Charmonique Young; Child Nutrition Site Manager; Anniston High School; Anniston, Alabama
At the bustling Anniston High School, a remarkable woman named Charmonique Young leads a small but immensely effective team. Feeding over 400 students daily, Charmonique and her staff are on a mission to provide quality meals that sustain students throughout the day. Every step of her career has been a testament to the power of passion and unexpected twists that lead to fulfilling, impactful callings. When reflecting on her path and where’s been, she says, “It has been an amazing journey. I would not trade my experiences for anything.”
A recent chapter of Charmonique's story began unexpectedly on her birthday, when she received the call that would change her professional trajectory. From the suggestion of her school’s principal, Charmonique had applied for the position of child nutrition site manager at Anniston High School. Originally planning to work in preschool education, Charmonique was reluctant to make the change, but once she got word that she’d been selected for the position, it proved to be a tremendous birthday gift.
She recalled a story that helped her know she was making the right move. She spoke about a 17-year-old student requesting a second breakfast after a long weekend with very little nourishment at home. For many students, school meals are not just sustenance, they are often the only truly balanced meals they receive. Charmonique and her team have become surrogate parents, providing both nutrition and a sense of care that goes beyond the cafeteria.
Anita Suttle is the child nutrition director for the Anniston school district and Charmonique’s supervisor. She says, “Mrs. Young is the manager of our high school that is surrounded by fast food restaurants, and she strives to compete. Charmonique has raised our participation by 42%.
She loves her students and her dedication shows in her willingness to be accommodating even if it means taking meals directly to the students if needed. She works tirelessly every day and asks the same of her staff.”
Charmonique emphasizes the mindful intent they bring to their daily routines. For some students, going to the cafeteria for breakfast is their first interaction of the day, and Charmonique and her team are dedicated to making it a positive one. “Sometimes being there to say something positive like, ‘Good morning, put a smile on your face! If nobody else has told you you’re special, you are!’ makes all the difference,” she explains. “We don’t really know what they’ve experienced before they make it to us. We don’t always know their history.”
When it comes to menus and choices, Charmonique strives to offer options that cater to students’ favorite on-trend meals, striking a balance between the comfort of grab-and-go options and the satisfaction of from-scratch meals. She relies on many different products from General Mills Foodservice such as Pillsbury™ Mini Cinnis, Pillsbury™ Frudels, and plenty of varieties of cereal bars — which her students can’t get enough of.
One remarkable achievement in Charmonique's journey was the advocacy to continue feeding the school's football team. Working alongside the new athletic director and foodservice staff, she was able to secure essential support for the athletes. This achievement speaks volumes about Charmonique's determination and commitment to ensuring every student receives the nourishment they need to excel in both the classroom and after-school activities.
As Charmonique continues onward, she remains a shining example of what it means to prioritize students' needs above all else. In our interview, Charmonique emphasized, “If you do not love what you are doing, it will show up in your food. The secret ingredient in every meal, is love and compassion.”
Through her unwavering commitment to nourishing minds and nurturing futures, Charmonique has proven that even in a small school setting, one person can make a world of difference. Her passion for her work shines through, proving that sometimes, where you least expect it, your true calling awaits.
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