Sometimes there are certain people that impact the lives of students across campus in ways seemingly small, but over the course of days, then weeks, semesters, and then years that person becomes quite familiar and possibly a very good friend. At the desk of one of the cafeterias of Millersville University, the Upper Deck, is one of those amazing people, Cheryl Johnson. Although, every student seems to just call her, “Cheryl.”
When asked for a picture Cheryl cheerfully denied, “people know where to find me.”
She has been affecting the lives of many students across campus for six years. Starting at the Upper Deck in Gordinier Hall, spending three of those years at the now closed Bistro once at Lyle Hall, and then back to and currently the Upper Deck. When the students swipe their meal card, they might get a conversation with her, and the result as she explains, “Sometimes the students make me feel like a student, sometimes like a friend.” and this because of that she has concluded, “My favorite part of the job is interacting with the students.”
The conversations vary from small chat about events going across campus, including sports, shows, or holidays, to vast conversations about their current situations good or bad, as she details, “We talk about anything and everything. If I add some cheer to a student’s day with a smile and a little humor, then I feel I’ve done my job.” Yet, even if a large conversation is struck while Cheryl is swiping the meal cards of the other students as they meander to Upper Deck, the interruptions do not hamper the continuation of those conversations.From these conversations relationships have been built between Cheryl and students. She tries to remember everyone’s names, but they have begun to outnumber her, she tries her best. However, she is prideful in that she succeeds in remembering all their faces, especially the students that have been around for more than four semesters or years.
One occasion with a friendly face left a comical story. The student was an athlete of Millersville University. She explained that for some reason the student had strung their shoelace through a punctured hole in their Millersville ID Card. The student wanted to eat, and she picked up the shoe as she recorded the meal swipe. Both her and the student shared a good laugh afterward.
However, the most predominant example of Cheryl’s impact on students would be what happened to her earlier on in the semester, as Cheryl had to go on sabbatical for medical reasons. During the beginning weeks of the Spring semester there were loads of requests to the dining service staff on her whereabouts. And once word got around that she was on sick leave, the requests began to be on the status of her health, and Cheryl was given notice time and again over the weeks by her fellow staff throughout her absence.
Luckily, the routine currently continues, as Cheryl recognizes face after face, chats with students, and gives a tiny welcoming experience that everyone needs even if momentarily once a day. At the moment the common conversations continue, as she states, “Right now there is only three weeks left. I’ll talk to them about what’s coming up in the summer. What they’re going to do in the summer. Yet, a lot of times they’ll bring things; they will start a conversation with me.” And, whether Cheryl comes across a more odd situation than swiping an athlete’s shoestring-bound Millersville ID card is left to the encounters with the many students she will continue to meet, greet, and befriend over the coming college semesters.