Elkhart lunchroom aides comfort girl sitting alone, improve self-esteem
Clearing crumbs, cleaning tables, and wiping tears might sound thankless, but cafeteria aides at Woodland Elementary School in Elkhart are thankful to be constants in the lives of the children they serve.
"We're going to be here everyday," remarked Cindy Irons, the cafeteria manager.
A few weeks ago, Irons said a little girl asked to sit alone since she was having a bad day. The lunchroom aides obliged -- to an extent.
"We don’t like to see a kid sit by themselves, no matter what," said Michelle Miller, a lunch para.
Miller, Irons, and fellow staff comforted the child.
"I sat there. I talked to her, just rested my hand on her shoulder just to let her know we cared," Irons explained.
A few days later, something else happened.
"Her teacher came to us. 'I don’t know what happened, but you reached her, and she is a totally different child,'" recalled Irons.
That same day, the girl won an award for her grades, but she was dejected: nobody from her family was able to attend the ceremony. But the lunchroom staff did.
"We took a group photo with her. She smiled; she laughed; she went on with her day," said Irons.
She and Miller agree their simple gestures occur everyday -- and the kids are appreciative.
"We get thanked every day by a hug, by a pat on the back, or someone just saying, 'Hey, I can do something to help ease your load,'" said Miller.
Equally, the children are their constants.
"It's great for the ego because I need them as much as they need me," said Irons.
Irons said she guarantees every elementary school lunchroom in the district has caring staff.