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Students gain work experience and family ties

Maris Grove’s student server program gets high marks from residents

Created date

February 26th, 2013

Residing at Erickson Living s Maris Grove community, in Delaware County, Pa., is like being part of a large extended family. Everyone you encounter gives you a genuine smile and cheerful greeting. Friendships with campus neighbors, Maris Grove staff, and the 200 students employed in the community s caf , pub, and restaurants tend to sprout like wildflowers.

Student employees gain experience

Many of the students work as servers. A few years ago, resident Peg Hendrick s granddaughter was among them. Donna called me Grandma, says Peg, so the other servers started calling me that, too. It stuck. Donna no longer works there, but Peg s nickname lingers on. It s neat, she says. I ve adopted all of them, and they re super. Whoever does the hiring here, they sure select the best. Staff Development Manager Lauri Cunningham, who hires the employees, often interviews high schoolers so young they lack work experience. So I look at appearance, she says. I look for eye contact, a smile, if they can prioritize, hold a conversation, and think on their own. She also considers grades. Student employees who maintain high marks, are good employees, and acquire a set number of hours may apply for a scholarship from Maris Grove s scholarship fund.

Like grandchildren

High school junior Bree Simmers, who hopes for a scholarship, says her job has distinct advantages over work in an off-campus restaurant. Those servers serve different people every night, she says. We see the same people, so we really get to know them and what they like. It would be difficult for me to quit because I d miss the residents. For example, she s gotten to know William and Fran Taylor. Simmers appreciates that they always acknowledge her even when she s not their server, and she knows that Fran likes green tea. They re like grandparents, Simmers says. They take an interest in me. They met when the Taylors moved to the community. Bree s like a Maris Grove granddaughter, says Fran. She s met our children and grandchildren, and we always inquire about her family. But beneath the chitchat, Bree is a very hard-working young lady, Fran says. You know you ll get what you order in a timely fashion. Attention to detail also drives server Jess Cotter, who has worked at Maris Grove nearly five years now. Cotter, a scholarship recipient, is a freshman at Penn State s Brandywine campus. Some days she bounces from school to work, then back to school, which is okay, she says, because Maris Grove accommodates students schedules. It s simple to manage work and school, says Cotter. They let you pick your days, and it s easy to find someone to work for you. She constantly aims to make residents smile. A smile could make someone s day, she says. And when she sees Clara and Edwin Riddagh, Our faces light up. I call them Mom and Dad. They re so nice, and I ve known them a long time now. We don t see our grandkids that often, so when we became sort of Jess s surrogate parents, that was great, says Clara. We were thrilled when she started calling us Mom and Dad.