes is a kind word or a listening ear to make someone's day a little brighter.”
This sentiment is echoed by many of Hollis’ coworkers, who share a deep sense of community and purpose in their work. For them, the job is much more than just a paycheck; it's an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the students they serve.
“We look at you guys like our kids and how we would want them to be treated on campus,” explained Vernice Betha, another employee in the Education café who has worked at the College for twenty years. “We take pride in our work, in our job and the service we provide.”
And for many students, that difference has been profound. From offering words of encouragement during a tough exam season to celebrating a big accomplishment with a free coffee, these employees have created a sense of belonging on campus that extends far beyond the walls of the student café.
“My goal is to always satisfy you guys and keep you happy,” Hollis sentimentally explained. “You guys are away from home, you know? You know when you go to the store in the morning, you might not be having a good day, and all you need is somebody to give you just that little bit to make you smile on the inside — that’s what I’m trying to do here.”
Hollis added, “I’m really proud of you guys, and I really like doing what I do.”
In a world that often feels rushed and impersonal, the Education Café employees have reminded us of the power of human connection. The dining spot has become much more than just a place to grab a quick snack; it's a place where students can come to feel supported, encouraged and inspired.
Thanks to the women behind the counter, the café has become a beacon of positivity on campus. Through their kindness, empathy and support, they have created a community that transcends the counter and touches the lives of countless students on campus.