Chavez HS cafeteria hero uses good food and the Golden Rule to make a difference

Marylyn Williams wants students who visit the cafeteria at Chavez High School to experience more than just food. She wants them to feel welcomed and at home.

As the campus cafe manager, Williams believes she is responsible not only for serving appetizing meals but also for creating an environment that influences students for the better. Each day, she said, she makes it a point to greet every student with a smile, show them respect, and offer a listening ear.

“Treat others as you would like them to treat you,” Williams said. “If you say good morning and thank you to the students, they will eventually say those same things back to you.”

On Friday, Williams and her team will be celebrated as part of School Lunch Hero Day, an event created to recognize the heroic work of school cafeteria staff.

HISD is joining in the nationwide May 4 celebration by providing schools across the district with certificates and banners designed to help students and staff show their appreciation to their dedicated cafeteria crews.

Williams, who has spent more than 12 years with HISD’s Nutrition Services, applies the Golden Rule not just to students, but also to her 19-member crew, all of whom she views as family. She takes a sincere interest in her team and their personal lives and enjoys celebrating the crew with monthly pot-luck breakfasts and employee birthday celebrations.

The care she models inspires her team to treat the students and each other in the same manner. Each day, the Chavez cafeteria staff serves an average of 2,000 meals across breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Williams said she believes providing students with nutritious meals is vital to their achievement in the classroom.

“We help fuel their success,” she said. “The more they are able to focus on their education, the better off their future will be.”

Williams is a bit reluctant to refer to herself as a hero. She simply has a passion for her work and the students and staff she serves, she explains.

“I just really love my job,” she said. “I love the students and the ladies I work with.”