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Serving up education

Tallgrass Creek residents help college-bound kids

Created date

August 23rd, 2011

These days, the cost of a college degree can easily run into the six-figure territory, often putting serious financial pressure on bright young students and their parents. Residents at Tallgrass Creek, an Erickson Living community in Overland Park, Kans., try to ease that financial burden for some of the youngsters nearest and dearest to them the high school students who serve them dinner each night. A couple of dozen local high school students make up the wait staff at Tallgrass Creek s on-site restaurant. The hard-working students fit in shifts at the restaurant between classes, extracurricular activities, and homework.

Investing in local students

They don t receive tips, but residents reward the servers for their dedication by contributing to a scholarship fund. Each year, some of the outstanding graduating seniors are selected to receive scholarships to attend college. More than 60% of the retirees living at Tallgrass Creek have contributed to the scholarship fund. It s just such a nice way to thank the kids who have worked here for two years, Elaine Alexander says. They re just great, and we always enjoy all of the wait staff. Elaine, who has contributed to the fund with her husband, Don, says residents really get to know the student servers over dinners each night in the restaurant. The kids keep residents updated about what they re doing in school and their aspirations after graduation, and residents share the wisdom of their years with the youngsters. For most of the students, this is their first job, and Tallgrass Creek provides the opportunity to interact with 250 residents who become their surrogate grandparents, says Philanthropy Manager Jill Cline. This year, residents awarded $4,000 scholarships to graduating seniors Libby O Neil and Thomas Tong. These are two really nice kids, and we re happy to help out, Elaine says.

Aspiring actor entertains residents

Thomas, who Elaine says keeps residents entertained with his charisma and theatrical talent, plans to study theater at the University of Kansas. In between classes, he says he will spend time auditioning for plays and musicals to get some real world experience. His ultimate goal is to make a name for himself in the acting business, whether in movies or on television. Thomas has worked at Tallgrass Creek as a server for three years. When asked about his favorite part of his job, he first jokingly replies, The food. But he quickly admits: Actually it would be the part about making new friends, not only with the staff who work there but with the residents as well. Receiving the $4,000 scholarship for college was a pleasant surprise, Thomas says. Anything that can help me get through college without having to go off of loans from the government is great, he says. This scholarship will help a bunch.

Ambitious leader sets sights on space travel

Libby will be heading to Massachusetts this fall to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She plans to pursue a double major in aerospace and mechanical engineering with a minor in music and hopes to build a career in space travel. Libby has worked at Tallgrass Creek s restaurant since 2008 and was promoted to help train new servers. Libby has already proven herself to be quite a leader, Elaine says. That leadership will certainly help her in her studies to become an engineer. Clearly a bright and ambitious young woman, Libby also received scholarships from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and federal grants. With the $4,000 she ll be receiving from Tallgrass Creek, she says her education will be completely funded.

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