SNF Scholarship Series: #ANC17 First Timer Crystal Parsley, Manager, New Kent County High School, Virginia

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 New Kent schools’ nutrition director Leslie Smith learned that SNA offered First Timer scholarships to help members attend their first national conference, she knew right away she would be nominating New Kent High School cafeteria manager Crystal Parsley for an award.

“I picked Crystal because she has worked with me the longest. She’s also been kind of my right arm,” said Smith, who has been director at New Kent for five years. “I thought, ‘Why not? What do I have to lose?’ and she won!”

One of the first things Smith did as director was to sign up for a district-wide SNA membership, so all of her staff members could benefit from SNA’s trainings, resources, and certifications.

“Everyone has gone through training, and this year because [ANC] is in Georgia, it’s close enough to drive. I told all the managers who want to go we’ll drive to Georgia, and we’ll pay for it.”

As for Parsley, she has worked for the school district for seventeen years—the same district where her husband has worked in maintenance for 21 years.

“When my youngest daughter was born I made a decision to start driving a bus and work in the cafeteria, and that’s what I did!” laughed Parsley, from her home in Virginia. “I drove that bus for 11 years, and I’m going into my 17th year in the cafeteria.”

Parsley has worked in most of the buildings in the New Kent district, but finds the older kids are a perfect fit for her.

“High school is my favorite,” she explains. “I love older kids because they are really fun—you can joke with them! The kids get my sense of humor. I just love this age group.”

According to Smith, Parsley’s rapport with her high school students is a big part of what makes her a great cafeteria manager.

“The older students are just as silly as the young ones,” said Smith. “You know Elf on the Shelf? We some and for Christmas Crystal and her staff created all of these Elf on the Shelf storylines—maybe one day the elves are sitting around a fire with a little tent, and the next day they have a monster peeking out, and then the next day the monster is attacking—and the kids were coming every day to see the storyline [unfolding]—these are high school kids!”

At New Kent High School the students know what they love (chicken—tenders, nugget, popcorn—and pizza, of course), and Parsley is excited to see new food products on the Exhibit Hall floor; she’s also excited to attend staff training sessions, and to learn new ideas from other SNA members.

“I’m really excited—I’ve never been to Atlanta!” said Parsley. “I’ve gone to smaller conferences, but 900 [exhibitor] booths? I’m excited to see new things and talk to different people. I’ll pick up ideas and bring them back here. I love talking to people!”

She’s also grateful to have a director like Smith, who Crystal says embodies all the traits of a good leader.

“I’m really excited to go to the conference and I’m blessed that I can–a lot of people can’t,” explained Parsley. “Before Leslie came here the managers never got the opportunity. She came in and she looks out for us. She really wants us to be able to experience all of these different things. Instead of coming back and telling us about it, she wants us to be there first-hand. We really appreciate that.”

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