We sat down to chat with Vonda Bradford several weeks before the holiday season to learn more about her SNF scholarship experience, and what it’s like to go back to school while also working full-time as an administrative assistant for the Franklin County Schools’ Nutrition Program.
“I take classes online because I work forty hours a week, and it’s been a tremendous help,” explained Vonda by phone from her Tennessee office. “I was a manager in one of our schools for seven-and-a-half years, and I’ve been in the central office as the administrative assistant for the last three. I’m getting a bachelor’s in liberal students with two emphases—political science and nutrition—through Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.”
An SNA member for the last decade, Bradford joined the association when she became a cafeteria manager, and says SNF scholarships are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the resources available to members like herself.
“I have a wonderful supervisor who gives me a lot of encouragement,” Vonda shared. “I started my certification process about eleven years ago, and now I’m a level three. This is my second year serving on the PPL [Public Policy & Legislative] committee, and I was able to help a little bit at the Foundation booth at the Annual Conference this year. My supervisor shows [us] that SNA is a tool we can use—it’s not just an association you become a member of—it’s wonderful.”
After taking a 26 year break to raise her family, Vonda went back to school in January of 2011, but this was the first year she applied for scholarships through SNF.
“I actually received two scholarships—one from the Schwann company, and one from the Foundation,” said Vonda. “This has helped tremendously as far as finances—I don’t have to worry as much about how I’m going to pay for my classes.”
Going back to school was both a professional and a personal goal for Vonda.
“It was something left undone, and I always wanted to finish,” she told us. “With the new professional standards going into effect, I felt that if I wanted to advance I would have to have that degree behind me. It’s definitely part of my professional development, but it’s a goal I always had for myself. ”
Upon returning to school, Vonda was able to leverage her professional career into college credits, saving time and money.
“We had to build a portfolio showing the work experience we had, and at the end of the semester I was able to pull in an extra 23 credits,” said Vonda. Franklin County Schools is home to about 5700 students in eleven buildings, where they serve about 2000 breakfasts and 4000 lunches per day. (Franklin County serves universal breakfast at all eleven schools—yay!) The district is also doing after school snacks, and they are looking at the possibility of summer feeding as well. Though her demanding work and school schedules keep her busy, Vonda wouldn’t have it any other way—and she encourages other SNA members who are going back to school (or just thinking about it) to apply for an SNF scholarship.
“I had looked previously at applying and thought it would be too much work, but it’s not!” said Vonda. “Once I got into the application it was simple to get all the information they needed. Don’t let the work keep you from applying—it’s so worth it.”
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