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Entering the workforce

Student servers at Highland Springs enjoy unique relationships with residents, staff

Created date

March 24th, 2014
granddaughter and grandmother

When Marna Keith invited her 16-year-old granddaughter Kristin Brown on a bus trip to South Dakota, neither of them imagined Kristin would land her first “real” job as a result.

Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas where Marna lives, organized the eight-day bus trip to South Dakota in August 2013, with stops at the Black Hills, the Pony Express Museum, and Mount Rushmore. The travelers were mostly Highland Springs residents.

“I was the only teenager on the trip,” says Kristin, a 16-year-old homeschooler. “I felt like the other residents adopted me as their grandchild, too.”

Kristin enjoyed the relationships she formed with her fellow travelers so much that she applied for a job in dining services at Highland Springs when she returned home.

“I liked interacting with the residents, and I could see myself working at Highland Springs,” she says.

Kristin is one of a growing number of student servers with a connection to residents or staff members at the North Dallas community.

Great first job

“Our student program is a great first job opportunity,” says Joyce Cates, manager of Highland Springs’ Hillcrest Restaurant. “Currently, four of our wait staff are the grandchildren of Highland Springs residents, and two wait staff are the children of employees.”

To apply for a position in dining services, students must be 16 years of age. The job involves greeting residents when they enter the restaurant, showing them to their seats, taking orders, serving food, and clearing tables.

For most of the wait staff, working at Highland Springs is their first chance to draw a paycheck.

“Students are introduced to the business world by filling out an application, interviewing, going through orientation, and learning how to deliver outstanding customer service,” says Cates. “They also learn a number of life skills, including etiquette, proper manners, and relationship-building skills.”

And while the job looks good on a resume, for those with grandparents at the North Dallas community, it brings the added benefit of quality time with family.

“Kristin runs up to my apartment before and after her shifts,” says Marna. “I’m thrilled I get to see her so often.”

Mom’s the doc

Grant Norman is another student worker with a tie to Highland Springs. His mom, Mary Norman, M.D., is the community’s medical director. 

Grant was ten when his mother started working at the North Dallas community. Now 17, the junior at Plano West High School says he sees why his mom enjoys her job so much.

“Highland Springs has great residents,” he says. “I have a lot of respect for that generation.”

Grant’s flexible work schedule allows him to choose shifts that work around his schooling. He often works on Thursday nights and two shifts on the weekends.

“On Thursdays, I’ll pass my mom in the parking lot,” says Grant. “She’s leaving work just as I’m coming in.”

“For Grant, the benefits of working as a server have been tremendous,” says Mary Norman. “He comes home sharing his comment cards for a job well done. He’s learning grace and patience. It’s the ideal first job experience.”