SNF Scholarship Series: #ANC17 First Timer Cecelia Tate, Homewood Schools, Alabama

Welcome to the 2017 School Nutrition Foundation Scholarship Series! We’re revisiting our annual series, in which we connect you with SNA colleagues from around the country to learn more about them, and how a Foundation scholarship is helping them pursue goals and achieve their dreams.

Our First Timer scholarship recipients were nominated by a supervisor or a director. First Timer scholarships help defray the cost of attending the Annual National Conference for first-time attendees. Visit our website to learn more about SNF First Timer Scholarships.

When Cecelia Tate found herself in need of a job 28 years ago, she wasn’t feeling confident but encouragement from her then-boyfriend (now-husband) gave her the push she needed.

“He said, ‘You can do anything you want to do,’” recalled Tate, during a telephone interview. “I was taking the kids to school and he told me to ask about putting in an application. I thought, ‘I can’t do that!’ but when I got to the school I asked, and they said, “Oh we need people NOW!’”

Tate was hired almost on the spot as a substitute worker at Shades Mountain Elementary, and soon there was talk of promoting her to cafeteria manager. Again, Tate wasn’t sure she had the confidence to do the job and again, her husband encouraged her.

“He said, ‘What have I told you? You can do anything you put your mind to!’ and I took it,” laughed Tate. “I’ll start my 27th year this year—the job, it really came to me.”

When we reached out to ask Tate’s nominating director, Melinda Bonner, what makes Cecelia so special, Bonner couldn’t pick just one thing.

“She’s all-in,” said Bonner. “She has a pretty small school—only about 315 students—so it’s just Cecelia and one other person. She’s the manager, the cashier, she helps prep, and she knows every student by name and their preferences. Cecelia is a unique kind of person; she was just recognized at our state conference for 25 years of service—she’s been in child nutrition for 25 years and has never been to a national conference!—and I wanted her to have this experience. She’s Level 3 certified; Cecelia applies herself, and she’s applied her life to child nutrition.”

Tate says she might be out-and-about with her husband, or one of her grandchildren, and former students will still recognize her and say hello.

“I stayed in child nutrition because I liked the hours; I had three kids, and could be home when they were home,” Tate recalled. “I still have kids come up to me now—graduated, out in the workforce—and they say, ‘I remember you! You worked in my lunchroom at Shades Mountain!’ I just love the kids—my husband laughs because I even remember some of their numbers!”

In addition to the opportunity to travel and have some fun, Bonner is also excited to give Tate a chance to share her experience and expertise with other members at ANC, and mentioned that Tate has maintained a consistent 100 health department score for many consecutive years. She also shared a quote from Tate that appeared in a recent district communications piece:

“Good nutrition provides a healthy brain and body for learning. I try to always have a smile, and a positive attitude with students. I also help them make the right choices, I have enjoyed working with students, parents, and school staff, developing friendships that will last forever.”

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