When it comes to her job as Supervisor of School Nutrition for the Polk County School Board, Lacie Sturgis has her hands full. In addition to supervising twenty-six school cafeterias, she teaches a sanitation foundations class where other SN professionals learn about cross-contamination, food temperatures, and all of the other ins-and-outs of working in a school kitchen. Polk County Public Schools have lot of great programming, including breakfast-in-the-classroom (Polk County received Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom grant back in SY 2012-13) and a “What’s That Wednesday” program where students learn about new foods; additionally, Polk has implemented CEP at 109 sites which has had a positive impact on participation.
So, with all of that to juggle, where does Lacie find the time and energy to go back to school as an adult?
“It’s just a good time for me to do it,” explained Lacie by phone, right after the Thanksgiving break. “Several of my friends have gone back to get their master’s, and I’m going back for my MBA in the hopes it will help me further my career.”
Lacie got her start in school nutrition right out of high school, working as a student clerk in the Polk County offices while she attended undergraduate classes. After transferring to the University of Central Florida in Orlando to complete her degree, Sturgis stopped by the Polk County offices during a Thanksgiving break to say hello to her former co-workers; that’s when opportunity knocked.
“It just so happened that someone was retiring, and our director at the time told me to fill out an application,” Lacie recalled. “I questioned it, because it’s not what my background or degree was in, but she encouraged me and now I’ve been here for ten years—in fact, tomorrow [ed. note: December 1] will be my ten-year anniversary!”
With the support of mentors—Sturgis cites both her previous and current directors as sources of encouragement—Lacie jumped into her new job, and quickly became a member of the School Nutrition Association.
“As soon as I started my mentors—Marsha Smith and Susan Ehrhart—encouraged me to become a member,” said Lacie. “That was shortly after I started so I’ve been a member for oh—nine years now!”
Lacie just started taking classes at Southeastern University in Lakeland, where she’ll be taking a mix of online and on-campus classes. Her Schwan’s and Annual Fund scholarships helped her offset almost the entire cost of her fall class.
“I’ve never had student loans before, and anything helps but I was shocked to get [both] awards,” said Lacie. “One of my co-workers, Jenna Kaczmarski, received a scholarship—in fact, I think she got several scholarships through the Foundation—when she went back for her master’s degree. It really is a wonderful program that SNA provides for us. This is out there for us to use, and the process is very simple. I’m definitely going to apply again, and hopefully get another scholarship. I want to say thank you to the Foundation, and say I’m just really very grateful.”