SNF Scholarship Series: ANC First Timer Amber Dodge, Manager, Dare County Schools, North Carolina

Welcome to the 2016 SNF Scholarship Series! We are thrilled to revisit this popular series, in which we connect with your SNA colleagues from around the country to learn more about them and how an SNF scholarship is helping them pursue goals and achieve their dreams. Our First Timer recipients were nominated by a supervising director to attend their first Annual National Conference in San Antonio, Texas. We’ll meet our First Timers and their directors in the weeks leading up to ANC. Please visit the SNA website to learn more about ANC 2016 in San Antonio.

ANC 2016 First Timer Amber Dodge has worked in school nutrition for six years, and has lived in the county where she works her entire life. In fact, when she first started working in Dare County Schools, she recognized plenty of familiar faces among the cafeteria staff.

“When I was a kid I went to Kitty Hawk Elementary, and then when I showed up to work here I immediately remembered some of the ladies—these were ladies I watched retire in my first few years of school foodservice,” said Dodge. “That shows you how long school nutrition professionals stay in, how dedicated they are.”

When Dodge first got started with school foodservice it was part-time at an elementary school, but she was quickly given the opportunity to take on more responsibility. Dodge jumped at the chance.

“Within a week the afterschool director came to me and asked if I wanted to do that, and all of a sudden I was working seven hours in the same school and I said to myself, ‘This is what I want to do! This is where I want to be!’

She’s so happy working in school nutrition, Dodge has even put her plans to become a teacher on hold, saying that working in the school cafeteria is the “best of both worlds.”

“I’m in school, I’m in the cafeteria, and I get to interact with the kids, and they never don’t like me! I don’t have to give them homework. They don’t get in trouble with me. We just feed them, have fun with them; they don’t see a bad side to the cafeteria ladies, they just love us! And I’m happy with it just like that.”

It’s Dodge’s enthusiasm for her job and her students that prompted School Nutrition Director Carol Sykes to nominate her for a First Timer Award.

“This is Amber’s first year as manager, and she’s done an outstanding job,” said Sykes. “I had multiple, excellent candidates, but she seemed like the perfect candidate to go. ANC always seems to expand everybody’s vision and view of the world and school nutrition. I think she will get a lot out of a greater understanding of the concept that she’s part of something big and important, something that is happening all over the country.”

The feeling of admiration is mutual; Dodge says that Sykes sets a great example for her staff, and always goes above and beyond to provide support.

“She encouraged me—as she encourages all of us—to become SNA members, and she’s just always in the know with everything going in on school nutrition,” said Dodge. “She brought me a whole bag full of information for new managers, different resources to help me. Carol stops by to make sure we’re okay, and to help in any way she can. She has definitely encouraged me, and helped me.”

Looking ahead to the conference, both Sykes and Dodge say that it’s the “total experience” they look forward to, from education sessions to networking to catching up with old friends. Sykes is excited to see her friend Becky Domokos-Bays installed as SNA President, while Dodge says she’ll seek inspiration on the Exhibit Hall floor.

“I’m looking forward to all the samples!” laughed Dodge.”I love to eat. I wasn’t sure if I liked to cook before I started working in the cafeteria, but now I know I like to cook and I like to eat! I am excited to see the Exhibit Hall up close, and try lots of samples for the kids.”

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